When the director of the firm I consult through emailed all the women that work in our organisation to ask whether we wanted to go to the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s dinner to celebrate International Women’s Day, I said OK.
Worthy day to celebrate, big dinner – bit of a yawn, but nice to go out for the night.
We celebrated early because the 8th is part of a long weekend this year. And what a celebration it was.
Around 140 tables of 10, for starters. There were a handful of men – maybe 30 in total – the rest were women.
The Special Guest of the evening was Christine Nixon, who retired last week after 8 years as the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police. She was the first (and, I think, so far the only) female Chief Commissioner in Australia. She’s done some amazing things in her time. The two that were singled out for mention tonight were her crusade against corruption in the police force and her reaction to being approached about allowing police officers to march in their uniforms in the Midsumma gay & lesbian pride march: not only did she allow it, she proudly marched with them.
After turning in her badge on Friday, she took up a new appointment on Monday as the Chair of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority .
Anyway. That’s her CV, and she was the special guest.
After having tribal drummers drum us to our seats, we were welcomed to the event by both the IPAA president and the traditional (indigenous) owners of the land. Then we had the expected speeches about Christine Nixon – but with a difference. There were two performances by a light opera quintet, including a variant on one of my dad’s favourite songs ever, the Gondoliers’ duet from Gilbert & Sullivan. (We run them in, we run them in, etc).
And then it was time for a special moment – passing over the gift to the Guest of Honour.
But hang on … why had the stage lights gone up to reveal the police band? Surely they weren’t scheduled to play till later, after the “surprise entertainer”?
Sometimes, I can be a little slow.
Because then we learned what was going on – when the leader of the Police Band handed his ex-Chief a microphone, and invited him to join the band in some songs – and suddenly we were all enveloped by I am Woman.
She actually sang three songs with them – I don’t even remember the second, but the third is apparently her favourite: It’s Raining Men! Maybe her iPod thinks she’s a gay man, just like mine?
Then they did the presentation, and she spoke briefly – and then she invited everyone to get back on the dancefloor and join her in one more rendition of I am Woman.
And after that, there was dessert, there was dancing, there was the Victoria Police band “Code One” (playing rock & pop). But it was nothing compared to the early part of the evening.
My best wishes to you all for a happy, peaceful and strong International Women’s Day on Sunday.