Paul’s graduation, and days to be remembered ..

The first few months of this year have slipped away, unnoticed, since the global grip of CV 19. Yet February 2020 was quite a milestone for Paul, and for our family.

On 12th February 2020 Paul was awarded his PHD in Health Policy. The ceremony was held at the Deakin University Campus at Geelong.

Our little granddaughter Joanie was not at all phased by her grandfather’s long gown, but nearly ready to take off in the wind, on this most exciting day!

Five years ago, Paul retired, and immediately began his PHD.  Both Paul and I have always loved learning, and we were both surprised at how many people were amazed that he should start a PHD at 60 years of age.

Paul’ s father and uncles were pharmacists, and many of his family work as health professionals of various kinds.

Not long after Paul was born, (the first child in a family of eight children) Paul’ s father, Frank bought a pharmacy in a small town, Oak Flats on the south coast of New South Wales.

Rebecca and I with Paul’s parents, Margaret and Frank.

Frank, a quietly spoken, knowledgeable man was the perfect pharmacist for a region not blessed with many  health facilities, doctors or clinics. At the end of every day he returned home only after he had delivered prescriptions to elderly patients. As the children grew, the older boys in the family delivered prescriptions  on their bikes on the weekend.

Years after Paul and I had settled in Canberra we met a middle-aged woman who came from Oak Flats. When we mentioned Paul’s father she said,

Oh, I remember Mr Mackey! I came from a big family and my Mum used to get us to ride up to Mr Mackey’s pharmacy when one of the little ones were sick. We couldn’t afford to go to the doctor every time, and Mr Mackey was just as good!”

I always relied on Frank when either of our daughters were sick, and trusted his judgement completely. He was a calming influence to all those who had young children. When we visited Frank and his wife Margaret, our daughters, (the first of many grandchildren) always remembered him making them toast and orange juice before changing into his crisp white coat and going on his long commute to work.

Our daughters Jessica and Rebecca with Frank, in retirement.

As young adults Paul and I left Sydney to work in Canberra. I began teaching, and Paul began his career in the Research Service at the former Provisional (for 60 years!) Parliament House. This building is now the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Over time Paul took over the portfolio of Health, a perfect fit for someone with his background.

As with many young families, we juggled life with one car. Much as I love the Walter Burley Griffin plan of space between suburbs in Canberra, it makes for a long commute home from the centre of the city.

I always parked along the edges of the building to admire the roses nearby.

Most days I would put the girls in the car, drive to Old Parliament House, and park almost outside the front door. I’d often sing songs so that our younger daughter, Jess, didn’t fall asleep while waiting for Dad.

During the time Paul spent at Old Parliament House, a Christmas party for children of employees was held in the lovely grounds of Parliament House every December.

The Christmas party was held in the cricket pitch!

The Senate gardens were spilling over with roses and irises..

What a mild and carefree time it was…

Now there are fences around the building and it looks quite different.

Once new Parliament House was built, Paul moved into this office in Parliament House.

When Parliament was sitting Paul often had to work until 10.00 pm. Our daughters were still young, and it was a long evening without Paul!

Occasionally I would take the girls into Parliament House and meet Paul in the cafeteria for dinner.  The car park we used would be completely inaccessible to the public now. September 11 changed many things over time.

Paul has worked in many sectors of Health since his early days at Parliament House. Throughout his long and varied career he has remained passionate about health care, and equality in our Health system.

Since  Paul retired and began his PHD he has enjoyed juggling studying, gardening, travelling and being a grandparent ….a perfect fit…

You are never too young to learn about sprinkler systems in Australia..

Paul has given papers at many conferences, and I’ve enjoyed going along, hearing and talking to Health professionals. As a bonus we have both enjoyed visiting gardens in various cities, places we may never have visited if not for Paul’s studies.

