I decided to embrace having grey hair a few years ago and it’s been quite interesting to see how the colour of my hair really does lead people to put me in a box labelled ‘old and irrelevant’ much more than when I was a red head.
But it’s also liberating – it’s my natural colour now and it says I have experience, maybe some wisdom.
Grey is also my bent in terms of how I lead and consider ideas. Grey adds depth to consideration of an issue. It doesn’t mean I am stuck in murky indecision between black and white: I can consider an issue, research, and then be willing to take a stand.
Quick passion is necessary because sometimes we have to respond with righteous indignation when things are wrong. My passion is stirred so many times when I see injustice.
But then I also need to be grey, because black and white is rarely the end of the story.
It’s in the grey that we need to work hard, to uncover the complexity and not give up. Grey is the colour of intellect and diplomacy, negotiating all the distance between black and white.
There has been a case in the news in Australia this week that shows the importance of combining passionate black and white with the dogged persistence of grey.
In Sydney in 1982 a young nurse, Lynette Dawson, mother of two little girls and married to a football hero and PE teacher, disappeared. Her husband, Chris, said she had called him and told him she was leaving. She never phoned anyone else and she never accessed her bank account or used a credit card. She had left behind her two young daughters whom she adored.
Her family was always suspicious that Dawson had killed his wife. He had a clear motive – two days after she disappeared, an 18 year-old high school student with whom he was having an affair moved in to the family home.
Twenty years later, two coroners found that there was enough evidence to prosecute, but still nothing happened. Then a journalist produced a true crime podcast in 2018 on Lynette’s disappearance, called Teacher’s Pet, which garnered huge new interest (it was downloaded 60 million times).
The black and white of the case seemed compelling but there was no body and no witnesses. The journalist, Hedley Thomas, and the family needed to work in the areas of grey to build a case, find neighbours who would talk, call out the police for their poor investigation, and persuade the now-divorced second wife to give evidence.
Last week, Chris Dawson was found guilty.
The case shows how a man could get away with killing his wife because he was a good looking celebrity, a popular bloke and a sportsman. The police were too quick to make a black and white decision. And too slow to examine all the evidence
Working in the ‘grey’ of an issue helps to find workable solutions to injustice. As Hedley Thomas said of his research, “you have to get a bit obsessed”.
Justice dies not come easily for women and girls who are victims of abuse and violence.
Dawson shows many signs of abusive behaviour – his power over the teenage girl he persuaded to live with him and marry as well as his murderous violence against his wife, whom everyone adored; as well as his lies that it was Lyn’s over-spending that caused friction in their marriage. He had a sense of entitlement that came with the package of his masculinity: his sporting ability, his good looks and his easy charm as a TV host.
He destroyed the life of his wife, and that had huge implications for his daughters, Lyn’s whole family and his own family. The girl he manipulated into an affair was only 16 and even though everyone seemed to know something was going on, no-one intervened.
It is easy to see the world in black and white terms of rights and wrong, good and bad. And we are especially good at condemning people who aren’t in our pristine world of white.
But we need to involve ourselves in the grey – to pursue truth, clarify facts, correct lies, support victims, and hold governments and communities to account.
 An interview shown on the ABC’s ‘Australian Story,’ September 5th, 2022 https://www.abc.net.au/austory/lyn-dawson:-vanished/14040958