Woman Chalmers, Millicent Anne


Environmentalist and Lawyer

Written by Judy Lambert (edited from blogs prepared by Jane Elix), Australian National University

Millicent Chalmers was born in Sydney in 1934. Her parents, who had limited secondary education themselves, were very supportive of education for their three daughters. Millicent became a lawyer at a time (1952) when only five of the 150 students enrolling in law at Sydney University were women. Reflecting on the attitudes of her male colleagues to her early career as a general practice lawyer, Millicent describes it as a 'beer-flattening experience', with would-be suitors suddenly 'discovering' that their beer was flat and needed to be recharged right at the point where they learned of her profession. Undaunted, and with strong support from the man who became her husband, Millicent practised law until her children were born, then moved on to work in legal publishing.

After an amicable divorce, Millicent moved from Sydney's North Shore to Millers Point and became involved in the Millers Point Resident Action Group, an organisation in which she has remained active for the past 20 years. Millicent was soon invited by the Chair, Shirley Ball, to become Secretary of the group, which provided an active voice for conservation of Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks. For the past five years, Millicent has chaired the Residents Action Group. Among a host of other successful activities in the area, Millicent played an active part in the local group that set up the Darling House aged care hostel, which she describes as being for 'some of our most treasured personalities who are in their 80s and 90s' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/millicent-chalmers/).

Millicent is reluctant to identify herself as a leader, saying I'm really a nursemaid. People say - 'Millicent will fix it. Millicent will do something'. Awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services to the community and to aged care in the January 2010 Australia Day Honours, Millicent identifies her mother as her main mentor in life. Barrack Obama, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi receive special mention as leaders admired by Millicent, although she says very strong leaders are likely to have been very difficult to live or work with. Millicent herself is 'committed to negotiation processes in leadership wherever possible'.

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