Restless Men launched!

RestlessMen-book-launchKaren Downing’s first book was launched on 10 October in Canberra by Professor Penny Russell, Bicentennial Professor of Australian History at the University of Sydney.

Professor Russell said she was ‘delighted, and privileged, to launch it – in what is for once a very appropriate nautical metaphor – and to wish it fair sailing on fair seas’.

Family, friends and colleagues joined Karen in the tea room of the Coombs Building at the Australian National University to celebrate the event.

Karen’s thank yous

This book is the culmination of a very long journey that started even before I embarked on a PhD: a journey that could have been monumentally derailed on a number of occasions by events beyond my control. But I wasn’t alone on the journey and, for me, tonight is about thanking my companions.

The book started as a PhD thesis which was a continuation of the preoccupation with masculinity that I had discovered during my honours thesis. I had a wonderful panel of supervisors for the thesis. My work has benefited enormously from the knowledge and insight of Ann Curthoys, the conceptual clarity and exactitude of Christopher Forth and the intellectual expansiveness and rigour of Alex Cook. Only Alex could be here this evening and I am very pleased he is sharing the occasion with me.

In practical terms, I was very fortunate to be supported by my heads of school, Angela Woollacott and Doug Craig, who were generous with time, space, teaching opportunities and access to grant funding that kept me afloat while I worked on the final manuscript.

Day-to-day I was buoyed by all my colleagues in the School of History. Their camaraderie and the candid conversations we have enjoyed have meant more to me than they realise. They have made this tea room a special place. I am not going to start naming them but many are here, and many sent their apologies. And I thank them all.

I will say, however, that our graduate convenor Carolyn Strange went beyond the call of duty in some of my hours of need, and Cath Bishop was there at my eleventh hour helping with the proofreading. Thank you, Carolyn. And thank you, Cath, although I couldn’t get you out of Sydney to be here.

I have never lost sight of the privileged position in which I find myself in working with the historians here at ANU.

The book is dedicated to the men in my life especially my dad who was the first restless man I knew. He ran away to sea with the navy at the age of 18 and continued his travels with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, taking his family to postings all around the world. I didn’t question any of this until I gave birth to boys and the guiding question of my research up to now – what does it mean to ‘be a man’ – was a very personal question about how I was supposed to raise boys to become men. I had quite a lot of control over the book. Not so much over raising boys, I think! But the research and the raising were related in my head and my scholarly journey clarified my ultimate intention as a parent: to raise good people. Whether I have been successful with the book and the boys will be for others to judge, but I am quietly pleased with both.

So the book was motivated by the men in my life but it was really the women in my life who sustained me through producing it. My mum, sisters, sisters-in-law and my most amazing women friends – I am rich beyond measure with all these women in my life.

Some final thank yous to those who made this launch possible: to Doug for hosting the event, to Katy Wilson for organising a party that she wasn’t going to be able to attend, to Rebecca, Fiona, Daniel, Aidan and Becca for setting up and filling glasses.

And the final thank you, the last to be mentioned but always first in my thoughts, goes to my husband, Ric Drew, who has been by my side for the whole journey, supplying everything I need and quite a lot of what I want. Including the drinks for tonight. So thank you all for celebrating with me. Let’s get the party started!