‘Inheriting My Father’s Enemies’: Is Being a Famous Guardian a Blessing or a Curse?

When Georgina Downer arrived at the pub just outside Adelaide in 2018, she was ready for the worst and tumble of the campaign.

Ms. Downer Mayo was running as a Liberal candidate in the by-elections and she thought she was on all issues that would be important to her potential constituents.

“But the first question I asked … was about the war crimes my father committed in the Iraq war, and what I was going to do about them,” she said. ABC RN’s Sunday Extra tells.

Georgina Downer ran as the Liberal candidate for the Mayo seat of South Australia in 2018 and 2019.(ABC News: Isabel Damian)

Ms Downer is the daughter of Liberal heavyweight Alexander Downer, who held the Mayo seat in South Australia for 24 years and was foreign minister in the Howard government for 11 years.

For Ms. Downer, being a famous (or infamous, according to some pub patrons) parent brings both opportunity and challenge, especially when trying to follow in her footsteps.


Politics runs in the blood of Ms. Downer.

She is not only the daughter of the Foreign Minister, but also the granddaughter of the Immigration Minister and the granddaughter of the Prime Minister of South Australia.

But she says people have misunderstood what it means to come from such a lineage.

“When you have famous parents, they can have a brilliant, bright career, but there are very few moments that the family should share,” she says.

Ms Downer inherited her father’s passion for international affairs and worked in Asia and the Pacific for the Australian Government, the International Republican Institute and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Alexander Downer Spoke To Reporters.
Alexander Downer served as Australia’s foreign minister for 11 years.(Getty Images: Greg Wood)

But his father’s shadow was big.

“When you succeed, you have to be almost twice as successful as your parents, just to prove that you can do it yourself. There’s always that criticism, ‘Oh, you got there because of your father,'” she says. .

For some Australians, such as Mayo pub patrons, Mr Downer’s legacy is forever tied to the country’s involvement in the Iraq war.

In Mayo, Ms. Downer’s inclination failed in the 2018 by-election and again in the 2019 general election.

She is now continuing the family’s liberal legacy as the inaugural CEO of the Robert Menzies Institute at the University of Melbourne.

But having children of famous politicians can sometimes lead to very problematic lives.

Fall from grace

Andrew Hughes of the Australian National University College of Business and Economics has researched the history of personal identity and personal brand.

He says that being a famous parent can be either a blessing or a curse.

“[For some people]This is great because you can achieve a lot in life if you want to, because you have already got a head start. In some areas of society and life, name can carry a lot of weight, ‘he says.

“But the other side is that we see some of those people fall out of grace.”

Dr. Hughes points to Harriet Rann, the daughter of former NSW premier Neville Rann, who “cites her father’s fame and popularity as the cause of many problems in her life.”

Ms Ran spent two years in prison for her role in the robbery and murder of a Sydney drug dealer and was addicted to crystal methamphetamine.

“She was under a lot of pressure to live up to her father’s standards in public life.”

“We see that some people do not live up to the expectations of society as their parents did.”


Peter Hillary’s father was not only the most famous man in his native New Zealand but also the most famous in the world.

Edmund Hillary and fellow mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953.

A Family Of Five Holds Bags In A 1960S Black And Photo In The Airport Car Park.
A young Peter Hillary (center) with his father Edmund and family in London in 1962.(Getty Images: FPG)

Peter also decided to become a mountaineer and, literally following in his father’s footsteps, reached the summit of Mount Everest twice.

He has also completed the ‘Seven Peaks’ – climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents – and trekking across the Antarctica to the South Pole.

But it took him many years to reach this conclusion.

“I think it’s hard to see people in the shadows [of a parent], ”He said.

“And I have come to the conclusion that I want to see myself as the light of my father. There are wonderful benefits and opportunities to be the son of Ed Hillary.”

Peter Hillary Owns A Magazine Depicting His Father, Edmund Hillary.
Peter Hillary says it has taken many years to find his place in the world.(Writer: Gopal Chitrakar)

In addition to being a successful mountaineer, Peter is also a writer and philanthropist who spends most of his time working with his father’s humanitarian organization, the Himalayan Trust.

“It’s a journey … I don’t know why we have to equalize or feel superior to our parents,” he says.

Some of these celebrities have struggled with other children.


Tim Olsen’s father was not like the other fathers.

“With his beret and his amazing outfit … he was definitely a different father than the other dads in my school,” he says.

An Elderly Father And Middle-Aged Son At The Art Gallery Wearing A Red Pocket Square With A Jacket.
John Olsen and his son Tim Olsen at an exhibition in 2016.(ABC News: Margaret Burin)

Tim’s father, John Olsen, is one of the most famous living artists in the country, with a career spanning more than 60 years, and topped the 2005 Archibald Award.

Tim is a well-known galleryist and recently wrote a memoir entitled “Son of the Brass” where he unpacked a complicated relationship with his famous father.

“Intellectually, I realized that I could never be as successful as he was … I turned him into a kind of god, and I was so overwhelmed, that it led me to the ‘lesser’ mentality,” he says.

“I will never forget someone once said to me, ‘In 200 years, they will talk about your father, but they will not talk about you.’ It really knocked me out. “

After being immersed in the art world, Tim began working and managing several major Australian galleries.

“Nepotism can get you this far. People don’t realize that I really have to work twice as hard because of the critical nature of our society.”

Tim referred to his mother, Valerie Strong, as a fundamental force, as she taught him “the important values ​​of humility, the power of silence, and that power of sensitivity.”

“What really matters in life is knowing yourself and never let society judge you … find your own compass.”

Mr. Bradson

Dr Hughes of the Australian National University says many of the celebrity’s children have tried to separate themselves from the family name.

For example, the son of cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman changed his famous nickname from Bradman to Bradsen in 1972, until he reclaimed it in 2008.

“He wanted to get away from fame, he had enough, he wanted people to see him as equal,” says Dr. Hughes of John Bradman.

At the end of the day, Dr. Hughes says he is glad he didn’t come from a famous family.

“We know that whatever we achieve, we do it ourselves. And that sense of accomplishment, I think, is very, very powerful.”

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