College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

9 May 2019

Related Study Areas

Rewriting the rules

“I was born into a world that expected very little of women like me. We were meant to tread lightly on the earth,” Anne Summers writes.

But as the pages of her memoir reveal, Anne has eschewed treading lightly and instead has stomped loudly and spectacularly in every opportunity that has come her way. Anne will visit JCU to share the revealing and frank stories behind four decades of success.

“I’ve never been able to turn down a good adventure,” says Anne. Her sense of adventure illuminates the provocative and inspiring stories in her newest book Unfettered and Alive: A Memoir.

This sense of adventure has propelled Anne to break through boundaries and develop an extraordinarily varied career as a journalist/author/political advisor/bureaucrat/board member/editor/publisher/political activist. “If somebody offers me something interesting, or if an opportunity arises that sounds like it’s going to be challenging and interesting and fun and risky, I usually say yes.”

One such interesting challenge was Anne’s time as the political correspondent at the Australian Financial Review. “I had never written about politics before, I’d never written about Canberra before, and I’d never been in daily journalism before so I was really terrified as to whether I could do that job,” she says. “It was very tough in the early days but…gradually you learn, you work hard, you learn who the people are, you learn what the issues are, you learn what you have to do, and you do it.”

Anne Summers interviews Adam Goodes
Politician being interviewed by journalists
Anne was unaccountably nervous before her talk with footballer Adam Goodes in April 2015 (left), but he calmed her and they went on to have an inspiring and memorable conversation.

The importance of mentorship

She credits her success at the Financial Review, particularly in the terrifying early days, to the support of her editor.

“The thing that kind of kept me going and made me realise that I had to try to succeed was that the person who appointed me, editor of the paper Max Walsh, believed in me. So that was very encouraging to know that somebody of his stature thought I could do this job, and that made me think okay, well, I will fake till I make it and that’s what I did.”

But not every risky and challenging opportunity has led to success for Anne.

“I’m very lucky that a lot of different opportunities have been offered to me in my life and I’ve always tended to say yes to most of them, and I haven’t always succeeded and I’ve had a lot of setbacks.”
Anne Summers

Anne doesn’t shy away from difficult topics in her book, and she covers a particularly bad setback that she had in New York. “I had a terrible time in New York with the company that I had founded with my partner, Sandra Yates, when we were attacked by the religious rights campaigners for some of the articles we were running in our teenage girls’ magazine, and we were eventually forced out of business.”

The motivation to continue in the face of setbacks, Anne says, comes from having a good network of support and encouragement. “I think it’s so important all of us have people to help us, you know, mentors, or coaches, or just good friends, people that you can talk to, and that can encourage you, because none of us are born fully formed and able to do everything.”

Anne sums up her dizzying array of career experiences simply and with a laugh: “I’ve never been bored,” she says.

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