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Miss Australia book charts charity and change

26 SEPTEMBER 2005

The history of fundraising, corporate sponsorship and community service are explored alongside changing notions of national identity and Australian womanhood in a new book on the Miss Australia Quest.

A Crowning Achievement by Professor Kay Saunders and Dr Julie Ustinoff is being released this week by the National Museum of Australia Press in the lead-up to an exhibition the Museum is developing on the history of the Miss Australia Quest.

The book is a study in Australian beauty, business and charitable enterprise, tracing the history of the Miss Australia competition from its beginnings in 1908 to its evolution as the Miss Australia Quest, the halcyon days of the 1950s and 1960s and its eventual end in 2000.

A Crowning Achievement uses the quest to explore issues of national identity, multiculturalism, women's roles, rural communities, philanthropy and the movement of disabled people out of the shadows of Australian social and cultural history.

'The Miss Australia Quest was, without doubt, the longest-running and most glamorous event in Australia's history,' Professor Saunders said. 'It attempted to define perfect Australian womanhood and a wholesomeness that reflected the Australian nation.'

'The great success of the quest was undeniably linked to the support of sponsors, who fostered pride in the states. The first national sponsorship from the Dowd family was ahead of its time, bestowing an unrivalled degree of glamour and benevolence on the event.'

Many businesses were linked to the quest over the years with national sponsors usually finding a place on the selection panel. Miss Australia winners promoted Australian products including fruit, wool, swimsuits and cars to the world. Eventually, the quest's managers found themselves devoting more and more time to attracting sponsorship.

A Crowning Achievement will be launched by Miss Australia 1959, Joan Stanbury, at 5pm this Wednesday, 28 September in the Sherwood Room at City Hall, Brisbane, with special guest Lord Mayor, Councillor Campbell Newman.

The authors, both historians at the University of Queensland, interviewed quest participants from every Australian state and territory.

The Miss Australia Quest raised more than $90 million for people with cerebral palsy. The exhibition opens at the Museum of Brisbane in August 2006, before going on show at the National Museum in Canberra from June 2007.

A Crowning Achievement, National Museum of Australia Press, 2005, 280x250cm, 182 pages, is available at bookstores for $49.95.

For review copies or interviews please contact Leanda Coleman at the National Museum on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au. For information on the Museum of Brisbane phone 07 3403 8888.