Pat Varley counts herself lucky that she was born in an era that gave women more opportunity.
“I think if I was born a couple of decades earlier I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I have,” she said.
Dr Varley has been a passionate advocate for education, history and the community. “I think I was lucky to have parents who valued education,” she said. “I got a studentship to go to university which was pretty rare for a girl from the country. And I always wanted to be a teacher.” Dr Varley said when she moved to Warrnambool she joined the Penquin Club which encouraged public speaking for women.
“We were encouraged not to be silent when we should speak out,” she said.
Dr Varley said she could remember attending her first school committee meeting which was all male and felt terrified. “Later on I was on staff at the Warrnambool Institute which was replaced with Deakin University,” she said.
“And I think I was the only female academic. It all gave me lots of contacts and confidence. In many cases I think when the opportunity came up I took it.
“I still think people should be appointed to positions because of abilities. But the ability is often judged by the ‘in group’ and the ‘in group’ has been the blokes.”
She said International Women’s Day was worthwhile because it recognised what women did.
“And we can’t ignore Chairman Mao - that women hold up half the sky.”