Feature Week 21: Community Leaders
Week 21 of the National Year of Reading coincides with NAIDOC week, so it seems appropriate to turn the ambassador spotlight on Rod Little. We are fortunate to have the support of a number of other community leaders, and we also feature two of these: Hieu Van Le, the Lieutenant Governor for South Australia and Margaret Reynolds, an advocate for human rights and disability services, particularly in Tasmania.
Margaret has a background in education, public policy and human rights advocacy. Her teaching career includes primary, special and tertiary education and her initial work with children with disabilities in Tasmania greatly influenced her future career path.
Elected into federal parliament in 1983, Margaret was the first woman to represent the Australian Labor Party as Senator for Queensland. Bob Hawke appointed her Minister for Local Government and Regional Development. She also held the portfolio of Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women where she monitored new anti discrimination legislation.
She has held a number of national and international positions, including the Australian Government Representative on the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Australian representative at the United Nations General assembly.
From 2004- 2012 Margaret was the State Manager for National Disability Services in Tasmania. Margaret actively promoted the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Margaret has written extensively contributing to a range of public policy debates and publications over several decades and in 2007 published a political memoir ‘Living politics’.
Margaret and the National Year of Reading
Margaret had a wonderful time at the Linc Tasmania library in New Norfolk when she took part in ALIA’s National Simultaneous Storytime. Margaret read Nick Bland’s ‘A very cranky bear’ to an appreciative audience.
The following clip demonstrates how special it can be when we read to our children. The video is produced by Margaret’s 11 year old grandson Jarra Horstman, stars his four year old sister Jess and features the wonderful ‘Wonky donkey’ by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley, published by Scholastic, a National Year of Reading partner.
Margaret's thoughts on reading
Quite apart from my personal love of reading, I am a strong advocate for the effective teaching of reading. As a teacher I saw too many children turn away because they were seen to have failed the rudimentaries of decoding and comprehension. The vast majority of children CAN learn to read but they need patience, support and material that interests them. Years ago I taught a group of young male offenders to read by using the court reports and sporting pages of ‘Truth’, a newspaper I had been warned to avoid because of its “shocking:” content!. However it provided the necessary incentives for my somewhat wayward pupils and the important factor was their success in mastering a skill they thought was beyond their ability.
Margaret's reading habits
- Did you come from a reading family?
Yes both my mother and grandmother were teachers so were avid readers. They did not own many books but we made regular trips to the Launceston Public Library.
By mid primary school I used to go to this library by myself most days walking from Trevallyn into the city centre. I read lots of Enid Blyton but then moved on to favourites like ‘Little women’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’. Like many of my generation I knew more about England through my reading than about my own country so I was delighted to discover ‘Seven little Australians’ and began to search out Australian literature.
- Were you read to as a child? Yes from a very large impressive book of fairy stories. It had small print and complex language which was well above my reading capacity but I loved to hear the detail and study the wonderful colour plates in this book.
- When did you learn to read? I started school early because my mother was asked to go back teaching in the war years so I went with her and joined her Grade 2 class and learned to read with the older children. Then I started writing my own stories. They were full of detail about my life in Melbourne …expeditions to Myers, Tim the Toyman, the zoo, St Kilda beach and tram rides….I inevitably included some dramatic event like being lost or swallowing a coin just to keep my parents interested!
- How many books do you own? I have never counted them but more than I will ever read cover to cover! We have a houseful of bookcases and built- in shelving and still there is an overflow! I have a collection of children’s books, a comprehensive women’s library and a large library of books relating to public policy, politics, human rights and international relations. I also have a complete collection of Senate Hansards 1983-1999. And then there are novels, travel books and miscellaneous others so there is no excuse for not finding a good book to read at our place.
- When do you read? I read newspapers, articles and refer to books almost every day. I do read online but have no intention of abandoning my reliance on books.
- Where do you read? I usually read at a desk, comfy chair or in a hammock! I can read on planes, buses, ferries and cars, but I rarely read in bed because even the most absorbing book is discarded for sleep!
- What are you currently reading?
I can thoroughly recommend ‘The wonder box: curious histories of how to live’ by Roman Krznaric, a fascinating collection of fact and philosophy about human relationships over centuries. Hugh Mackay’s latest ‘What makes us tick’ is as always a timely reminder about Australian priorities.
- What authors have most influenced you?
I am influenced by writers tackling a variety of social issues. As a young teacher I was impressed by the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, especially his ‘Pedagogy of the oppressed’. A few year later working with a local council in London I became a fan of Jeremy Seabrook, whose books about homelessness and other areas of disadvantage presented new challenges.
As I became aware of the feminist debate of the 1970s I read extensively about women’s rights including the standard texts by Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Eva Figes.
By the1980s. I was very focussed on political books having completed a degree in government and public administration and then being elected to the Hawke Government in 1983. From the 1990s I have focussed on human rights and international relations, reading biographies of many men and women whose struggles against discrimination and violence make inspiring reading.
Margaret's favourite reads
- I have many favourites and it usually depends how recently I have read them. Children’s books are easy to reread and enjoy especially as I have read so many as a teacher, parent and grandparent. Ian Turner’s collection of children’s rhymes, ‘Cinderella dressed in yella’ is a classic and always popular.
- I have greatly enjoyed Frank Moorehouse’s trilogy “Grand Days”, “Dark Palace” and “Cold Light”.