Oh, I’ve been injured, not ill. About a year ago I broke a bone in my leg: I stepped off the back of a ute onto a bale of hay that tipped me over. It was probably a very stupid thing to do, although it seemed like the easiest way to get off the back of the ute at the time.
You’re fully healed now?
All good. Back on heels. [Laughs]
What’s the most difficult thing your body’s endured?
Childbirth [Ann and her husband Michael have a son, Nicholas]. The second, the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
What does a yacht race do to your body?
I wasn’t a yacht racer before I did it. We were at sea for eight days and I was sick the whole time. It was so rough, when I arrived in Hobart my body was purple and green from bruises, literally from neck to knee.
You had a significant milestone birthday this year, turning 65. What do you like and dislike about ageing?
I dislike the way people talk about it. It starts at 50, then accelerates at 60. There’s just a slightly different tone people use – “Oh, are you okay?”; “Oh, you have to be careful” – which I’m hugely resistant to. But I’m feeling liberated by not having to continue to prove anything. I’m busy, I’m active, I’m doing stuff that I love, and I don’t feel I have to prove anything.
Are you a person of faith?
No, I’m not. I was raised in the Anglican Church, and I did it all – church, Sunday School – but we weren’t really a family that engaged in or talked about religion that much. Then, in my late teens or early 20s, I thought a lot about the role of women in society. Religion at that point was so far off the pace, it felt completely irrelevant. I’ve got an underlying belief system that there’s something spiritual in our world, and that we’ve got obligations to do good, and do good around us. But I haven’t found anything in organised religion.
What do you have faith in?
I have faith in the ability of humanity to look after each other and heal itself. I have faith in my ability to influence the environments I’m in, and help people be the best they can be.
Which of the Ten Commandments are you most susceptible to breaking?
[Laughs] I’m not sure I remember the Ten Commandments, actually.
There’s “Thou shalt not steal”, “Thou shalt not murder”, “Thou shalt not take God’s name in vain”, which is about swearing …
That’s probably the one I break most. I swear a lot.
You and many other Australians! When you look back at your life, where did you get your values from?
Family. You also firm up on things with experience. My son, for instance, has a disability [Down syndrome], and that sharpens my focus on people being treated fairly. I already had the experience of women not being treated fairly, but it really sharpened my focus.
You came of age in the 1970s. How did your attitudes to sex differ from those of your parents’?
[Laughs] Oh, it was so different. I grew up reading The Female Eunuch and Our Bodies, Ourselves – all the feminist literature about controlling your own body, about sex, about the joy of sex. I went from complete ignorance to a world filled with literature about women’s bodies and sex, and feeling everything was possible. The irony for me is that I ended up getting married really young. I fell madly in love at 19, and married Michael a couple of years later.
How long have you been together now?
We got married in 1975.
Clearly the right decision. You’ve done a lot of work in gender equity, especially in the workplace. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
One is the focus on stopping sexual harassment. It’s been talked about for a long time; there’s been legislation for a long time; there have been complaints about it for a long time. But the combination of the power of the internet and the downfall of celebrity sexual harassment has really focused the pace of change. It’s a good thing. We’ve been paddling around it for way too long and excusing lots of bad behaviour.
Your official title at Carnival Australia is “executive chairman” – not “chairwoman” or “chairperson”. Was that a deliberate choice?
It was. Sometimes I say “chair”, although it makes me feel like a piece of furniture. “Chairman” isn’t specifically gendered – that’s not its genesis – but I did make a deliberate choice to say it; it’s like “CEO”. To call myself something different to the name men call themselves would feel like conceding. [Laughs]
You’ve been married to Michael for more than 40 years. What’s the sexiest thing about him?
Oh, he’s a smashing kisser. [Laughs] He’s physical; a hugger. There’s a physicality in our relationship that has never changed.
What would Michael say is the sexiest thing about you?
Oh, the same. That intimacy and physicality is part of our magic. It’s not a one-sided thing; it’s a joint thing. We don’t leave home without a hug and a kiss; we never come home without it. It’s core to who we are, and the strength of our partnership – and love affair – for all these years.
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Writer, author of The Family Law and Gaysia.