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Interview with Gretel Killeen

Gretel getting bubbly

CWA presents Gretel Killeen

Brew House Theatre, Byron Bay Brewery  |  Saturday 1 Feb  |  5pm and 7pm  |  Tix $30
Speak Up with Mandy Nolan & Gretel Killeen  |  Mullumbimby Ex-Services  |  Sunday 2 Feb, 9am–1pm  |  $150

Gretel Killeen has been a media personality for the past few decades, most know her as the host of Big Brother, and now as a featured host on Sunrise, but there are some things you don’t know about her; like how she launched her stand up comedy career by accident when reading one of her serious poems aloud. She’s written and directed a documentary on AIDS afflicted orphans in Zambia – and she’s never had a 9–5 job! Gretel calls herself an ‘opinion for hire’, and thank the lord, unlike the plethora of right-wing voices, Gretel’s is an intelligent voice of reason. She’s coming to our region to present her hour-long one woman show, and she teams up with Mandy Nolan the following day for Speak Up – a workshop on raising your voice, and activism. Gretel spoke with The Echo.

As a woman in the media, have you always felt that you could speak out?

I doubt anyone always feel that they can say what they want, whether in the media, their work or their social life. But for many women my age, I think the biggest restriction to speaking out in the workplace, socially or at home has been the unconscious silencing we absorbed while growing up. Society advocated for men in our vulnerable growing-up years, and our voices weren’t lauded as theirs were. A lot of us didn’t really think we had permission to speak out, and unfortunately, some women, and some men, still believe this.

What have been the consequences for you as someone with strong opinions?

The most astounding result of having strong opinions has been the support I’ve received from people in every walk of life. Many tell me that they share similar views but didn’t have the platform or ability to express them, and therefore insist that I keep speaking out. This is both heart-warming and a big responsibility, and ironically, I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Do you feel that you are mellowing with age or getting more passionate?

I am both mellowing and getting more passionate. I think I would describe it as focused.

What really gets your goat?

Any unquestioning absorption of information, and the lack of critical thinking.

What are the biggest threats do you think to us making the changes we need, to deal with climate change?

Fear, laziness, and excuses based on financial returns and lack of imagination.

Why are there so few female leaders in politics and across industry? Are we ready for their voices?

I don’t know why there are so few female leaders. I honestly don’t. But I do know that a lot of women are scared of their own power, and scared that they’ll be ostracised if they express that power.

As a woman in the media how do you experience the ‘beauty culture’ that often minimises a woman’s value? Is it changing?

When I started in media, the women on TV were largely judged on their appearance. Actually women in general were. Nowadays I think producers and audiences are increasingly valuing women’s minds, perspectives and power… all of which make us more beautiful!

What should we expect from an hour with Gretel Killeen?

It’ll be like time spent with a really good friend who is funny and wise and guru-like (and also a bit bloody full of herself.)

In keeping with their commitment to continue conversations with disruptive, dangerous women, The Country Witches Association presents Gretel Killeen at the Brew House Theatre in Byron on Saturday 1 February, 5pm & 7pm, and in the Speak Up workshop on Sunday 2 February 9am–1pm. For tickets go to mandynolan.com.au


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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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