Aussie Rules Football in Melbourne and Sydney

A red and white t-shirt, dark blue t-shirt with Hawthorn logo on and a Hawthorn Football Club scarf

We’re kitted out for the AFL Grand Final here in Singapore. We have an old Swans t-shirt, a Hawthorn t-shirt and a Hawthorn scarf in case the air conditioning is too cold!

This post continues my series, Introduction to Australian History, which is written for people who have recently settled in Australia or live outside Australia and want an introduction to our history and culture.

This weekend the AFL Grand Final will be held between the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn football teams. This is a huge event. Around 100,000 fans flock to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the MCG, or simply The Gee) for a full afternoon of intense Aussie Rules football. Over three million viewers will be glued to the game on television around Australia and it will be broadcast throughout the world.

Australia’s home-grown football code ranked fourth in the world for attendances at games in 2012. AFL games in 2013 attracted an average of 32,163 fans passionately barracking for their team. Only the US National Football League, the German Bundesliga and the English Premier League exceeded these attendances. AFL is the most prominent Australian Rules (Aussie Rules) competition in Australia, but it is only one among many Aussie Rules leagues in both cities and country areas. Continue reading

Bombs, Clothes Lines and Jeeps

A partially opened door to our bomb shelter.

The entrance to our bomb shelter, note the ventilation hole above the door.

Our apartment in Singapore is like most apartments in Australia but one corner of it is quite different.

We have a bomb shelter.

Yes, our nine-year old apartment has a fair dinkum bomb shelter. This is because all apartments in Singapore are required to have a bomb shelter under Singapore’s Civil Defence Shelter Act 1997.

As you can see from the thick door and walls, this room is designed to withstand a blast.

The bomb shelter is the strongest place in the apartment so when an explosion hits the idea is that the building crumbles but the bomb shelter stands strong. The shelters in a building are placed on top of each other for reinforcement. You might be 23 stories in the sky with a sheer drop outside your bomb shelter door but you are safe, albeit squashed in a small, dark room on top of a lot of other small, dark rooms. Continue reading

Glimpses of a Young Woman Working in Laboratories 1959-1963

Log tables: an essential tool for scientists in the era before cheap calculators and computers.

Log tables: an essential tool for scientists in the era before cheap calculators and computers.

It was Robyn Arianrhod’s book, Seduced by Logic, that prompted me to write this series of posts about my mother’s working life and her education in maths and science.  Arianrhod’s book is about two female mathematicians, one from the eighteenth century and the other who lived in the nineteenth century.  These women made significant contributions to the scientific revolution that swept Europe (read my review here).

I had given my father a biography of Newton for the last birthday he had before he died so I was thinking of him while reading the book. I had not expected this book to trigger thoughts about my mother, yet there it was – a discussion of spectroscopy on pages 181-2.

Through spectroscopy scientists can understand more about an object by analysing the light it emits or absorbs.  My mother worked as a technical assistant in a spectroscopy laboratory while she was studying maths and physics at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Continue reading

Quietly Pushing Barriers Aside

Every student attending Hamilton High School photographed standing outside school building in 1953

This photo of Hamilton High School in Victoria was taken when my mother was in Form 1 (year 7) in 1953.

This week came the disappointing news that the participation in Maths by girls in their final year of school in New South Wales is declining significantly.  In 2001, the first year when students were no longer required to study a Maths or science subject in year twelve in order to qualify for university entrance, 90.5% of girls studied Maths whereas 96.9% of boys did.

The disparity between the genders in participation in Maths was already noticeable in 2001.  Ten years later this disparity has worsened.  By 2011 girls participation in year twelve Maths had dropped to 78.2%.  The participation of boys had also decreased but not to such a degree.  In 2011 90.2% of boys studied year twelve Maths.

Rachel Wilson, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at University of Sydney noted that this problem is partly due to the attitude about girls and women being bad at Maths.

There are many, many examples of girls and women excelling in Maths.  Jane Gleeson-White has highlighted the stories of three Australian women who are clearly brilliant at Maths.  She could have listed many more.

Unfortunately some dismiss these women as being ‘unusual’ (which is often code for ‘weird’ or ‘abnormal’). Yet the story about Clio Cresswell, senior lecturer in mathematics and statistics at University of Sydney, caught my eye.  It is not the tale of success in maths one would expect.  Cresswell told Jane Gleeson-White that she struggled with maths at school.  What led Clio Cresswell to ultimately succeed in maths at a high level?  Read Jane Gleeson-White’s post to find out!

In this post I want to highlight a story of an ordinary woman and her quiet determination to participate in science and to study Maths.  She was not brilliant at Maths but she enjoyed it and wanted to pursue it. Her story demonstrates some of the subtle and not so subtle barriers that dissuade many women from studying Maths and Science.

This woman is my mother. Continue reading

GLAMming it Up – Two Days in Melbourne

Entrance to State Library of Victoria

State Library of Victoria

Galleries, libraries, archives and museums are known as the GLAM institutions. I spend a lot of time in these places doing research, but I also enjoy visiting exhibitions and taking behind the scenes tours.  When I travel I try to squeeze in an exhibition or two.  Unfortunately I find that I often don’t have much time to do this so I either miss out or I have to cram as much as I can into a short space of time.

I’ve written previously about my two-day GLAM tour of Canberra.  Last month I did a similar two-day intensive GLAM tour of Melbourne. So hold onto your hats and breathe deeply. My whirlwind tour is about to begin! Continue reading

56 Since ’56 – The Crowd at Olympic Games

Ticket for athletics Melbourne Olympic Games

One of the mementos kept by Les to remember his day at the Melbourne Olympic Games.

The excitement and the roar of the crowd was the first thing that Les recalled as he told me about that day in 1956 when he watched the Olympics at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I was having an all too rare day with relations in a country town in the western district of Victoria and had been expecting a day of sharing photographs and family stories. I was not expecting to hear about a day at the Olympics.

When I asked Les about the day again a few months later he recounted the same scene – the feeling of being part of the crowd, rising out of their seats and giving full voice to a champion athlete, but he could not recall the details of the competition he saw.

I was hoping to hear Les talk about the feats of Betty Cuthbert who won a gold medal for Australia in the 200m sprint that day, or some anecdotes about what other athletes did, but it was the experience of being one of 100,000 people roaring with excitement which was the highlight of his day.  Dare I say it?  I was disappointed that he did not tell me what I thought would have been a more interesting story.

An article in today’s The Age made me rethink my response to Les’ account.  He would probably relate to the comments made by Greg Baum about the crowd last night at the London Olympics.  In Baum’s eyes the crowd was just as  important as the feats of Mohamad Farah and the Jamaican 4x100m relay team.  Baum said that last night he saw how “a crowd becomes a player, both in the sense of “actor” and “participant”.  “As at the greatest sporting events”, Baum remarked, “a trance was upon the stadium last night; no-one could bring themselves to leave, until security had to insist.” Continue reading

Book Review: Town Life in Australia, by Richard Twopeny

Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 1880

The Exhibition Building, Melbourne in 1880. Richard Twopeny was the secretary for the South Australian entry for the Melbourne exhibition in 1880. Photo courtesy of Museum Victoria

This book gives the reader a window on every day city life in the Australian colonies in the early 1880s.  Written by a newspaper editor and first published in 1883, this book is concise and informative. The author uses direct language and at times does not hold back his opinion making the book enjoyable to read.  Written as a series of letters, each chapter is on a separate topic allowing the reader to pick up and put down the book without losing the thread of the writing. Continue reading