Eglė Garrick at the Sydney
Harbour Foreshore Authority, 2005
"At the Helm" during the Sydney Olympics 2000
With Valdas Adamkus, President of Lithuania,
during the Sydney Olympics 2000
Eglė has recently been asked to join the Planning Advisory Committee of the Faulty of the Built Environment at the University of NSW. She is also a member of the International History Planning Society and has given many presentations and papers in diverse forums and conferences.
The following interview conducted by Isolde Poželaitė-Davis with Eglė Žižytė-Garrick was held in Sydney, on July 18th, 2005.
I.D.: Congratulations, Eglė! You have a very impressive C.V. in academic and career fields. How were you able to achieve so much and to manage a family with two children?
E.G.: My qualifications are very broad and so I have always looked extra hard for opportunities for advancement - I think that were I qualified as a teacher, lawyer, doctor or engineer, I could have foreseen a predictable career path, however with my "generalist" degrees, I have needed to seek opportunities where others would have rejected them. When I went into bus operations, for example, many people may have wondered why I was interested in this - but I saw that I had the possibility to make my mark in a non-traditional area and could be competitive. The same happened to me when I went to manage ferries. The job there was very tough, union based (I had 3 maritime unions, the CFMEU, the AMWU (at our shipyard) and the ASU) and it was a difficult blue collar male environment - of my 450 staff, 94% were male. I thought, if I can succeed in this tough environment, I can succeed anywhere. As it turned out, it was a difficult role, with many industrial conflicts, but I was "at the helm" for the Sydney Olympics and that was a very great period. The Lithuanian president, Valdas Adamkus, was one passenger I took great care of during that time! My philosophy has always been to take risks, and not be afraid to move out of your "comfort zone". I also now spend a lot of time mentoring and guiding other staff to help them move forward.
Kaunas Castle May 2005
E.G.: I studied French and German at school and am amazed I still retain so much in my memory of both languages. Being Lithuanian is much more than speaking Lithuanian though; language is but one dimension of ethnicity and it is this "ethnicity" that has given me both perception and identity. Being Lithuanian has allowed me, although born here, to identify with another culture, love music unfamiliar to those not of this culture and to be part of something which is beyond the everyday experience. When I travel to Lithuania now, I can talk about the changes in culture, in the built environment, and in the landscape that I have personally witnessed since my first trip there in 1974. This gives me a unique insight, and because I am not there all the time, I can clearly see how things have changed, how political change has impacted on that community.
I.D.: Transport Management Urban Planning and Development and Heritage Preservation seem to be the spheres of your endeavours and achievements. However, I believe that you are writing bilingual poetry? When did you first feel the urge to express your thoughts, feelings and impressions in verse?
E.G.: I havent written poetry for a long time, but I love words and greatly admire people who are creative and write well. My poetry era was probably assisted by my love of English literature and my studies in that area at university. I look back at my poems from that time though and they still have meaning for me. Perhaps "the muse" will return!
I.D.: Creative expression runs in your family. Your mother, Elena Jonaitis, has written two books: "Elenas Journey" in English and "Likimo blaškomi" in Lithuanian. Your son Louis is a budding pianist, your cousin Rimas Kabaila has written five books on Aboriginal history. Any more artists in your family?
E.G.: I am surrounded by talent! My brother is also a gifted and highly original teller of real life stories - his accounting of his first trip back to Lithuania is fascinating (if a bit hard to decipher, as he even has his own spelling!). My older son Matthew is also a gifted writer and is studying creative writing at university, while my younger son Louis is a young modern composer of note and my sister has always drawn, painted and designed. So amongst all of that I am happy to be the one creative in the way I manage people and run organisations - organisational skills have always been my creative strength!
With Algis Vyšniūnas, Dean of the School of Urban
Planning, Gediminas University of Technology, Vilnius,
with a height study model of Vilnius
E.G.: I spoke to the faculty and students about how planning strategy and instruments are required for the redevelopment of former industrial land, using our work in Pyrmont as an example, and I gave a second paper on the adaptive reuse of heritage industrial buildings, looking at the Australian Technology Park and the White Bay Power Station. These issues were very pertinent in Lithuania, where the reuse of both industrial buildings and industrial land is a very big issue, as the landscape is littered with disused Soviet industrial installations.
I.D.:(a) Did the work you do in Australia resonnate with your audience in Vilnius, Lithuania?
(b) Have you made plans to give more lectures and talks in Vilnius?
(c) What were your general impressions of the country and its people on your sixth visit to Lithuania?
E.G.: My talks were of great interest and this is why Ive suggested a follow up visit next year, when Im planning to take a group of architects, town planners and urban designers who can run a series of workshops for the faculty. Ideally, I will be looking primarily for Lithuanian speakers, but I will take some English speaking professionals as well.
Having seen many changes in Lithuania from my visits in 1974, 1978, 1979, 1990 and 2001, I was almost unprepared for the huge impact of leaving the Soviet system and joining the European Union - the built environment in particular has changed dramatically; skyscapers in Vilnius, change to standard gauge on the main rail link to Kaunas; renovation of the railway stations (well overdue!) and the general smarting up of the streets and buildings. In 2001, the "sparkle" had only happened in Vilnius, by now you can see physical changes in Kaunas, Klaipeda, Palanga. I already have enough material from this visit to prepare a publication on these changes.
I.D.: Would you like to add anything else from your lectures abroad - perhaps in other countries?
E.G.: I have enjoyed work and travel experiences and so have attended conferences in Malaysia, Spain, Toronto as well as in various parts of Australia. I am very interested in fine art, particularly Dutch art of the 15th century and so I love to include work with visits to see these wonderful works - I have been known to slip off to Europe for a week to, for example, Belgium, to see Jan van Eycks great paintings in Bruges and Ghent! This gives me the greatest pleasure and I am lucky to have both a very understanding and supportive family and to make work opportunities to allow me to this a few times a year. Certainly, I have been richly blessed with my heritage and my work experiences, and I am grateful for the opportunities which have come my way!
I.D.: Thank you, Egle, for the interview.
Isolde Poželaitė-Davis AM