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Customer in the Spotlight: Jane Nathan

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Throughout her personal, political, and professional life, Hawthorn local Jane Nathan has worn many hats.

Jane grew up on the Mornington Peninsula in Mount Eliza. After graduating high school in 1967, Jane attended Melbourne University where her degree in physical education also encompassed the study of law, arts, engineering, and architecture. Jane worked in retail and marketing at Myers while at university, before becoming a secondary teacher of PE and history.

After marrying her husband Tony in 1973, the two moved to Orange, NSW where she was invited to join the committee for building the new performing arts centre. They returned to Melbourne in 1977 and lived in Camberwell for two years before settling in Hawthorn.

While living in Camberwell, Jane was asked by local residents to represent them as spokesperson in relation to developments at Camberwell Junction. During the late 80s, now living in Hawthorn, Jane became president of the Parents and Friends Association at St Joseph's Primary School. During this same time, local residents were growing resentful of their local government representation and Jane was approached by some members of the community to represent them on council. Having given birth to her fifth child only three months prior, Jane was reluctant. However, she started attending council meetings and began to feel she'd "much rather be on the inside" and in 1987 became a councillor. In 1990, Jane Nathan was elected mayor of the City of Hawthorn. “It was a major learning curve when it came to the bureaucracy,” said Jane. “But I was surprised at how much I knew from life experience”. She was asked to serve a second term as mayor, but resigned to spend more time with her family.

Jane cites her greatest achievement in local government to be the Hawthorn (Land Use) Strategy, the first initiative which directly asked the community how THEY wanted Hawthorn to look and feel. The huge community response raised concerns regarding employment, safety, maintenance, development, and enhancement of the local area. Steering committees were formed covering heritage, development and history, environmental, transport, and residential and commercial. The Hawthorn Strategy was almost implemented when council amalgamations began to take place and in June 1994, all councillors were dismissed overnight as the City of Hawthorn was abolished and City of Boroondara was created.

Jane served as Treasurer of the Municipal Association of Victoria 1993-95 in an era where the “economy was at rock bottom and the community was distracted”. She worked to consult and negotiate with the community and educate decision makers on land-use planning. In December 1994, Jane was appointed as a Commissioner of Brimbank Council for three years to improve community relations, public transport, and council policy and processes. She more recently returned to Brimbank Council in 2012-16 as an administrator. Jane also advised the minister as Chair of the Planning Advisory Council for four years 1994-1998, and was invited to join the Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association where she was elected president in 1999.

Jane has always had a vested interest in sports. In 1981, Jane helped start the Hawthorn Netball Association. As a keen cyclist, Jane chaired the State Bicycle Committee between 1993-98, helping to negotiate between local cyclists and various state departments to develop a bicycle strategy and link local bicycle networks. Jane is “very proud” to have been the first female committee member of the Melbourne Cricket Club, where she started the ‘Women of the MCC’ to encourage and promote women’s participation in sport and the club. Presently, Jane is on the board of directors for Cricket Victoria.

As the current President of the Grace Park Hawthorn Club, Jane feels “very connected to this community” and invested in its “growing diversity”. She has also been on the committee of the Hawthorn Community Chest for 30 years now, which she sees as a “vibrant part of the broader Hawthorn community” which gives the gift of "hope in the form of connection".

Having lived in Hawthorn for over 40 years, Jane “love[s] the vibe” of Glenferrie. She describes Cafe Blac as her “office away from home” and the Readings bookstore as a “goldmine”. All of Jane’s children have been through school uniforms from local staple Dobsons, and she appreciates the constant support local butcher Josh at Glenferrie Gourmet Meats has given to the Hawthorn Community Chest. “Panache has beautiful arrangements,” said Jane. “Whatever [Richard Eden] does, they always last so much longer than other florists”.

While Jane believes council has done great work increasing greenery and open spaces, she is disappointed to see the loss of some historically important but not heritage listed local buildings. Jane believes that we need to return focus on how the community wants Hawthorn to look and feel. “Unless we protect the identity of places, we will lose our sense of belonging, and it will have economic consequences,” said Jane.

Jane is currently the chair of the Woodards Foundation, a charity initiative she helped establish in 2015 which provides food to the homeless and a refuge house for people escaping family violence, helping them to transition back into the community.

Jane is most proud of her five children and 11 grandchildren, and feels “very fortunate” for all the opportunities she has been given, feeling she owes a lot back to the community. “There is nothing better than growing things, whether it’s a business, a community, or your own children.”

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