|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: December 7, 1993
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
The interview has been left it in its original state so that you can get a sense of how the conversation developed. The repetition of some questions, or a question followed by another question, is often due to the end of a particular tape or some other interruption, and has been indicated at the appropriate place in the text. There has been minimal tidying up of the text so that the flavour of the encounter has been kept.
We were talking about the second classic vow. The chastity. We'll get to the poverty.
Yes. Yes. It usually goes ... It's probably because of the anxiety but it usually goes: poverty, obedience and chastity. But never mind. No No. I think I was saying ...
We were talking about it so I'll ask you a question. You had a boyfriend at the time before you went in to the Loreto order. What was he like, and what was the relationship like?
I mean he wasn't the only boyfriend, but it was the one that got serious. I met him through a friend, actually my best friend at school and university, who was mad keen on horses. And he was also a man who went hunting and so on. They'd had a fall so he was slightly lame, but he was a press photographer with the Melbourne Herald and he was great fun, and I enjoyed him. I especially used to love going out to Sunday night at Mario's in Melbourne. That was the great thing and I was very fond of him. He was a nice chap and he was a Catholic, and he came from an Essendon ... an old Essendon family, and yes I did like him very much, but I didn't ... I just did not think of spending the rest of my life with him, and I wasn't particularly sexually attracted to him.
You weren't what they call, whatever it means, in love with him?
No. No. I mean I'm probably a hard hearted old brute. I mean I'd had other boys I'd rather liked because you see in my days, if you didn't have a boyfriend, you were really absolutely a nobody. Even at school, you see, there were a group of us, about three or four of us, who were known as the intellectuals. So we used to talk about books and things and not about boys. It was the all-absorbing conversation of most of the other kids. I think that's one of the things that separate sex schools do. They tend to fixate young women on young gentlemen and vice versa. And they used to be you know absolutely fixated on pop songs and so on, so, no, we intellectuals were above those sorts of things. But once I was at university I realised the significance of having a boyfriend and a little bit of canoodling and being invited out to dances, and yes, that suited me quite nicely. But I think it was sort of social, and I liked ... I liked this man's company, but it just didn't seem to me that I was going to spend the rest of my life with him, and I didn't spend the rest of my life with him. Looking back, I feel quite ashamed now, because I really did use him, you know, because he really was serious and I knew he was serious and he was older, quite a bit older. I think he was in his thirties. And ... but you know, young people are stupid and I probably did lead him on.
And when you say a little bit of canoodling, because in those days of course, there were fairly strict ...
Oh very strong. Oh yes, just, you know, the arm around the waist, and you're thinking, am I being daring? And just the little peck goodnight kiss, but nothing more than that, oh no.
And you didn't desire anything more?
No I didn't.
But he did?
Oh yes, of course he did poor chap. And he got married soon afterwards so it was reported. I've never, you know, heard anything since about him. There we are.
Now, did that, turning him down, have anything to do then with your going into the convent?
Oh I turned him down because ... In fact I did say to him a couple of times, 'Look, Ben, you know I really think I have to be a nun', and he would say, 'Go on, don't be silly', and all that stuff, so, I mean, he ... and he was also a Catholic and he was part of that subculture, so in that sense, he'd had warning. No, that was the thing right through. I thought, well look, really I've got to give this thing a try because I just won't have any rest until I do. Because you know you have a sense this is the thing I ought to do. Some people feel that they ought to become a great painter or climb Mount Everest and that was the feeling that I had to do, that ... and I thought this is perfectly silly, I'm sure I'm not the right type, and everybody ... as I said, I had a great aunt who was a member of our order and she told me later when I'd been professed that nobody had thought that I would stay because I was ... I mean I was a bit ... a bit eccentric.
In what way at that stage?
Well in the sense that my mother died I think it was my second year, or was it my first year, at university and then my father married again within about a year or so. I mean he was lonely and he married his secretary and there we are, but I couldn't stand that. You know I was a very difficult child and I'd always been spoiled so I more or less ...
What was it that you couldn't stand about it? Did you feel it was disrespect to your mother?
I did. Yes. And I thought this was nonsense. He was an old man and he should have ... shouldn't have been going on with all this nonsense. And I was terribly intolerant and look, his second wife, she was ... you know, she was just his secretary, not a very well educated woman, not [a] very good looking woman. I was very cruel to her. But in the interests ...
Was there a bit of snobbery in it?
