On the Couch with Fiona Menzies

Fiona-Menzies-courtesy-of-Creative-Partnerships-AustraliaWho is Fiona Menzies?
From different angles, I am a daughter, sister, mother, friend, colleague, CEO, pianist for my own ears only, lover of art, craft, music, theatre, dance, film, books, dog-owner, art collector, all-round enthusiast. Privileged to have had the life I’ve had so far, grateful to those who’ve supported and championed me, and trying to pay that back by nurturing and supporting others.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Be kinder. I think I am kind, but I could always be kinder, more patient, a better listener. You always remember when someone has been kind to you, it has a discernible impact. A year or so ago I rather tentatively went to a party, unsure that I’d know many people other than the hosts. As I walked in, someone I knew, but not very well, saw me come in by myself and immediately walked over and greeted me then introduced me to the people she was talking to. It was a real kindness and I’ve always remembered it.

Who inspires you and why?
I’ve always been inspired by women I’ve encountered in my professional life who are effective at what they do. When I was an adviser for the Government I met some extraordinary women and studied them closely so I could be just a little bit like them. More recently, I’ve been involved in some selection panels for scholarships for young people and they make me so optimistic, our future is in good hands. Their passion for what they do and determination to make the world a better place is truly inspiring.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Experiencing the arts can be transformative and, while I wouldn’t impose my own artistic efforts on anyone, I am happy to play a role in facilitating the creation and sharing of the arts to help others feel connected, comforted and inspired. I will always advocate to ensure the arts are accessible to as many people as possible, both as audiences and as participants.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I have three and they are all related to family: Port Douglas, where my children and I have holidayed regularly and enjoyed the relaxed pace of life and the real wonders of the natural world; a little place on the Mornington Peninsula, where my extended family has holidayed for decades, where familiarity brings simplicity and calm; and London, where one half of my extended family lives and is like a second home.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
It really depends on who they are… we’ve had several exchange students stay with us and have taken them to a range of places from the beach to Healesville Sanctuary and everything in between. But for grown up visitors, I would show off Melbourne’s stunning Royal Botanic Gardens and wonderful bars and restaurants. And if they’re here overnight, definitely a show. One of my most memorable experiences with a visitor was taking our Japanese exchange student, Hikaru, to see a Lucy Guerin Inc performance in her then new studio in North Melbourne. People were packed around the edges of the studio and it was such an intimate experience with the dancers in such close proximity. Hikaru loved it, which made us know we’d continue to be friends beyond the exchange.

What are you currently reading?
Always more than one book at a time… I’ve just finished Sean O’Beirne’s A Couple of Things Before the End. A striking new voice in Australian literature. I’m almost finished A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville, one of my favourite Australian authors. And I’ve just started Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend, to see what everyone was talking about. And I can’t wait til I’m on summer holidays and can read without falling asleep half way through a sentence.

What are you currently listening to?
I have two young adult daughters and they have recently put me onto girl band, Nasty Cherry, so I’m giving them a go. But it’s not long before I’ll be breaking out my Christmas playlist, which has everything from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, to Michael Bublé on it. And when I’m in the car, if it’s not ABC radio, it’s Smooth FM or 3MBS.

Happiness is?
Simple things. Clearly we all face challenges in our lives and times of feeling bogged down or overwhelmed, but when we emerge from those periods we can find happiness in so many simple pleasures – friends and family, being in nature, feeling appreciated, achieving goals, being happy for others’ achievements. We have two divine long-haired dachshunds, and they bring happiness to everyone who meets them, their friendliness is captivating, and strangers always walk away with a smile on their faces.

What does the future hold for you?
I hope it involves fun, and I have to say that I am looking forward to being a grandma. My daughters have two truly excellent grandmas whom they adore, and I’d love to experience that special relationship.  But first I think I have another big job in me, though the one I’m in is so good it’s going to be hard to let go.


Fiona is the CEO of Creative Partnerships Australia – who will announce the Creative Partnerships Awards on Monday 23 November 2020. The Awards recognise remarkable individuals who have devoted years, decades and generations to supporting Australian culture and enabling Australian audiences to access and experience the arts. For more information, visit: www.creativepartnershipsaustralia.org.au for details.

Image: Fiona Menzies – courtesy of Creative Partnerships Australia

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