I was standing at a traffic light when a retired High Court judge strode up and waited, judiciously, for the light to change. I noticed he was wearing this rather attractive brooch. The stone in the centre (a citrine?) sparkled and winked in the feeble winter sun. It turns out he was wearing the daytime version of Australia’s highest civilian award, the Companion of the Order of Australia. This is Power Jewellery. The night-time version is worn around the neck and, it seems from the internet, is very blingy indeed. The judge was discomfited when I hauled out my easel and began intently studying his chestal region to do this plein air painting, though perhaps I exaggerate and embroider.
It also turns out that about two thirds of the people who can wear this brooch are men. This needs to change. We need to see more women receiving these awards, and being in the positions where they are considered for them. That is just basic fairness and a sensible way to do business. Or do away with these awards altogether and let good citizenship be its own reward, though that might perhaps rob the world of a tiny dot of colour.
The brooch looks good (in a 1970s sort of way) because it was designed by one of the leading metalworkers of the 20th century, Stuart Devlin. It is a stylised, very stylised, golden wattle. Devlin was prolific and extremely gifted. He designed Australia’s original decimal coinage, and his 20 cent piece is about as good as a coin can be: moderately big, heavy cupro-nickel, and with a meditative, fluid picture of a diving platypus on the back. I love it, and only wish I had more of them: say, 5 million or so.
And here is Devlin’s 20 cents …