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The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts was established last year as a subsidiary of the Australian Film Institute; its job is to administer the AACTA Awards, which replace the old AFI Awards. Every news report on television seemed to feel it necessary to point out that AACTA is said just like the word actor, which I think most of us would have understood without help, seeing as they just said it aloud to us.

The Australian Academy has been deliberately set up in a similar way to the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the awards ceremony has been moved to late January, in order to fit in with the prize-giving season in the United States, which holds the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards in January and February. The AACTA Awards ceremony has been moved to Sydney and held at the Opera House, possibly because that seems more Hollywood than Melbourne. The AACTA statuette has also been remodelled, with some commenting that it looks like a flamboyant Australian Oscar.

Amongst the prize-winners was Asher Keddie, who won the Switched on Audience Choice Award for Best Performance in a Television Drama, for her role as Ita Buttrose in the mini-series Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. I must confess to not voting in this contest, or even knowing it existed until too late (obviously I’m not a very switched on audience member), but I do approve of the choice, as I thought Ms Keddie did an excellent job of portraying famous editor, Ms Buttrose.

Ita Buttrose, like Barry Humphries and Father Bob, is another super septuagenarian. She was named after her maternal grandmother, Ita Clare Rodgers (nee Rosenthal). Her ambition since the age of 11 was to be a journalist, and she began working as a copy girl at 15. Ita was a force in the Australian media for many years, including as youngest editor of The Australian Woman’s Weekly, the largest magazine in Australia. She became the first woman to edit a major metropolitan newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. Always perfectly presented, cultured and refined, she is instantly recognisable for her trademark lisp. She’s been granted several awards and honours, and supports a multitude of causes, from AIDS to Alzheimer’s. Ita is also an author of many practical books; her latest is a guide to etiquette.

Ita (IE-ta) is an Anglicisation of the Irish name Íte (EE-ta). Saint Ita of Killeedy was a 6th century Irish nun who headed a community of women. One of their tasks was to run a school for small boys; among her students was Saint Brendan the Navigator. According to tradition, Ita was of royal blood and baptised Deirdre; the name Ita she chose herself from the Old Irish word ítu, “thirst”. This was to signify her thirst for divine goodness. Today it sounds mildly vampiric.

Ita Buttrose became the founding editor of Cleo magazine in 1972, and made it an instant success – the first edition sold out in two days. Cleo was something new in Australian publishing: a magazine for women that spoke openly about sexuality. There were articles on masturbation, abortion, contraception and sex toys, and a nude centrefold – the first model for the centrefold was actor Jack Thompson. It made the sexual revolution accessible to the average woman. In Paper Giants, the title Cleopatra is suggested for the magazine, as befitting a strong yet sexual woman, but Cleo is chosen because it fits better on the masthead. It intrigues me that Cleo sounds similar to Ita’s middle name – Clare – and wonder whether she unconsciously selected a title that sounded like her own name. Cleo is also the name of Ita’s pet dog (Clare is her grand-daughter).

Cleo is usually thought of as being a short form of Cleopatra, but it can be short for any name beginning with Cleo-, such as Cleophas. It is therefore a unisex name, and there are several prominent men named Cleo, including American motorcyclist and World War I flying ace Cleo Pineau. The father of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia murder victim, was named Cleo. It is from the Greek for “glory, fame, pride”. This gorgeous little name is right on trend for o-enders, and was also a celebrity baby name last year. It would make a great alternative to popular Chloe.

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