A good Greek girl on memoir, gay rights and the bureaucratic circus

INTERVIEW: The Victorian government’s director of equality Maria Katsonis tells The Mandarin what it’s like being both an author and senior bureaucrat. And why she won’t tolerate sentences longer than 14 words.

It’s an “extraordinarily strange” feeling going from being a “nameless bureaucrat” known only within the public service to an author with a public profile, Maria Katsonis explains.

Her memoir, The Good Greek Girl, tracks her life as the daughter of Greek migrants who turned out to be gay, dropped out of a nine-tenths finished economics degree for the theatre, was accepted into the Harvard Kennedy School to study a master of public administration and ended up a senior Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet bureaucrat, before developing and eventually recovering from depression that left her in bed for weeks on end.

She never thought such an all-consuming mental illness would afflict someone like her, a senior public servant with a degree from Harvard. Yet after weeks of near-paralysis, where she would struggle to get out of bed and then sit in front of her computer blankly, Katsonis began a path to recovery comprising five weeks in hospital and another month off work.

Though some counselled against disclosing her experience at work, she did — and was pleasantly surprised at the supportive response from her colleagues.

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