I was fascinated by politics. In 1971, when I was 14, Dad took me to Israel and the Soviet Union with him. There was a bomb threat due to his anti-apartheid stance against the Australian tour of the all-white South African rugby team, the Springboks, which initially forced our plane to turn back. We went behind the Iron Curtain and had a great time together.
Dad and I shared a love of language – he trained me in how to use a dictionary. I value the same things he and Mum taught us: that you don’t create your own happiness through fulfilment or satisfaction merely by seeking your own. Rather, happiness comes to you most fully when you are concerned for those things for other people as well.
In my teens, I won a scholarship to Firbank Grammar School in Melbourne. It was meant to turn us into ladies, but in my case it failed. I was precocious and a bit of a smart-arse, yet thinner-skinned than I might have seemed. I had a sensitive side, but as a kid you don’t know how to deal with that.
My first kiss happened at a party in our backyard. I was about 13. A friend of a friend kissed me. I didn’t think much of it, as he was a bit rough.
I fell madly in love when I was 17 – it was my “summer of love”. We had three very happy years together until he had to go elsewhere for work. Ours was a very sad parting.
I met my next boyfriend while studying law. He was involved in the same student campaigns I was, like environmentalism, women’s rights and gay rights. I was happy to be with him, but it was a time when women weren’t necessarily looking to settle down, get married or have a family. Early feminism had taken hold and women had broader horizons.
I was 25 and living in Japan when I met Jan Pieters. I’d become involved in a complementary medical centre in Sydney, and had gone there to do intensive yoga. We met at a yoga dojo.
Jan and I were together for 20 years. He is a good man and a very good father to our two adult children. He’s Belgian and now lives in France.
I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Mum had died of dementia the year before. Those cumulative years were very difficult for me but I am now well and cancer-free.
When Dad died in May, I witnessed a re-appreciation of who he was. The context became apparent – of how Australia had become a forward-looking nation under his leadership. Also that his government was for the good of the whole country – not a lot of people have [that sense] now. He remains the best politician I’ve known.
Dad was ahead of his time. He viewed climate change as a key concern and was incredibly worried about how we were not meeting the challenges sufficiently. For him, it remained unfinished business.
Dad was not without his flaws, but he did so much more good than harm. My book, Remembering Bob, is a celebration. There is a lot of love in it. Not just from me, but from many of its contributors.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale November 17.