Retiree's Lunch Update November 2020

Written by  Dr Richard Thwaites, FRACI CChem

Published 4 December 2020

Dame Gracie Fields (1898 – 1979), a famous singer and entertainer, probably quite well known to many of our retirees with a pommie background, made the song “Sally” (from the film “Sally in Our Alley”) famous in the early 1930s.  Not that too many of our retirees were around in the early 1930s.  But at our virtual lunch on Tuesday, November 10th, we were introduced to a quite different Sally, Sally from the Valley (the Latrobe Valley, that is), Sally Woollett, current editor of “Chemistry in Australia”, a role she has held for over 10 years.

In a delightfully entertaining, enjoyable and interactive presentation, illustrated with photos, diagrams and cartoons, Sally told us a bit about her life, how she got the “Chemistry in Australia” role, and what it is like being a free-lance editor, including the experiences of sourcing material, working with authors and publishers and meeting deadlines.

Sally mentioned her early years in the Latrobe Valley, showed photos of family members who had lived in Gippsland since the late 1800s, and also old pictures of Warragul, Yallourn and surrounds.   She described her time at Monash University, studying applied chemistry, her early career at the paper mill in Maryvale, her subsequent job in a pilot plant as part of research into the conversion of brown coal to oil, and her 6 month travels around Europe on a Eurail Pass with her husband Stuart, (who is now a teacher at St Paul’s Anglican School in Warragul).  

On returning to Australia, Sally concluded that a long-term career in a factory or laboratory was not for her, and decided that she wanted to take up writing and editing.  But she was in a “Catch-22” situation.  To do the course to qualify as an accredited editor, she needed to have a job in publishing, but to get a job in publishing, she needed the relevant qualification.  So she hunted through the Yellow Pages, contacted lots of people to volunteer her services, and eventually succeeded in getting a position with the La Trobe University Press, so that she could enrol in the relevant course at RMIT.  

What most of us didn’t know was how complex the job of being an editor is.  We didn’t know the different types of role editors can play – acquiring content, production, proof reading, and organising reviewers in the case of peer reviewed journals.  As a free-lance editor, Sally has had to take on many of those roles, depending on the publication.  In addition to “Chemistry in Australia”, Sally’s editorial experience includes work with James Cook University for their peer-reviewed journal “Rural and Remote Health”, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, the Australian Council for Educational Research, the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the Cancer Council of Victoria and the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland, where last year she became editor of “The Gippsland Anglican”.  She has also been a guest lecturer at RMIT University in the Graduate Diploma course she did there.

Sally showed a picture of the current editorial team of “Chemistry in Australia”, comprising herself, Catherine Greenwood and Guy Nolch.  Sally is responsible for organising and collating the articles, Catherine for setting out, proof reading, etc., and Guy for the desktop publishing and print production for the magazine.  Sally paid tribute to David Wood and Sam Adeloju, former Chairs of the “Chemistry in Australia” Management Committee, and also acknowledged the help she receives from David Huang, Damien Blackwell, and regular contributors including Ian Rae, Dave Sammut and Geoff Scollary.

A number of retirees said how much they appreciated the magazine and enjoyed reading the articles.  They said it was a real pity that the number of issues per year had had to be reduced for economic reasons.  People noted how the magazine had significantly improved over the years, and Sally mentioned some of the special issues designed to highlight various aspects of the chemical sciences and the Institute.

Whilst we all know of Sally’s role at “Chemistry in Australia”, and her other editing roles, many of us were unaware that Sally sings with the West Gippsland Chorale, enjoys browsing through her collection of art books, and looks forward to heading off to the bush with her family, towing the camper trailer when she can get away.

Overall, a really enjoyable “virtual” lunch:  we all felt that we had got to know Sally a lot better, and many of us were envious of her desert island virtual background.   (“My word, how Warragul has changed since I was last there” was a common comment.)  We look forward to meeting Sally in person at a future “real lunch” next year!

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