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Aunty Ivy ‘Life. Be in it’ posters

At a glance

  • 'Life. Be in it.' public health campaign
  • 'Aunty Ivy' and a lifelong passion for gardening
  • Women in the workforce
  • Nock & Kirby's Television Workshop
Come 'n try gardening posters featuring Aunty Ivy
'Life. Be in it.' Come 'n try Gardening posters featuring 'Aunty Ivy'. Photos: Jason McCarthy, National Museum of Australia.

See the posters up close

Introducing 'Aunty Ivy'

'Aunty Ivy' was one of many characters created by graphic designer and animator Alex Stitt in the course of the highly successful 'Life. Be in it.' public health campaign. Introduced in the late 1980s, towards the end of the campaign, 'Aunty Ivy' encouraged people to get out into the garden, enjoy the fresh air, grow some vegetables and, without even realising it, improve their health.

In 2013, the National Museum acquired a set of 'Life. Be in it' posters and badges featuring 'Aunty Ivy' promoting gardening as a fun, rewarding form of exercise, together with a collection of material relating to the woman who inspired the character, Sydney gardening personality Ivy Lovric.

'Life. Be in it' Come 'n try Gardening badges

Promoting public health

The 'Life. Be in it' campaign was initiated by the state government of Victoria in 1975 and then taken up by the Australian Government in 1978 and introduced throughout Australia. 'Life. Be in it' aimed to educate the Australian public about exercise in a fun and non-threatening manner, making it part of everyday routine.

The campaign was developed by the advertising group Monahan Dayman Adams and promoted through community announcements on television, cartoons in newspapers and also through community groups. As the campaign developed, the central character, couch-potato 'Norm', was joined by a cast of friends, including 'Aunty Ivy'.

A love of gardening

Ivy Lovric, the woman who inspired the 'Aunty Ivy' character, had a life-long passion for gardening. Her interest was nurtured from a young age. She was born in 1921 at the cottage hospital in Young, in southern New South Wales. Her parents, Lydia and Philip James Hunt, had emigrated from the East End of London shortly before the First World War. Her father enlisted with the Australian Imperial Army, and, on his return from the war he established a fruit orchard on a soldier settlement block at Bendick Murrell, about 25 km north-east of Young.

Lovric grew up learning about gardening from her father, through practical experience and self-guided learning. She developed a passion for what she called 'old fashioned gardening', preparing the soil, making your own compost, planting a vegetable garden, growing fruit and nut trees, and caring for her beloved camellias.

Ivy Lovic with assistant Woolworths Hurstville gardening department
Ivy Lovric (right), manager of Woolworths Hurstville gardening department, with assistant, late 1950s. Courtesy: Denise Lovric.

Over the years, Lovric became well-known in Sydney, sharing her love of gardening through newspaper columns, at garden shows, on her own talkback radio segment, and on television.

A changing role

In the late 1950s, Lovric was employed as the manager of the gardening department at Woolworths Hurstville, New South Wales, and many customers sought out her gardening advice. Her daughter remembers visiting her mother at the store after school, only to be faced with a queue of people lined up to ask for her mother's advice on all manner of gardening problems.

It was unusual at that time for a woman to hold a managerial position, but Lovric was one of many women in post-World War Two Australia who were challenging the belief that 'a woman's place is in the home'. The traditional role for married women of performing domestic duties and caring for children was changing, and there was a fight for equal pay for women and a shift towards two-income families.

More from the Ivy Lovric collection

Nock & Kirby's gardening expert

After leaving Woolworths, Lovric worked at Grace Bros for ten years, before moving to a full-time position at the Nock & Kirby hardware store in George Street, Sydney. Nock & Kirby, keen to promote their new employee's skills, advertised that there was a 'gardening expert' in store.

The partnership of Thomas Nock and Herbert Kirby began in November 1894. The original Nock & Kirby store was at Circular Quay, before the business expanded and moved to new premises at 417 George Street, Sydney.

By the 1950s, Nock & Kirby's had become a household name in New South Wales. The shop sold everything from pots and pans to clothing, as well as hardware and gardening equipment. The company traded until 1983, when it was taken over by Burns Philp & Co and renamed BBC Hardware. Bunnings (Wesfarmers) bought the BBC Hardware chain in 2001.

Nock and Kirby Circular Quay
Promotional postcard showing Nock & Kirby’s original store at Circular Quay, Sydney. Photo: National Museum of Australia.

Black and white photo of Nock & Kirby store, George Street, Sydney, 1945
The palatial Nock & Kirby's George Street store, opened in 1918 complete with a dining hall and roof-garden. Photo: State Library of New South Wales – NCY32/301.

On television and radio

Ivy Lovric on set of Nock and Kirby's Television Workshop
Ivy Lovric on the set of 'Nock & Kirby's Television Workshop', 1970s. Courtesy: Denise Lovric.

During the 1970s, in addition to her full-time position at Nock & Kirby's, Lovric became one of the public faces of the company. She appeared on a television program, 'Nock & Kirby's Television Workshop', which aired on Channel 9 on Saturday mornings. The program featured 'Joe the Gadget Man', Joe Sandow, demonstrating kitchen gadgets and 'Handy Andy', Andrew Waugh, giving DIY advice. At the time, it was the longest running show on television.

Lovric appeared on the show as the gardening expert on a panel discussing Nock & Kirby products. She did not receive any additional payment for her television appearances, except for an allowance to get her hair done each week.

In 1981, Lovric recorded a series of gardening segments with Radio 2GB on Saturday evenings, which were an extension of Nock & Kirby's marketing. The radio shows featured a five-minute talk, followed by a five-minute question session. Lovric also travelled to gardening expos promoting and selling gardening products.

Ivy Lovric wearing her signature red beret
Ivy Lovric wearing her signature red beret,
which she wore in the garden during winter.
Courtesy: Denise Lovric.

Retirement

At age 60, Lovric retired from Nock & Kirby's, and moved to the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney where she created her own garden, including a chicken run and duck house. Lovric continued to do promotional work at gardening expos, including Canberra's Floriade. It was around this time she was approached to be involved with the 'Life. Be in it' campaign.

Lovric became the president of Katoomba Senior Citizens' Club. As president, she was invited to join Blue Mountains Council committees and received a NSW Premier's award for her volunteer work with the Senior Citizens' Club.

Lovric was an active member of the community until her death in July 2011.

Ivy Lovric gardening
Ivy Lovric working in her garden. Courtesy: Denise Lovric.

More

Urban Farming and the Agricultural Show

'Life. Be in it' posters from the Alex and Paddy Stitt collection 

References

Peter Spearritt, 'Nock, Thomas (1860–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University

Counterpoint: Staff Magazine of Nock and Kirby's and Beard Watson, February 1976, p. 4

'Ivy climbs up the wall to success', Daily Mirror, 4 February 1981

Stitt, Alexander. and Stitt, Paddy. Stitt : autobiographics / Alexander Stitt ; edited and co-written by Paddy Stitt, Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne : 2011, p. 149

The Nock & Kirby story The Australian Hardware Journal, Australia: 15 February 1973, p. 39


This highlight was written by Catriona Donnelly, Assistant Curator, People and the Environment, National Museum of Australia.