Susan Grimsdell


Looking back, the two main deciding events of my life involved moving from one country to another.  First when I was nine and my parents left England to go to Canada.  This was before cheap phone calls, way before the internet, so it meant that family in the form of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, were left behind forever.  From that day onwards, family to me was mother, father sister.  Full stop.  My sister got married and left home at 19, virtually never to be seen again, so my family shrank even further.

The second big move was to leave Canada and move to New Zealand at age 29.  This was one of the few smart decisions I’ve made.  In evaluating my life, if I set aside the usual divorces and personal messes that happen in most people’s lives, including mine, I did make that one excellent choice even if it was mostly through pure luck.

I’ve had opportunities here that could never have happened anywhere else, largely because of the small population.  When I became an audiologist, there were only eight of us in the entire country.  That spells opportunity!   I had such interesting work, teaching, advising, being involved in every new development in the field of hearing, including cochlear implants, and it was all fascinating and rewarding.

The 70s everywhere was the decade for women.  Consciousness-raising, marching, fighting on every front for respect and equality with men.   We were so full of confidence, so fired up, with not a single doubt that we would win, yet here we are, more than 40 years later and the main issues are still with us – equal pay, equal rights, being treated as sex objects.

What I liked best to do was to go tramping, which gave me a love for the environment.  This led me to organise a petition against logging ancient native trees in West Coast forests.  I also organised another petition against MPs wasting public money, that turned out to be one of the biggest NZ had ever seen, with over 200,000 signatures.

Now, my interests haven’t changed much – feminism, politics, fairness, poverty, the environment, and with such a small family (my two kids live permanently in North America, parents died, sister long gone) I value my friends with all my heart.  It’s a good life, and I count myself among the privileged of the world.

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