A woman journalist for the times




19-6-1920 9-4-2012


GREEBA Jamison Hoskin, the last old-style women's "editress" of The Age and a long-time lecturer at the Council of Adult Education, has died in a Melbourne nursing home. She was 91.

Born in Armadale to architect St Lawrence Hoskin and his wife Daisy, she was a much loved only child. Her memories of childhood holidays at Sorrento, schooldays at Firbank Grammar, the comfort of belonging to the Anglican Church community were sunny and unclouded.

After matriculating she joined The Argus newspaper as a cadet reporter before becoming a general news reporter and then moving to the women's pages. Her colleagues included George Johnston and Charmian Clift, with whom she spent sessions at the Duke of Kent Hotel in Latrobe Street, drinking beer and discussing writing.

Hoskin moved to The Age in 1946, which she regarded as establishing her career. Again she worked as a general news reporter. In 1951, she took her first overseas trip and worked in The Age London office for 10 months, writing features.

Back in Melbourne, Hoskin consolidated her reputation and was accredited to the Queen's royal visit in 1954 and two subsequent royal visits. In 1956, the then editor, Harold Campbell, appointed her women's editress (the unisex term editor was still a long way off), overseeing a staff of eight. Ranald Macdonald, former managing director of David Syme & Co, recalls: "She was the right person for the times and genuinely highly respected. She was a true journalist, not just a social reporter."

Hoskin was absorbed in her career, although she found it physically and emotionally draining. She studied part-time at Melbourne University, gaining a diploma of journalism.

In 1957, she married the man she called her "exalted love", New Zealand-born master mariner Sydney Hoskin. The marriage altered her perspective on life.

The couple shared "adventures of the mind", devouring books on ancient Greece, Peru and the Incas, art, particularly the Impressionists, biographies and autobiographies of people as diverse as Van Gogh, Somerset Maugham and Simone de Beauvoir. Sydney also re-introduced her to the habit of regular church attendance.

Yet this happy marriage was shadowed by Sydney's absences at sea. She fretted for him, rejoiced in his homecomings, and felt deep distress when he left again.

Hoskin's two New Zealand nieces remember her as a vivid, colourful and strong personality. She cultivated this outward appearance of authority and independence, despite her anxieties and loneliness during Sydney's absence.

Once, in an article for The Argus, she mused on people's reaction to tall women. She proudly announced she was 5 feet 9? inches (177 centimetres) tall and asserted that if you were tall "you can walk into a room as though you owned the whole house".

In the 1960s the times were a'changing. Hoskin found herself caring less about her journalism and more about finding the freedom to read and write fiction. She began to plan her exit from daily journalism. In 1966, the introduction of the Accent pages, which signalled a less traditional approach to reporting women's issues, stiffened her resolve to leave.

In late 1967, both she and Sydney resigned from their jobs and the following year set out to travel, first to Mexico and then to Europe. She fell in love with the London of Pepys, Dickens and Boswell, and the beauty and history of Spain and Mexico.

But journalism was hard to give up. In Mexico, she wrote freelance articles on preparations for the Olympic Games, and spent three months in The Age's London office, filing general news and women's page features. On her return home, she wrote book reviews for The Age and features for various magazines. The Australian Journalists Association, recognising her reputation in the industry, granted her honorary life membership.

She and Sydney planned a second overseas trip in 1970 but, in May, Sydney died suddenly during a minor operation. She was devastated. For the next 14 years, she suffered almost crippling depressive illness, although she noted in her diary that she "put on a good show of cheerfulness". As always.

Lecturing on writers and travel for the CAE, which she began in 1974, gave her some purpose and got her reading again. She spent 20 years teaching, preparing detailed discussion notes and lecturing on writers ranging from Jane Austen to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dostoevsky. On her retirement in 1994, she reflected that her classes had been "very, very rewarding" and she hoped they were of the quality she had always tried to achieve in both journalism and teaching.

Her will creates a perpetual trust to encourage literacy in young people through scholarships and awards a final gesture to the books she called her "lifeline and companion" of her latter years.

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