Of course there was, yes. I'm a frightful snob in many ways. I was worse in those days and I more or less marched out. I spent most of my time with a good friend and had very little to do with them. Sort of lived me own life. You know how students think they're independent souls and gay bohemian and they know everything and I've always ... I mean, I do have a touch of intellectual arrogance also and I can't stand fools, so I must have been a sore trial. So I've been used to doing more or less what I liked, and it was glorious when I had a job and I had some money. I'd had a jolly time.
So you were in first year at university when this happened. How did you manage financially when you turned your back on your father?
Oh my father of course continued to support me. Oh yes. I mean, the young are never logical and I would come home for supplies of course. And of course in those days there were no scholarships or anything like that, so I was always penniless and, you know, I remember skipping lunch so that I could do something else that I wanted to. But not total disaster.
But you were a little bit disgusted with him that he actually wanted a wife. You thought he could have done without.
No, I don't know whether it was that, it was just ... I always thought that I was very, very much closer to my mother than my father. Good Freudian stuff, because I used to quarrel with my father immensely when I was growing up because you see we were very similar. I mean now I realise that he was probably far more influential than my mother was, and being a sort of arrogant young thing, at times I used to get impatient with him because you know he couldn't make money and he was a bit feckless and my mother was the one ... He wasn't feckless but he was just gentle and idealistic, and my mother was the one who sort of ... who held things together and drove the car and did all the right sort of things, and I felt that I was just very, very close to her and we really were very good friends.
What kind of a relationship did you have with your father as you were growing up?
Well of course I mean as a little child he was just wonderful. One of my first memories is sitting on his knee and his reading to me, or teaching me long words. I still remember one of them. He made this word up: triantiwontagong. He was just a very gentle man - the least aggressive macho man you could possibly imagine. And also, something else that makes me very proud of him, he was a young man during World War I and he refused to fight. Now, it was probably part of his Irish background as well, but he really was extraordinarily gentle and the least aggressive person. I suppose that's why he didn't ever do well when he was by himself in business. But then, of course, in the appropriate Freudian sort of way, when I became an adolescent, I fought with him terribly. None of his ideas would do me, and, you see, really I was pretty brutal because he'd always ... he'd wanted to go to university and there I was going to university and like, particularly in those days, university students were not numerous and I was so puffed up as though I absolutely knew everything. So we used to have these dreadful fights, and my mother would always make peace and you know ... so there we are. And then when she died, you see, I got so cross because I then had to keep house for a while as well, and that rather blighted my life as a student and I'm sure I kept house extraordinarily badly, and then I should have been enchanted when he married again, and possibly that was one of the reasons why he did. I don't think it was a great romance or anything, but this lady looked after him and there we are. But I found that so dreadful: what an outrage to the memory of my mother, that my wonderful mother would be replaced by this boring, ugly woman. So as I say I was a great trial and I now repent, but that's the way young people are. The only thing you think about is yourself and your own great destiny, and there I was, going to be a great writer and a great poet. In fact I did have some poems published in The Bulletin and things, and I was appropriately bohemian. I remember I had ... I loved one particular raincoat, a red raincoat and I'd cut the sleeves out, God knows why, so that I could look particularly Bohemian. So ... and I ... There were a few artists that I used to know and I used to think it was glorious to go to studio parties and whatnot. So a terrible trial I must have been, to live with, and that's why I also must have taken a bit of taming when I first came into the noviciate. And I think, you know ... But I was given ... They handled me extremely well, you know. They gave me special privileges. I could go away and read and pray and things when the others were doing courses, which I really didn't need. So there we are. It all works out in the long run. And of course I suppose I still am a bit eccentric. I mean, I think I was spoiled as a child. You see my parents were married before, for three years [cough - excuse me] before I was born, and I was the only one then for another three-and-a-half years, and I've always been conscious that well, I regarded myself as important, and I've always been confident, so I'm really not particularly scared about what other people think about me, and I don't feel the need to conform the way most people do. So I think I'm still probably a great trial to live with and you never know what I'm going to do next. I know I ... because if I think something ought to be done I do it. I really don't have sufficient sense of compromise and I don't have a sufficient sense of what is socially acceptable. And I made lots of mistakes, particularly when I first arrived here in Perth, because I didn't realise the sort of town Perth was. I remember once writing to the paper in defence of some dear little students in the student newspaper, The Pelican, who had published the photo of a nude in the student magazine. Of course there was immense scandal: the university was turning to immorality. I remember writing saying, 'Don't be silly, what's wrong with that?' and of course that did not go down well: sister defending the publication of nudes, and I've always been opposed to censorship, so that got me into some hot water too.
