BAppSci, Grad Dip Psych (W.A.I.T.), MSc, PhD (Curtin)
... in full command of every line I write ...
L Cohen/S Robinson
(Alexandra Leaving, 2001)
2010 - present
My writing life began when, as a young mother in New Zealand's 1970s, I joined an organisation whose mission was to represent parents who chose to eschew paid employment while their children were small or otherwise dependent. Our activism ranged over establishing playgroups and commercial craft outlets, presenting seminars and workshops on diverse topics, and preparing submissions to official enquiries and consultations on matters such as the inclusion of non-income earning adults in the national accident compensation and superannuation schemes. After our family migration in the late 1970s, I continued to learn, hone and apply my growing advocacy and administration skills in Australian political, women's and health organisations.
Because community groups generally are managed by volunteers, with few, if any, paid staff, we develop a good skills set necessary for representational and accountability integrity. Consequentially, my writing experience in this sector encompasses: Funding applications, accountability reports, annual reports, newsletters, meeting documentation, news releases, advocacy material (including activity kits), administrative materials (e.g., charitable status applications, policy documentation), position descriptions, induction kits, form construction, petitions, letters to local, state and commonwealth government representatives and authorities, and to editors.
2010 - present
In 1980, I enrolled in the undergraduate degree program in psychology offered by the Western Australian Institute of Technology, now Curtin University. There are many benefits of a psychology degree, not least of which are rigorous training in effective communication and absorption into ones bones to always go to the source of any subject before beginning to write about it. This holds whether it is a theory underpinning an academic work, or the aims and objectives of a funding agency when preparing an application, or the format of previous reports to ensure consistency and accountability in the one currently being written, or the form of words required in a petition which otherwise might be dismissed despite the list of names being evidence of support.
My academic training was invaluable for the conferences, papers and presentations that were part of my professional life and for my educational progression through to completion of doctoral studies. The preparation of materials was not only for my personal presentations but also for employers and line managers who had perhaps been asked to give a keynote address or submit a paper for publication but whose time commitments demanded an assistant to research and draft copy for their final approval.
My training was also invaluable for the component of my employment in the university sector in which I wrote, co-ordinated and taught postgraduate coursework programs in women's health, and supervised postgraduate students to successful completion of their degrees.
I continue to write academic papers for publication and conference presentation and have recently published a book on the history of misogyny. My skills include research, paper preparation including identification and applying required formatting and referencing styles, academic editing, PowerPoint synthesis of academic content, and “commissioned” preparation of papers about subjects that I have no previous interest in or knowledge about.
My first professional position was as the sole staff member of an advocacy group in the non-government health sector. It was in this position that I learned about the formalities of registering an agency, applying for charitable status, sourcing operating funds, attracting and servicing a paying membership, supporting a management body, and pursuing the agency’s objectives through effective advocacy. I also applied these skills for the benefit of community groups I was active in, whether this was to raise our public profile and contribute to relevant debate, develop membership or advocacy kits, or establish another agency for the provision of health services for women.
Part of my community activity was in the political sphere where I spent a decade in various voluntary committee positions, culminating in the consecutive appointment to the staff of two WA Government Ministers. Writing in this sphere was somewhat different from the non-government sector. Speeches, correspondence, policy had to deliver a message without triggering controversy unless this was a desired outcome. Much the same applied in my subsequent policy roles in the public service (although triggering controversy was never an option).
In the early-1990s, I moved to the higher education sector, to a position that developed to one with management responsibilities but which accommodated teaching and research. It was here that I developed skills in writing marketing copy, web content, conference packs and course content, while honing those already practised in report writing, information and induction kits, and administrative protocols, for example. My previous funding application experience proved useful in attracting competitive research funding grants that, in turn, added to my editing experience when supervising the work of students attached to the funded projects.