Brisbane, one of Australia’s northern cities, relaxed and warm in winter!
Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand. A wonderful country to visit.
Paul and his supervisor enjoying a coffee in Palermo as he prepares for his conference in the city.
Palermo a vibrant and fascinating city, one we might never have seen. Salute to Paul!

On a very windy day in February, Paul graduated, and he wrote a wonderful acknowledgement at the beginning of his PHD, for the support of myself, our daughters, Rebecca, Jessica, and our son-in-law, Anthony, and he ended with this important acknowledgement:

I would also like to thank my mother and late father for all they did to start my learning journey many years ago. This thesis is dedicated to my granddaughter, Joanie, with the hopeful wish for an equitable future.

The pandemic today has shown us all how fragile and central health systems are in our countries, and our world…..and the importance of equity in the survival of us all.

I hope you are all well, and surviving in this new and restrictive world. Where ever you are in the world, I wish you sunshine and warmth, and if you have a garden, may it flourish!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.


22 Replies to “Paul’s graduation, and days to be remembered ..”

  1. Congratulations to Paul and to your entire family. Thank you for sharing his fascinating journey. Since becoming an adult, I love learning. You notice, I included ‘adult’ because as a child I must admit I didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity. Again, applause, for such a wonderful achievement. His Mom and Dad would be proud. 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed reading about your family history, Gerrie. What a wonderful career Paul has had and you must all be so proud of his latest academic achievement. Congratulations to him and to you for all your support over the years. Little Joanie is so precious. 🙂

  3. Just totally inspiring. It’s a fabulous achievement and many congratulations to Paul. It must have been a fascinating subject to research for its own sake but will Paul go on to use his new found knowledge in some way? He could hardly have graduated at a more opportune time.
    Glad to hear that you’re both safe and well. Take care Gerrie.

    1. Thanks Jessica, and yes, an opportune time, indeed! Paul does have several plans, but all on hold at the moment, and he is pretty busy painting the deck and taking the garden to a new level!

  4. Great blog Gerrie. Mum and Dad were certainly a great influence on the love of learning in our family. Congratulations to Paul, and you and Bec and Jess, for supporting his PhD journey

    1. Thanks Martin, and you would certainly understand the PHD journey…having done it with two small children, an extraordinary feat!

  5. Another wonderful family account to store in the family archives, Geraldine. So inspiring. Well done to you all for such an amazing milestone.I particularly love the photo where Joanie is partaking (with great attention) of Paul’s garden wisdom.

    1. Thanks Theresa, as you say, one for the family archives. I was so glad I could finally use that photo of Joanie with her hands behind her back…listening so carefully. She does love the garden!

  6. Congratulations to Paul! An impressive achievement, especially since in retirement I plan to be far too lazy to earn a degree or anything like it. Thanks so much for sharing your family history, it’s a heartwarming story much needed in these days. I agree that equality in health care is a prerequisite for any kind of decent society. Sadly we have a long way to go on that score here in the USA. Oh, and your daughters and granddaughter are beautiful!

    1. Paul said many thanks for the congratulations. (and our daughters will be very pleased with the compliment.) Yes, if any good comes out of this pandemic it may be that people generally are more alerted to the importance of good health care, and good health policy.

  7. Congratulations to Paul on being awarded his PhD! I know how hard he must have worked as our elder daughter has a PhD too.
    I just love the photo of Joanie learning about sprinklers! It is absolutely wonderful!

    1. Many thanks Clare, and yes, you would know the time and effort that goes into a PHD from your daughter’s experience. I love that photo of Joanie and Paul too, I’m so glad I found the perfect opportunity to use it!

  8. Goodness, what an uplifting and inspiring post. Huge congratulations to Paul, he certainty has achieved the perfect work/life balance. His father, Frank, sounds like an inspiring person too, a real pillar of society. I tip my cap to them, and you and your girls. Oh….your grand is utterly adorable. Keep

    1. Many thanks Dina. Yes, Frank and Margaret did a great deal for the community. …and you do a wonderful job for the animal world and the community by helping pets and wildlife..

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