But you don't regret these things.
No I don't regret it, but it just, I'm not very tactful, and so it means that I'm ... you know, that I rub people up the wrong way. But it's too late now, I'm afraid.
You don't think you'll change.
I don't think so, no.
When your father remarried, did your sister have the same attitude that you had?
Oh no. Look she's the civilised member of the family. Of course she got on with her very nicely. She was very charming to my stepmother. She stayed at home. I mean she was younger. She was always very charming to them and she looked after my dad until he got married. Oh no, she's an admirable woman and she's the one who knows all about family history and ... No I mean, I think she's wonderful, and we're very good friends now, but you know she was so much younger than I was, that we really didn't know one another very well when we were growing up.
So you didn't actually get on very well with her.
Oh yes. Oh yes, but she was little sister. And particularly when I was this grand university student - not really a grand university student, but you know, the great intellectual. You see I went to university far too young. I was only seventeen, because I was clever, you see. And I was always the youngest in the class, and when I went to university it was that wonderful time. I went to university in 1946, when the men had come back from the war. So it wasn't the usual undergraduate place. It was these men who'd thought things about life and knew where they were going and what they were doing. I think it was one of the things which has helped to make me a radical, that and the fact that I was taught by some wonderful thinkers and I did a combined History and English degree, and the English was a bit of a waste of time in those days, but Melbourne History School was extraordinarily good. And that's affected me ever since. It's given me this sense of injustice and given me a sort of world view. So I was moving in that world, and the kid sister at school - no thanks.
And what was your mother like?
She was ... Now what was she like? She was extraordinarily loving. I remember one of the great things, one of the great pleasures in life, was to be given a cuddle in bed. Mummy would come and give you a cuddle. She was only a little woman, but I've taken after her. My father's a great big man, believe it or not, but she was the practical one. She managed things and she drove the car. She was also ... I gathered that in her youth she had been a bit wild, and she loved to play cards. We used to watch these card parties of my mother's and she had a whole circle of friends. She was much more extrovert than my father, and I remember when the war broke out she thought we'd all better do something. My father - his great idea was that we were going to be self-sufficient in case we were invaded and so he got chooks in the backyard and turned all the flowers into veggies and he was even going to get a cow, but my mother said, 'No, you can't do that', and we didn't have that, but she went off and she worked in a munitions factory, possibly also to make a bit of money. But a very practical, marvellous woman, and also very gifted and lively woman and well, we were very, very close.
How old were you when she died?
I would have been ... I suppose it would have been my second year of university, I would have been eighteen. And that was a terrific blow. Mind you she had always sort of lived fairly intensely and she'd had some sort of a turn a couple of years before, and had spent some time in hospital. So it really wasn't surprising, but you know it is a blow when you ...
Do you remember how you felt?
Stunned, of course. Stunned. And then for weeks afterwards I kept thinking of her in her grave you know, and the body rotting away and I used to wonder whether there were ghosts around and then, well, you're young, you get on with it. And I suspect probably it was harder for my sister than for me because you know, I was a bit older. But it really was a great blow, particularly as I was so busy fighting with my father at that time, and I used to talk to my mother about things and about life and what I was doing, and I knew she was immensely proud of me, and of course so was my poor old father, but at that stage he couldn't get a word in. But we did ... we did become good friends later, when I'd grown up a bit, and I joined the community and I was in Melbourne, and I used to go out and see him. They'd moved out to Heathmont, which was sort of one of the outer suburbs in those days and I used to go out on the train and there we are. We got to be good friends then.
Did your parents get on well together?
Did they give you an impression that actually being in a relationship with a man was a good thing?
Oh yes, oh yes. I didn't ever hear them quarrel. They really got on. I don't ... It's an odd relationship because he was quite a bit older and when they married, her mother was a widow and so they were always scratching for things and she married a rich man. And I suspect some people might have said that she married him for his money, but I don't think so. I think there was really deep affection and they were an extraordinary pair together because he was a great big man and she was little. And you see she was a wonderful wife to him because he was a bit vague and a bit disorganised and she would manage things, and we moved around, and I think she was intensely loyal, and then her mother, my grandmother, was loaded on us for a while and then that was ructions, because she didn't approve of my father at all. I remember there was a famous saying an aunt of mine quoted when they were first married, and my mother was sitting up driving the car and he was sitting beside her. And she said, 'Here comes beauty and the beast', which was, you know, a bit nasty, and she was a trying old lady, this granny, and my father used to get very cross with her. That was friction. But he took all of that and ...
