Three Minute Squiz With… Kathryn Watt

Committed Squizer Kathryn Watt emailed us during the federal election to out herself as the woman on ABC TV’s Q&A who put THE question to former Labor leader Bill Shorten that generated THE response about his mother’s struggle to achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer. Didn’t that cause a stir… But back to the real star of the show, Kathryn is the Vicar of Holy Trinity Balaclava and Elwood in Melbourne, and she has an interesting backstory. Please welcome her to the Three Minute Squiz. 

First things first. Tell us about your life before you became a Vicar.
I was General Counsel for the Australian (and at one stage Australasian) arm of a thumpingly enormous American Financial Services organisation. As a part-time Vicar, I still do some financial services work as a non-executive director and I must say I really still enjoy it. Faith and financial security are both all about hope and happiness, although I must acknowledge that both of my sectors have recently been the subject of soberingly serious Royal Commissions, which we MUST learn from.

Was there a particular moment where you feel you received a calling to join the Anglican Church?
In addition to being a financial services lawyer, I was also Roman Catholic. So it was a bit of a big moment. When I was young I considered becoming a Nun, but frankly I just don’t have the chutzpah it takes to be one. I also adore my husband and children, and I don’t see why women can’t be ‘up the front’ in ministry. It took me ages to realise I didn’t have to be Catholic, and I’d become increasingly disillusioned and sad about the church over time. My personal theology fits perfectly with being Anglican. I feel as though I’m having my cake and eating it too. Speaking of which, to answer your question, at the precise moment I realised I could try to become an Anglican priest I was baking a particularly luscious chocolate cake and accidentally listening to an Anglican woman reading a piece of scripture, which I’ve since adopted as my personal mantra. It is from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and is all about being strong and having courage. I’ll put it and the amazing cake recipe on the Holy Trinity Balaclava and Elwood Facebook Page (please like us!)

Now, life as a Vicar. Can you describe what a ‘normal’ day is for you?
Well, as with so many roles, I start out each day with a to-do list and expectations for the day, and every day my list goes down the tube. Ideally I’d be organising services and sermons, visiting unwell parishioners, planning outreach events etc etc. Over the last few days though I reunited a lovely lady with her stolen bicycle (stashed in my church grounds), spent some time talking to the police about vandalism, worked on compliance processes, etc etc. I did meet with the most delightful couple last night who will be married in our beautiful church later this year. We get to be present for really big moments in peoples’ lives, from the cradle to the grave, which is a privilege beyond measure. No two days are the same, which I love.

Your ‘lil ‘ole question to Bill Shorten on Q&A was about leadership – and seemed innocent enough. What unfolded became one of the most significant chapters in the election campaign. How did that feel?
I was flabbergasted. I had dashed my question off quite quickly on the last day after receiving SO many emails from Q&A reminding me that as an audience member I should contribute. I meant every word, we see leadership in tiny soundbites, and so often important decisions seem to be made to fit with a news cycle. We need long-term planning, we need our leaders to work together for the good of our society. We need our leaders to take care of the most vulnerable people in our society, and they need to work together to achieve that and drop the politics now and them. I was amazed at how it took off though, especially the #mymum follow up which was lovely. Bill Shorten’s response could only have come from the son of an awesome feminist, and it was upsetting to see her derided. It would be great if our politicians read the bible a bit more. They’d be welcoming of everyone regardless of colour, race, creed or sexuality. Those words ‘love one another as I have loved you’ came from a brown-skinned refugee who fought oppression at every opportunity. He was a social justice radical.  We need to listen more carefully to Christ’s messages and try and live by them.

Name four people – living or dead – you’d kill to sit down to dinner with.
Jacinda Ardern, Leigh Sales, Annabel Crabb (I’m a Chatter) and… well, so long as everyone was nice to each other, Margaret Thatcher. Can you imagine the conversation?

Although, a week or so back there was a dinner where I got to sit next to one of my favourite authors, Paula Gooder, who has been a feminist trailblazer in the Church of England, as well as others who had fought for the ordination of women in Australia. Muriel Porter was there, she was my feminist mum’s favourite journalist, and Reverend Colleen O’Reilly who has been a great mentor to me. Those extraordinary women made history, and goodness did they fight.  We can’t take their battles for granted, it still isn’t easy being a woman in ministry.

Your first album?
David Essex – and he’s still gorgeous.

Your favourite book/writer?
I’m one of those people who could be killed by the toppling pile of books on my bedside table. At the moment, definitely Phoebe by Paula Gooder.  I also adore Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh. I re-read a paperback of Brideshead Revisited * while walking part of the Spanish Camino last year and wallowed in the language again for the first time in decades.

The best piece of advice your mother gave you?
You can do anything.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Busyness – is that a virtue?

What’s your worst and best habit?
Worst (or favourite) habit – late-night grilled cheese on crumpets.
Best habit – making time to pray, reflect and retreat.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
We hear about how a woman is killed each week in Australia by a domestic partner, but I read recently that one a week will also live with serious acquired brain injury, and there are all kinds of permanent impacts. It’s an epidemic, and while there is some coverage the impact on the fabric of our society of violence against women and children, it should be a bigger story.

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