The Mackenzie, as it’s known, is IPEd’s most prestigious award. It recognises the outstanding achievements and contributions of an IPEd member to the editing profession and/or exemplary service to IPEd. It is named in honour of Janet Mackenzie DE.
Janet Mackenzie edited her first book in 1969. It is a moment that marks the beginning of a long, productive and influential career. On the fifth anniversary of her death, we speak to Janet’s friends and colleagues, Kerry Davies and Dr Renée Otmar, about the legacy Janet has left at IPEd and throughout the wider editing profession in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
Kerry Davies, former chair of the IPEd Board, first met Janet Mackenzie in 2011 at the IPEd conference in Sydney. Kerry had just taken on the role of facilitator for the second edition of IPEd’s Australian Standards for Editing Practice.
“Janet, of course, played a key role in writing the first edition back in 2001 and I was told that her approval of any revision would be crucial,” Kerry recalled.
“I was a little daunted by her reputation but I approached her over a glass of red and she was absolutely delightful.
“We met up for a yarn at each conference since then, as well as during the Standards revision workshops. In 2015, for the Canberra conference, when I was chair of the IPEd Board, we had just formed the Style Manual Steering Group and met with staff of the federal department in charge of implementing the long-awaited 7th edition of the Style manual. She was phenomenal to work with – straightforward, intellectually sharp, eminently sensible and with a great sense of humour.”
Dr Renée Otmar first met Janet in 1992 at the annual general meeting of the Society of Editors (Victoria).
“Ruth Siems, who taught me in the Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing at RMIT, cajoled me into joining the committee. When I expressed concern about being a greenhorn, Janet said, ‘You’ll be right!’,” Renée said.
“Janet was a highly intelligent and astute person who did not suffer fools lightly. She was direct in her communication yet also kind, and she had a wicked sense of humour, which I enjoyed enormously after I’d gotten over my awe of her.
“She was a keen strategist and we spent many an hour brainstorming the best approach to solving problems for SocEdsVic, as we affectionately called it, as well as how to establish a national association for editors.”
Janet Mackenzie was a founding member and Honorary Life Member of the Society of Editors (Victoria), which was established in 1970 – the first of Australia’s societies of editors. She was instrumental in the development of the Council of Australian Societies of Editors (CASE), the precursor to IPEd, in 1998. Through her work with CASE, Janet was involved in drafting the Standards, establishing the Accreditation Board and contributing to the writing and assessing of the first accreditation exam in 2008, earning her and the other examiners the postnominal of Distinguished Editor (DE). Janet also played a role in developing the structure of IPEd.
“Good editors may be likened to those crystal-clear prisms which form a vital part of a pair of binoculars. They are not there to alter the view or change the scene, but to make it clearer and closer.”
—Janet Mackenzie DE, The editor’s companion
“In addition to all of her work with the EdVic committee and in the early days of IPEd, Janet wrote her eminent guide, The editor’s companion, published by Cambridge University Press in 2004, with the second edition coming out in 2011,” Kerry said. “A few months after Janet died, her family let us know that she had left the copyright and royalties to IPEd. That is the sort of person Janet was.”
The Janet Mackenzie Medal was first awarded in 2020 to Elizabeth Manning Murphy DE, but, as Kerry explains, the desire to recognise the contributions of IPEd members had been simmering for some time.
“In 2017, a few of us on the IPEd Board began talking about ways to honour IPEd members for their contributions, beyond Honorary Life Membership, which traditionally had been awarded by the former societies of editors (by then IPEd’s branches),” Kerry said.
“We soon established the Standing Committee on Awards and Prizes, to manage IPEd’s own prizes, the Rosie and the Student Prize, as well as its contribution to the Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship. The terms of reference already included an IPEd service honour to be developed in 2018.
“When Janet died in September of that year, it was clear to everyone the award should be named in her honour, with her family’s blessing. We fashioned the medal on the gold-star cover of the first edition of Australian Standards for Editing Practice. We launched the award at the 2019 IPEd conference in Melbourne, memorably with Janet’s children present.”
In 2022, Renée was awarded the Janet Mackenzie Medal, an experience she describes as “immensely special”.
“It meant the world to me to be recognised in this way by IPEd through an award named for Janet, who was a friend, colleague and mentor to me,” Renée said.
“I have always felt a strong affinity with Janet’s approach to editing, and her sensibility and interests in social justice and environmental conservation, as well as her extraordinary pragmatism. That IPEd established this award in her honour, and for me to be awarded the Janet Mackenzie Medal, was an immensely special experience.
“Editors from diverse backgrounds and identities are rarely acknowledged for our contribution to the profession, and so I was especially pleased to be the first editor from a culturally and linguistically diverse background to receive such a notable award.”
In 2023, Kerry was awarded the Janet Mackenzie Medal.
“I still tear up with pride when I think about it. This is an enormous honour. The Mackenzie is a fantastic recognition of professional and voluntary service to the editing profession. But I still have a few years of service to go before I match anything like what Janet contributed!”
When asked to reflect on the value and significance of the Janet Mackenzie Medal in recognising individual contributions to the editing profession, Kerry pointed out that the industry is relatively small and without the financial support enjoyed by other larger and more lucrative industries. This means the work of supporting and advocating for the profession is often picked up by volunteers.
“Editing is a tough profession. Recognition is rare, the pay is often low, expectations are always high and the work is intense. Yet the work of editors is so valuable, to education and service provision, to intellectual debate and cultural expression,” Kerry said.
“The tasks of supporting editors and the editing profession have largely fallen to highly motivated individuals in the industry and to the volunteers of IPEd (often one and the same), supported by a small part-time staff – setting and maintaining professional standards, ongoing professional development, networking and professional support, and advocating for the profession itself, including sustainable pay rates and conditions.”
“These are the people the Mackenzie seeks to acknowledge.”
The Janet Mackenzie Medal is the embodiment of Janet’s legacy, Renée says. And for Renée, that legacy is woven with the personal impact Janet had on her.
“Janet encouraged us to uphold high ethical and professional standards, and to keep ourselves accountable to them,” Renée said.
“She taught me that it was okay to be myself and still to be regarded as a professional.”
“She showed us that even though we editors usually work in the ‘background’, we are entitled to voice our opinions and to participate as editors in the broader community.”
Previous recipients of the Janet Mackenzie Medal are Elizabeth Manning Murphy DE (2020), Ted Briggs AE (2021), Dr Renée Otmar DE (2022) and Kerry Davies AE (2023).