Secrets and her success
'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.
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.
''I remember every group I have ever done and I've done it for six years. They're all in my head,'' she says. ''It's very important for you to just have a completely blank face because they are looking for a reaction to you … We dress down, so I tend to wear very plain clothes and I wear my glasses. We sit at the periphery of the group with a notepad and we let them talk.''
''That whole question of how we manage health and wellbeing, care and living arrangements across three or four generations is the constant discussion. It's much more important in many ways than the carbon tax and any of those kind of issues that get a real [media] focus.''
''No one in my family - not one person - got to make the choices they really wanted to make in their lives. My great-grandfather was gay and couldn't lead an out gay life. He had to be married. That's what Italian men do. His wife was miserable, his son was estranged from him. None of the women in my family wanted to come to Australia, certainly not northern Queensland. It was a really harsh, harsh environment.''
She has put it all in a book, The Italian Girl, to be published by University of Queensland Press this month. ''Writing this book about my grandmother, reading everything people thought about Italians in the 1930s and '40s, means all of it is the kind of things we say about Arabs, about Muslim Australians today, almost down to the phrases used,'' she says.