Wisps of Change in Global Business?

Cover of the Six Capitals book

Six Capitals by Jane Gleeson-White, (Allen & Unwin, 2014).

I was delighted earlier this week when my first book review of the year was published on the Newtown Review of Books. This website does a great service to Australia’s book industry and it is a pleasure to be edited by the founders of the website, Jean Bedford and Linda Funnell

I reviewed Jane Gleeson-White’s latest book, Six Capitals: The revolution capitalism had to have – or can accountants save the planet?  This is the follow up book to Double Entry which I reviewed on this blog a few years ago.

I enjoy reading Gleeson-White’s books about accounting. They are much more interesting than the deadly dull books I had to read when I was doing my accounting degree. Thank goodness for economics I say! Without economics to provide interesting content I would have struggled to finish my degree.

I started my working career working as an accountant in the mid-1980s working in audit at one of what was then known as the big eight international accounting firms. After a couple of years I moved to small business work at a middle tier firm in Melbourne.

This was an eventful period in the economy. I started work during the economic reforms of the Hawke-Keating era and never forget the ‘recession we had to have’ which was so devastating in Melbourne. Who can forget that morning when we woke to the announcement that the State Bank of Victoria had become insolvent and been taken over by the Commonwealth Bank over night? It was devastating news for Victorians.

(On a side note, it was lovely to find the State Bank of Victoria Social Networking Site while writing this post. It shows the staff of the bank still have regular reunions and other social activities. They are also scanning all the Bank’s staff magazines from 1958 onwards and have uploaded various ephemera. Maybe an historian reading this might find them a good resource?)

Working in a chartered accounting firm during that era was certainly not dull. I worked with some good people and we had an enjoyable social life, particularly at the second firm. I was the first woman on the factory floor at a car parts manufacturer and unwittingly managed to avert a threatened union black ban on a stock take. I was a novelty and my happy accident of saying ‘scusi’ to one of the many Italian workers went down well, as did treating them with respect. Continue reading

The Power of Bones by Keelen Mailman

Book cover of The Power of Bones

The Power of Bones by Keelen Mailman, (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2014).

“I chose survival” says Keelen Mailman in her memoir, The Power of Bones. Powerful, painful and memorable, The Power of Bones lays bare the struggles and achievements of Aboriginal life in  Australia during the late twentieth century and more recently.

Mailman is an Aboriginal woman from south-west Queensland near Charleville. She had a hard childhood and a poor education but she has risen from this to be the first Aboriginal woman to run a commercial cattle station. This book is a lesson in never writing a person off, no matter how bleak their background appears to be.

Mailman is proud of her Bidjara culture. Her knowledge and commitment to the Bidjara people was recognised by one of the community elders who asked her to manage the Mount Tabor cattle station for the Bidjara. The work at the station is mentioned in passing, the focus of this memoir is family and culture. Continue reading

Review: Boy, Lost

Boy, Lost by Kristina Olsson (UQP: 2013)

Boy, Lost by Kristina Olsson (UQP: 2013)

Anyone who researches their family history of the twentieth century is inevitably confronted by a wall of silence about something or other. These secrets are often about events that occurred before we were born and now that the holders of those secrets are dying the story of these tragedies becomes even more difficult to retrieve.

Kristina Olsson and her family have done the difficult task of unravelling their family secrets. They are exposed in her book, Boy, Lost: A Family Memoir. It won Kristina Olsson the nonfiction prize at the Queensland Literary Awards and has been shortlisted many times. Yesterday the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge published an interview I did with Kristina Olsson in which she gives insights into how she wrote her book. This book has impressed many people but it was a difficult story to tell.

Olsson’s mother, Yvonne had a short, unhappy marriage. Her husband was violent. Yvonne fled with her infant son, Peter. If only that was all that had happened. Yvonne’s husband entered the train and snatched Peter from her arms. That was it. Peter grew up without his mother. His life was difficult, very difficult. Continue reading

Review: Broken Nation

Book cover of Broken Nation

Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, by Joan Beaumont (Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest (NSW), 2013.

Australia now has a comprehensive history of World War I. In one book, historian, Joan Beaumont gives an overview of the battles, the home front, diplomacy and memory of Australians at war. Written for the general reader, Broken Nation is a reference that family historians, students and anyone who is interested in war history would find a useful addition to their bookshelves.

A war is about the violence of battles. Beaumont recognises the “centrality of fighting”. She also recognises the centrality of chronology in a war. This history is told sequentially, each year of the war is allocated one long chapter which covers the battles and the experience of Australians at home. Helpful maps accompanying explanations of all the major battles that involved the Australians. After each significant battle for the Australians Beaumont asks why the battle is the focus of today’s fascination or why it has been largely forgotten.

While Beaumont focuses on the Australian experience of World War I, the reader will find her balanced approach refreshing. Beaumont periodically acquaints the reader with the overall picture of World War I, thus the reader will learn about the Germans, Russians, Austrians and other nationalities who fought in another significant theatre of World War I – the Eastern Front. Beaumont includes this, as well as the fighting between the Italians and Austrians to the south, in order to explain the overall picture that the Allied generals took into account when planning action involving the Australians. This provides the context the reader needs to better understand the tactical decisions of the Generals. Continue reading

Reading in 2013: some reflections

Logo for Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

I’ve used the 2012 logo throughout 2013, so why not use it one more time?

During 2013 I participated in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. This Challenge encourages people to read and review books written by Australian women. It is a response to the lack of attention women writers receive from major reviewing publications both in Australia and elsewhere in the western world.

I like the fact that instead of whinging about yet another example of how women tend to suffer second-rate treatment, we can do something positive to bring attention to the extent and quality of women’s writing through this Challenge.

This year I challenged myself to the Franklin level – reading ten books by Australian women and reviewing six. These are the books I reviewed in 2013: Continue reading