Born in Canberra, ACT, 2 December 1958, the third son of Ernest John Wood (1914-1986) and Betty (1922-1988). Brothers Peter (b 1949), Ian (b. 1951), George (b. 1961). My father was a senior Commonwealth Public Servant with a degree in economics; my mother was a full-time at-home mum who left paid work on their marriage in 1945.
Schooling in Canberra’s well-funded left-wing influenced public education system: Griffith Primary, Telopea Park High, Narrabundah College (years 11 & 12). Twelve months after leaving school and home, after brief trips overseas and around Australia, I moved alone to the Snowy Mountains on an isolated old sheep property my dad had bought some years earlier as a hobby farm. My 3-odd years at Yaouk (pronounced ‘yi-ak’ to rhyme with kayak) from age 19-21 was a seminal experience for me – the cradle of my adult values and worldview.
Adulthood: a mad 2 years in Sydney, which held lots of people, lots of drugs, and lots of personal growth workshops. Finally, at aged 22 a short psychotic episode landed me back at my parents place with no money and a shattered sense of self. After 6 months recovering, with therapeutic help, aged 24 I moved to Bellingen, for the first 2 years living on 2 different rural communities. Then I met Kathryn, my first major partner, who lived on another rural community, and we moved into town to a little house my mother bought as an investment property. I lived there with Kathryn for 8 years, when I moved out and sold her the house (my mother had died). She still lives there and we are good friends. I rented another house in town for 4 years, during which I met Cate, my second major partner. Cate and her 7 year old son Josh lived in a huge house on “Shamballa” community, where I moved in 1997. Cate moved out in 2005, and we remain closely connected. I continued living at Shamballa, studying gender at university, and in 2011 I completed a PhD in gender theory. Early in 2012 I moved to London, with the intention to combine my conceptual understanding of men and gender with the practical area of men’s clothes.
Work and Study History
First job as chemist delivery boy after school age 10-13. Building site work on weekends age 13-15. At 16, with motorbike license, weekend work on rural properties. After getting my car license age 17 work extended into small building renovations, vintage machinery restoration, rural property work, car and motorbike repairs, and small-scale fitting and turning and welding. At Yaouk, from age 19-21, building a sawmill and logging equipment, then running the mill. In Sydney for 18 months, light steel fabrication, blacksmithing and shoemaking, and sawmilling.
In Bellingen, joinery (timber doors and windows, with some furniture) for 3 years, then launched Rose Gum Timbers in 1987. In 1988, when computers were still unusual, launched a bookkeeping and contract computer bureau. Sold these two, and in 1990 went into partnership with a friend in Windsong Chimes. Started Bachelor of Arts (Women’s Studies) at Murdoch University in 1995, aged 36.
Sold Windsong Chimes in 1997, and got 2 years part time work as financial controller of Kakadu Clothing. Went through a major life upheaval (the “Valley of Death” 1998-2000) with several close deaths and my own major illness. Since emerging from this I’ve been mainly pursuing tertiary study, at first financed by a small inheritance. I graduated BA (Hons) First Class from University of New England in 2005, was awarded the University Medal and a PhD scholarship, which ran out in 2009. In 2006 I bought a tractor (near-original 1962 Massey Ferguson “65”), primarily for paddock work, but I also do some contract tractor work for neighbours. I submitted my PhD at Christmas 2010, and formally graduated after minor amendments in October 2011.
Briefly, my work history has traversed an arc starting in manual work, mostly steel or engineering based, through all aspects of wood production from forest to value-add manufacturing, then branching off into more desk-based work: computers, business systems and management. During that period I recognised my mental capacities and commenced pure academic work: thinking, writing and speaking, e.g. this website. Along the way my manual skills are still a source of huge satisfaction to me, but are now strictly ‘play’.
Both my parents grew up in Sydney’s middle class North Shore, my father’s father senior salesman for a major Sydney furniture store; my mother’s father a self-taught share trader and dabbler in mining companies. Canberra was (and is) Australia’s exemplary middle class suburban city. My brothers and I rebelled against this and, covertly supported by my mother who had a decided though under-expressed manual creative bent, we have all pursued trades and manual skills as both hobby and income, despite us all having university degrees.
My father was a very quiet, gentle shy man, the tall thin bookish intellectual type. Mum was also shy but intensely passionate and emotional, short, round and gushy. Their relationship was riven by a permanent cold war: Mum verbally attacking and blaming Dad and Dad trying to appease Mum while keeping his distance.
My two older brothers are 7 and 10 years older, while my younger brother is only 2 years younger. So for us ‘littlies’ the ‘big boys’ seemed nearly grown up. We were all close at one level – co-operating wonderfully together in a tiny cramped workshop in the backyard on mechanical projects; but distant also – the cool disembodied cynicism of the ‘rational male’ in interaction. The ‘big boys’ were major shapers for me of many crucial aspects of maleness: co-operation, gentleness, manual dexterity, sarcastic cynicism and ironic wit. In contrast my dad modelled remote dutiful fatherhood and how to be in the ‘outside’ world.
Extended family all lived in other cities, and visitors were rare and handled with elaborate preparation. Our family seemed isolated, and the presence of other people seemed to generate huge tensions and intense discomfort in our home. I never learned social skills as a kid, and school and other people always seemed bewildering and scary to me.
Despite being the only female among 5 males, Mum was the powerhouse of the family, keeping us all under her thumb through a mixture of intense smothering love, verbal abuse, physical violence, and dark sexual undercurrents. Dad was a shadowy background figure, dutifully supplying financial wants via his stimulating though high pressure job while keeping out of the way of her violence and our childhood needs.
Gender, Ideas, and Personal Development