Harriet Elvin has given a fascinating speech in which she pays tribute to her mother and the other influential women in her life.
The CEO of the Cultural Facilities Corporation was speaking at the National Library on Sunday as part of its Winter Tales series. It was in support of the Australian Women's Archive Project.
Ms Elvin said her mother, who died earlier this year aged 83, left a small bequest to her, despite not being a wealthy woman – "her riches were ones you couldn't put in the bank" – and she decided to use the money to support causes that reflected her mother's values. So, with that in mind she announced at the end of the speech she was donating $1000 to the Australian Women's Archive Project.
The heartfelt talk, Passing on the baton from our mothers, was around the theme of legacy and how she wanted to continue to pass on the support she had received.
The second of five daughters, born in England to Welsh parents, Ms Elvin said her mother, a science graduate who served many roles over her life, led the way. She was practical, generous, hospitable, undaunted by challenges.
She taught her daughter that "the best outcome we can achieve in our lives is to do good in this world and to bring joy to other people".
Two Margarets also influenced Ms Elvin.
The first, historical: Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, and founder of Christ's College, Cambridge. Ms Elvin attended Christ's College in 1979 a part of its first intake of women.
The other, contemporary: Margaret Thatcher became Britain's prime minister in 1979 in the first general election in which Ms Elvin was old enough to vote.
"Love or loathe her politics, what was inspiring to me as I came of age was the fact that a woman had achieved the highest office in the country," she said. "Suddenly, it seemed to me that women could do anything"
After graduating from Cambridge, Ms Elvin moved to Canberra in 1983. One of her early roles was as Equal Employment Opportunity Co-ordinator in the ACT Electricity Authority. She has been with the Cultural Facilities Corporation since 1997, staying so long as she believes it is "arguably the best job in Canberra", which includes managing the Canberra Theatre Centre and Canberra Museum and Gallery.
"It allows me to provide visitors with rich cultural experiences; to work with passionate people; and to combine personal values with my professional career," she said.
"I'm also conscious that in this role I have the great privilege of being the custodian of the stories and histories of some wonderful women at each of the historic sites I manage – including Sylvia Curley at Mugga Mugga; and Dawn Waterhouse at Calthorpes House."
Ms Elvin said she strove to support women in three practical ways – nominate them for awards, act as a mentor and host a lunch for senior women on International Women's Day.
She was inspired by the words of Dawna Markova:
"to live, so that which came to me as a seed goes to the next as a blossom,
and that which came to me as a blossom, goes on as fruit".