Getting to know you ..... Sue McGrath
How did you hear about AAG and why did you join?
AAG emerged as a ‘must be part of’ organisation for me as soon as I entered the area of systemic advocacy in ageing. It’s an organisation with lots of clout and energy, and I loved that it represents such a range of people across gerontology fields.
What’s your day job and how do you engage with AAG?
I am the Senior Policy Advisor on Older Australians at The Benevolent Society. I work quite closely with AAG in the EveryAGE Counts Campaign to end ageism directed at older people. I have also recently stepped down from the AAG Board.
What’s something exciting that’s happened to you recently?
Why, being awarded the AAG 2020 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellowship, of course! I feel honoured and privileged and am really excited about getting around to the Divisions in 2020 to discuss rights issues and older people.
What is the biggest challenge and opportunity for gerontology?
The imperative is to continue to renovate our own views, methods and practices across gerontological fields to support fairer, healthier ideas about the value, meaning, possibilities and experience of later life. We have a great opportunity right now to speak up more loudly for the self-determination and autonomy of older people and do all we can to ensure the protection of their rights, personhood and standard of living as central to our work.
What is your favourite thing about your career?
Right now, the people I work with, in my immediate team and networks. More broadly, the intellectual challenge and the chance to apply decades of experience and learning to problems, trying to find the best outcomes in policy and the real world for older people now and in the future.
What does AAG and gerontology mean for you?
AAG gives me a strong feeling of camaraderie and shared commitment. Despite debates – sometimes very big ones – about the best way to do things, the largely shared intention of people in the gerontology field to support good lives (and good deaths when the time comes) for older people always encourages me.
Who is your “hero” (not necessarily in the ageing space) and why?
This is a tough one. Heroic narratives only really work for me in mythology and film. Even though it will sound a bit goofy, the closest to a hero I have is my son. It’s inspiring to watch him engage with this demanding world on his own terms; with grace, humour and optimism.
What is your passion?
My family and friends. Art and literature. Ideas and conversation. Film and TV. Sport – Go Saints!
What really makes you angry?
At an interpersonal and community level, selfishness. At the macro level, climate change and the absence of leadership in our political systems to take radical action to abate it and respond to its impacts right now.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Exactly where I do live; Canberra. I love living in a small, low-rise, suburban city, surrounded by bush and rural land always in sight. Although I have lived at the heart of some of the biggest cities in the world as an adult, I grew up in the country and Canberra offers the right fit for me.
Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car?
I would rather ride a bike, but the truth is I drive a car. I didn’t learn to drive until my mid 30s and my bike was my trusty steed entirely until then and partly for some time afterwards. I fantasise about getting an electric bike now.
Who is your favourite author?
Just too hard to pick. It depends on the genre of writing. I read widely and naming any single writer feels like a betrayal of all the others. Sorry.
In three words, how would your friends describe you?
Loyal, funny, intense
What makes you laugh the most?
Benign humour, like kids jokes – Q: What do an elephant and a plum have in common? A: They are both purple except the elephant isn’t. That joke cracks me up every time. And as I am the only person who tells it, and have been doing so for 30 years, you get the image….
What's the most daring thing you've ever done?
For sheer madness, probably travelling across parts of India by myself in the 1970s as a 20 year old. But probably even more daring was imagining myself within, aspiring to and gaining a university education, also in the 1970s, from a background that never accessed education beyond the legal requirements – let alone the whole ‘being a girl’ thing at that time.
20 February 2020