So in deciding to give up family life and the prospect of it to go into a convent, you knew what you were giving up. You knew that there was good. there was a really good thing there that you were turning your back on.
And have you ever felt curious in the time since at any stage? Has there ever been a time when you thought, look I'm someone who reaches out after experience and wants to understand things, but I've cut myself off from a whole area of experience.
Yes, I do occasionally think that, and I think, well, look that's right but think about all the other interesting things that I've done. I mean, one human life has to move in one direction and I think I've done so many interesting things, and had such a fascinating life, that you can't do everything. And I also think that the sort of life that I live has given me real opportunities for, you might call it introspection, I call it prayer and reflection and for ... I don't know whether I know myself, but getting to live with myself and like yourself and get on with it. And I always think that however close people are, finally each of us is alone, and is herself or himself. We certainly die alone and I think as you get older you begin to realise that your friends ... your friends move away or they die or they get sick or things like that. For instance, this very good friend, with whom I was really part of the family when I was at school and we went to university together, I haven't seen her now for years. I did meet her. There was a school reunion about a month or so ago, and fortunately the frequent flyer took me to Melbourne. Three cheers for frequent flyer, so I was at it, and I realised we'd both changed and we were very different people. She married a farmer and she's had a very different sort of life, and has remained a fairly conventional Catholic, and that I found rather sad because we had been so extraordinarily close. I mean, but there we are. That's what life is all about.
When you were very close, did you share your ideas about religion, and about the world at large?
Oh yes. They had ... See her father was ... I won't say who he was, but he was an important newspaper man, and they had a little sort of hobby farm in the country and when we were undergraduates we'd spend all university vacation up there and have a whale of a time and sit up all night and leave everything. I remember no washing up was done, nothing was done until the Friday when the family were likely to arrive up. And, oh, marvellous, you know, talking about what we thought the meaning of life was all about, and we both thought we were great writers and there were a lot of other young people around there and we used to ... I never learned to ride but ... and she was a mad keen horsewoman, but I was put on a quiet hack and stayed on. I didn't ever fall off, and we used to ride, a whole crowd of us, you know, go for long rides at night. All terribly exciting and great fun. Yes, so you think, but then, righto that's no longer a part of my life and I have other friends. So that's ... as I say, I don't think everybody can do everything.
The other thing you gave up by coming into the order was the right to ownership and in fact, you pledged yourself to poverty. Has that ever been a problem for you?
No, my problem has been that we don't live poorly enough. I would love us ... You see I'm a romantic at heart. I would love us all to live much more simply but that's not fair for old ladies and so on. I get frenzied about the way we use cars, because I do have a real feeling about the environmental crisis and I wish we wouldn't. I wish ... Of course not ... not everybody can ride a bike, but I wish we'd use more public transport. See I love riding my bike, but I also do it on principle. And I wish some ... Because when I first joined the community we did live very, very simply and very, very austerely.
So you wouldn't miss good food and wine and ...
Of course I would. But, and probably the wine most of all. I'm a great boozer. I love a good glass and ... But you see when I joined the convent we didn't ever have wine and that was one of the things I ... I don't think I'm an alcoholic because I can do without it. I always say to everybody, 'I'm not an alcoholic. I survive very nicely in countries like India and Indonesia and whatnot', but I do like a glass or two, one of life's great pleasures, and fortunately I'm a Catholic, you see, so you can do that. But it really ... I did miss it when I first joined the community, and it wasn't until I went to North America and nothing said that thou shalt not drink wine, it's just that no wine was provided. And the sisters had a glass or two in ... even in dreaded Toronto. So there we are. But yes, I mean, I think your needs be ... and certainly we'd just have a Chateau cask. I mean if I have visitors, yes, I'll have some decent wine, but I would like to think that we live more simply so we can share more. Well we do share. We have people in for meals and things like that and we've got the students staying with us now, but I would like to think that we ... I know many people who live perhaps with a greater awareness of the importance of simplicity and respecting the environment than some of us do. But, then, that's just because most of the people in our community don't meet the people I do. They don't read. They're simpler people and some of them are older people. So there we are. You've just got to get on with it.
So when you earn money for working in your job at the university and so on, how does that all work in the community?
