In the year Jeff Buckley was sucked into a Mississippi slackwater channel and drowned, the masses mourned, sparrows spontaneously fell from the sky, bells out in the church tower chimed and Richard Kingsmill wept into his microphone. Me? I’d never heard of the guy. At that stage, the sophistication of my music knowledge was summed up by my CD collection: my most recent purchases had been that Chumbawumba single and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. But the cool kids had started listening to Triple J, and now, lemming-like, I had started to tune in too.
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Australia’s present-day first lady, since 2007. Superpowers include rapid weight-loss, global business smarts, scaling African mountains, deploying mega-watt smiles and searing people’s corneas with pink blazers.
Family: Married to current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who she met through the Australian Student Christian Movement in university. They have three children.
Famous for: being the first Australian prime ministerial wife to retain her own name and continue in the workforce, running a multi-million dollar international employment agency (Ingeus), no less.
Trivia: She is a trained psychologist.
Dress sense: Infamous for early fashion faux-pas (sail-like satin coats; shopping-bag sleeves), the newly svelte Rein now favours sleek slimline coats, shoulder-exposing gowns and angular shoulder pads.
Charity interests: Disability (Rein’s father became wheelchair bound after a plane crash), unemployment, homelessness and Indigenous youth literacy.
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I was in my 20s in the 1960s. This was the decade of the referendum to include powers on the Federal Parliament to make laws in respect to Aboriginals. It was a time of the gradual abolition of the laws on the White Australia Policy. But it was also a time of the Vietnam War. So it was a mixed bag, but there were some steps in the direction of progress.
I came to the Sydney Law School in the last year of my arts degree. I was working in a lawyer’s firm as an article clerk earning £6 a week. When I graduated in law, I got a job as a solicitor. I was working as a full-time solicitor with a very heavy workload, and doing an economics — and then a master of laws degree — at night and in my own time.
Looking back, this infatuation with university was an anaesthetic to postpone my engagement with the real world — and with human relationships. It was a lonely time. Most human beings seek out personal relationships and sexual experiences, and I did none of the above. I simply concentrated on my studies, but I knew there was emptiness in my life. In 1968, I came to the end of my studies — Master of Laws — I couldn’t keep doing more and more degrees. I realised I had to face up to things.
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When I was a kid, scoring a luxurious $5-per-week in pocket money, I thought millionaires were the richest people in the world. “One million dollars!” I’d think to myself. It was my personal yardstick of astronomical wealth, a sum only Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and Scrooge McDuck — suited-up white men and cartoon birds — could have possibly earned. For the rest of us, it was a nice daydream. Sometimes I’d list all the things I’d buy with a million dollars, like a vending machine in every room, or a pet dolphin in my waterfall pool. A million dollars: it was a dizzying amount of money that bordered on the ridiculous.
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