Looking back at the life of our first female chancellor

22 August 2012

Dame Leonie Kramer was University of Sydney Chancellor from 1991 to 2001.
Dame Leonie Kramer was University of Sydney Chancellor from 1991 to 2001.

Dame Leonie Kramer, the first woman to be elected Chancellor of the University of Sydney, will launch her provocatively titled memoir Broomstick: Personal Reflections at the University on Thursday 23 August.

"Why call it Broomstick?" Dame Leonie's family members Jocelyn and Hilary Kramer ask in the preface to the book. "There are many ways of charting one's path through life, and perhaps the magical adventure of riding a broomstick is more fun than most. There are those who saw Leonie as a new broom venturing into male bastions where women hadn't been before. She was aware that others, perhaps, perceived her as a witch."

Dame Leonie began writing Broomstick in 2002 after retiring from her role as Chancellor of the University of Sydney, a position she held between 1991 and 2001.

Originally, Dame Leonie planned to write a series of essays describing and analysing aspects of educational change based on her experience of nearly 60 years in academic life.

"Over time," Jocelyn and Hilary continue, "the project evolved to become broader than a personal view of educational changes and her responses to them. After writing about her experience of Oxford and her first encounters with Europe, Leonie recognised she had made a journey many Australians have made before and since, not just a physical journey to the other side of the world but a cultural journey back to our roots. Her experiences enabled her to make sense of life in Australia, while also providing the lens through which she looked critically at Australian life and literature."

Dame Leonie was the University's Professor of Australian Literature from 1968 to 1990, has written definitive works on the poetry of James McAuley and was Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from 1982-1983, and served on bodies as diverse as the New South Wales Corrective Services Advisory Council, and Western Mining Corporation.

She was appointed as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982 for services to literature and the public.

Event details

What: Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Chancellor, to launch Dame Leonie Kramer's memoir Broomstick: Personal Reflections

Master of ceremonies: Professor John Hearn, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International)

Speaker: Professor David Fraser, Emeritus Professor of Animal Science

Concluding remarks: Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal

When: 6 to 8pm, Thursday 23 August

Where: The Refectory, Holme Building, Camperdown Campus

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