Secrets and her success

Posted: May 6, 2012 at 6:16 am

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Rebecca Huntley ... "[I] started to see terrible things being said and it does challenge your feelings." Photo: Sahlan Hayes

When not persuading Australians to open up, she reveals her own family's untold stories, writes Debra Jopson.

'It's one of those things you do when you're 18,'' Rebecca Huntley says. Twenty-one years ago, when she was applying to study law at the University of NSW, she decided to change her name so her lecturers would not know she was the daughter of the eminent legal academic James Crawford.

''I want your maiden name,'' she told her mother, Marisa Crawford nee Ballini. But her mother told her she would never be accepted in law or politics with an Italian name. So the daughter opened the A-K Sydney telephone book and when her eyes fell on ''Huntley'', marked that on her university application form and changed her name by deed poll.

Her mother, whose family swapped the island of Elba off the Tuscany coast for Queensland's cane farms, approved. ''She said, 'Oh, that sounds wonderfully neutral.' It sounds Australian, which to her is neutral,'' Huntley says.

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The sense of stigma attached to the Italian name was one of the clues that led Huntley to seek out her family's secrets.

But she does not reveal these secrets until the end of lunch at The Boathouse on the harbour's edge at Blackwattle Bay, where she admires the industrial landscape of Sydney Fish Markets and its surrounds against the water, then launches into anecdotes about her soundings of the Aussie mindset.

It is only when she finally tells her family history that it becomes clear why she continues to plumb these strange depths over and over.

She orders mackerel and mineral water, and speaks of one of her earliest memories. When she was four or five, travelling past suburban brick houses, she would wonder who lived there. As director of the Ipsos Mackay report, she is now paid to walk through those doors across the continent to find out what the inhabitants think.

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Secrets and her success

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May 6th, 2012 at 6:16 am

Posted in Personal Success