Well, I pay it in. I mean, I ... I keep what I need, that's fine, but I also insist ... I'm probably very wicked because I have my own bank account and my money is paid into my own bank account. Why? Because otherwise I wouldn't have to pay tax. And when I first got this job I wrote to the provincial and said, 'This is disgraceful because I ... I mean, well, after all our old ladies get old age pensions and I believe that those of us who earn ought to pay tax', and this wonderful provincial agreed with me completely, and she said, 'Yes, paying tax is like giving alms'. So I ... as I say, I have my own bank account and I pay my tax, and I remember the first year, silly old woman, I did my tax by myself and of course I got a bill to say you need to pay some more because I didn't know about appropriate deductions and things. So I rang up the chap in the tax department and said, 'Look, sorry chum, at the moment ...'. I mean it was about another thousand I had to pay. 'I haven't got it at the moment because I paid it into the community. Can I have 'til the end of the month?' and he was obviously a Catholic because he said, 'Oh, sister you shouldn't be paying tax, you're a charitable institution'. And I told that to my brother-in-law. At that stage they were over here in Perth and he ... my sister married a widower with three children and then they proceeded to have another six, so there they were with nine kids and they were trying to live on a university salary, so when I said ... he said I shouldn't pay it because I'm a charitable institution, he said, 'Well, so bloody well am I!' And of course that's true. I mean now I've got ... I had a dear friend, who's now dead, who used to help me do my tax and then he passed me on to his accountant, so there we are.
So after you've paid your tax you turn everything over to the community.
Everything that I don't use. I mean I ... Of course I've got to keep up a certain standard and things like that, and you know I like taking people out to dinner - people who need a good feed or things like that. And I'm trusted. I think probably strictly it's very terrible, and I shouldn't be doing this, but I've got permission to do it. And then all the rest goes to the community. So, I mean, that's it. And I mean, frankly, I ... I think money is an awful pest, so I think it's great to have enough so you don't worry about it, but it really doesn't interest me and I'm ... I'm only just learning to keep my accounts properly because normally when tax time comes around it's hell because I haven't kept the proper records and things, but I'm learning now, you know, after all these years. But I do find it supremely uninteresting. It's just not ... I think I've got that very much from my father.
You've lived as a Catholic through some very dramatic changes within the church, during the period that you've been a nun in it. And before that, as you were growing up as a child. One of the things that of course must have been an influence in your life particularly in Melbourne as you grew up was the activity within the Catholic Church that led to the split in the Labor Party. Could you tell me how that affected you?
Yes, well now my father was always ... he was always interested in politics. In fact he once stood for local government and he always said that he didn't get elected because they spread the word round that Ted Brady was a Catholic. I don't know whether that's true or not. And he was always a good Labor man. But he ... and that's another thing we had so few fights about. Being a good Catholic, even though he was a questioning sort of person, he did get News Weekly and there were all these lurid headlines about communists and the union, but you see I was at university at that stage, and I was not ... I ... I think I was faintly affected by it, but I remember Prof. Crawford saying once in a theory and method of history class once, the only school of history which nobody should embrace was the Devil's school of history. And in fact, I nearly got thrown out of the noviciate ...
What do you mean by the Devil's school?
There were no baddies, you know. There's no such thing as wicked commies and the good west. And I remember, as I said, when I was in the noviciate I happened to remark one day ... there was the fuss about Cardinal Mindzentsy, the Cardinal in Hungary, who had ... I ... I think he'd spoken out against the Communist Regime and he had fled into the American Embassy and of course he was one of these heroes, the martyred Cardinal. And I happened to remark in the noviciate that I thought that the church was one of the big landowners, and he was probably on the side of the capitalists and the reactionaries and serve him right. Oh my, didn't the heavens open. I really thought I was going to be chucked out that time. So ...
So you had a certain sympathy for communist regimes.
