Friday, 24 May 2013

Academic Adelaide

There she sits, in her bronze seat, by her bronze books with her bronze smile. Day and night she looks over North Terrace just in front of her old residence. People pass her by and do not notice her. Every female law student has no idea what she has done for them. Except me. For this woman is my inspiration. She is Dame Roma Mitchell.
In terms of Australia, she is the first female "everything". First female Queen's Counsel, judge, chancellor of a university and Governor. She paved the way for women in the field of law in Australia. She died in 2000. She had accolades coming out of her ears but she never learnt to drive a car.
In early May I was in Adelaide and stopped by her perch. I won't be a first female "anything" but I'm here to learn what I can anyway so off I went to spend a few hours in the State Library constructively sleeping on one of their desks "studying". I did spend an hour on the computer and a bit of time ruffling through parliamentary papers but it wasn't long before I decided that I only get to see Adelaide once a year so I headed off to the museum. Out the front was Buddha/ Birdman. He had pigeons all over him. He lifted his arm just so one could sit on it. Creepy, surreal yet oddly serene. I traipsed around the museum. Not a great deal had changed except they have expanded their section on Aboriginals. Seeing enough of them in Katherine I headed to the art gallery to see Circe Invidiosa. She's still there, in a corner, poisoning her enemy's swimming hole as usual. On they way in I encountered what I wouldn't consider art. 2 dead horses, taxidermied to a degree and stitched together minus their heads and suspended from a rather tall pole. It was utterly disturbing. What the hell the artist was trying to convey I don't know but I didn't like it and wondered how many children got nightmares from seeing it.
Back at the State Library is the Mortlock Wing where I spent some time nose-ing about. Downstairs was an exhibition reflecting culture and influences in South Australia. The first exhibit bay discussed Mr. Mortlock himself to some degree. He was a wealthy pastoralist (they don't exist too much these days) and invested alot of money into education and agriculture both of which I can thank him for or my high school, Urrbrae, wouldn't have been worth attending. Upstairs plays host to 7,500 books bequeathed to the State Library on the death of one Mr. Symons. Amongst it's shelves and ladders are little study nooks which I half expected someone with a top hat to walk out of. The whole wing is impressive but the upstairs more so. It's wooden charm and smell of books makes me wonder why everyone is so hellbent on "progress", change and modernisation.
I also spent a bit of time at the Supreme Court Library. It's high shelves were full of law reports from state to federal levels. Old books dating back to the 1800's sitting alongside new books from last year. All printed and bound so they matched, only their wear and tear sets the older ones apart. In the corner sat a small desk once owned by Sir Samuel Way, a former Chief Justice of South Australia. Upon his death he also bequeathed his own personal library collection to the Supreme Court Library. Each of his old books has a little sticker inside the cover to mark what was once his.
My cousin Jane being a legal secretary, works in a Chambers parked in front of Victoria Square, so I got to go annoy her alot. During a party her Chambers were hosting as a bit of a "house-warming" for moving one floor higher in their building, she conned me in to dressing in a barristers robes... while all the REAL barristers watched and laughed. The robes are black because apparently the barrister/ Queen's Counsel/ Senior Counsel are in mourning for Queen Anne... who died nearly 300 years ago. I donned a wig (unsure of its meaning) and a jabot (a white, frilly cloth which I am also unsure of its meaning) and we took silly pictures while I sucked back a glass of beer. As she insisted that I dress in clothing I have not yet earned and did so in front of bemused people that had, I shall get her back for that. Tehehe. In the meantime I will "concentrate", or more accurately try not to fail. And one day, I'll be waddling around Adelaide wearing robes and a wig... minus the beer.

Pigeon Man!

Symons donation in the Mortlock Wing, State Library

Sir Samuel Way's little sticker

Dame Roma Mitchell, North Terrace

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