Shirley Stott Despoja, journalist, awarded an OAM on Australia Day 2017.
Our warmest congratulations go to Shirley Stott Despoja! Of twenty-one people in the media category to receive an Australia Day Honour, only three of them are women and she is one of them. The citation, which simply reads, ‘for service to the print media as a journalist’, buries the lede somewhat! Shirley was a trailblazing woman in an industry that did not always value her worth. And when they did, they wished she wasn’t the person attached to the skills. In an interview with Matt Abram on ABC Radio (Adelaide) Shirley recalls how employers often ‘wanted her writing, but they didn’t want me’.
Shirley Stott Despoja was the first woman to be employed in the general news room at the Adelaide Advertiser. She was that paper’s first ever Arts Editor, appointed at a time when the arts were of enormous political and economic significance in South Australia. She has been variously described as ‘an inspiration’, ‘a pioneer’, ‘gutsy’, ‘an arts editor who changed the city’ (Adelaide) and ‘a great lady of a great age of print’. You can read more about Shirley Stott Despoja on the Australian Women’s Register.