No, I had a certain scepticism about the Devil's school of history. And yes, I was always ... I was always a Leftie, because from growing up, I think the Depression influenced me profoundly, growing up in the country. And as I say we always ... we were okay, though I was very well aware that there were money problems, but we lived in a big house and we had this servant, but the servant, our maid, Doreen, was the sole breadwinner of her family of about six or seven. Her dad had lost his job. And the family next door, they'd lost their job, and there were quite a number of kids there. I don't remember how many. But they used to come into our house and say, 'Tend your money, we're hungry'. And I remember we used to laugh at little Patty, little Patty Webster, who was my sister's friend because she had no pants. Now they were genuinely poor. And we used to have boys who'd ... who were carrying a swag, who'd knock on our back door and ask for a feed. That I think did affect me. And that I think my father always had some sense of social justice. And then when I went to university and this was the heyday of the Labor Club and all of that sort of thing, and we learnt about ... Well, one of the really influential courses I did was one of the Honours courses. It was the history of the British Revolution in the Seventeenth Century and I remember we had to read the Putney Debates and I still remember those wonderful words of John Milburn, 'the poorest he', and he should have said 'she': 'that is in England hath as much right as the richest he'. I'm sure that comes from my Irish background. And I ... and I've always thought that the trade unions ... well, also at school we learnt what used to be called Catholic social principles. We read those pioneering encyclicals about Rerum Novarum and whatnot. We learnt about things like the just price and the just wage, and I think what a pity we don't know about that now. We learnt about the rights of trade unions. So I regret to say ... no I don't regret to say, I'm proud of it, I happen to think that we have an obligation to see to it that people aren't poor. And you see my father was also an Australian nationalist and I remember his reading Henry Lawson to us as kids, and he was obviously very, very young at the time of all the federation struggles and I had always been interested in that period and the great social laboratory of the world, and I always believed in this idea of a fair go, so I've always been Left of centre as far as that's concerned. Now I was in the noviciate at the time of the real split, and one of the things, when you're in the noviciate, you didn't read newspapers. There was one very kind nun in the community who used to, at meal times, talk at the top of her voice about the headlines so that we might learn a little bit, so the split, and also the Korean War, passed me by. I really don't know very much what happened.
Why weren't you allowed to read newspapers in the noviciate?
It was regarded as worldly. You see, in those days we were still based on almost a monastic way. We didn't go out except to going to things like the dentist or the doctor and we went out in pairs. Other than that we stayed behind convent walls. And the idea was we were to put our mind on higher things and pray and contemplate, and all of that stuff. So, fortunately, I was spared that terrible and torrid time.
Now the split was really, in the end - although it was really very much more complex than this - between the very strong anti-communist movement that was Catholic based and in the Labor party and people like yourself who had a sympathy for a lot of Leftist, socialist principles, who nevertheless were Catholic and also part of the Labor party. That all passed you by. What would your attitude have been had you been out in the world and participating in it?
It was a long time ago and I made well have had some sympathy with Santamaria and his crowd.
On what grounds?
Possibly simply because he was Catholic. And yes, that might have ... yes. I think I ... Although I do remember there was a couple of terribly fanatical pro-Santamaria-ites in one community I lived in and ... and I remember one of them going up to vote, because you know we still had to do our citizen things, and she nearly punched the unhappy man who was giving out how to vote Labor tickets and said he was dreadful and he should have ... he should be voting DLP, and I remember being scandalised about that. I thought, look this woman's a bit crazy. But I think my attitude would have been somewhat more ambiguous. I know exactly what ... if I were me now, what I would have done.
What would that have been?
Well, I would have said, 'Don't be silly. We must preserve the unity of the Labor party', and, I mean, I certainly voted Labor all that time, and I didn't vote DLP, but, growing up Catholic in Melbourne was a bit like being born ... You know how it is. I mean, Melbourne is tribal. I also grew up in the one true faith and I had an uncle and two cousins who played League footie for Melbourne and you know belonging to the church was a bit like belonging to your football team. And you see, we ... we went to Catholic schools. My parents only had one pair of friends who were not Catholic. They were a marvellous Jewish doctor ... Actually that was very sad. He died of polio. His little boy got polio and he went in to kiss the little boy goodnight and then died. So if you're part of this mind set it takes a while to come out. I remember for example, when I went to university I thought, isn't this good. I'm a little Catholic, I've got all the answers. And in first year, Crawford gave the lectures on the cause of the Reformation, and I, little seventeen-year-old pip-squeak first year, took him aside after the lecture and gave him the right point of view and told him he'd got it all wrong and this was the Catholic point of view. So you don't escape your conditioning, so I suspect I would have been more ambiguous and I would have thought, yes, what a good thing to be saving 'the church', because it is 'the one true church'. And we Catholics have to tell everybody else what to do.
But even then, when you were accepting this Catholic line, you weren't altogether swallowing it whole, were you? Or did you sometimes question what you were taught?
Not until I went to university. No. Because I admired my teachers and they were good. Oh no, of course I did. I remember I got into another terrible row when we were in matric year we were doing the history of the Reformation you see, and I rose, and I said, 'Well I thought ...', and said this in class, 'There's a great deal to be said for Luther. The reforms were necessary'. Oh heavens, particularly as there was a girl in our class who was thinking of becoming a Catholic. Oh. She did as a matter of fact, so I didn't really destroy the whole fabric of society. But yes, I suppose that is true, because I had been trained to see things slightly differently but generally I followed the party line.
[end of tape]