2023 was a big year for most everyone. It was a tough year for householders and businesses, navigating rising inflation and crippling increases to interest rates. But despite this, our clients and community have continued to pivot, to respond to the environments they found themselves trading within, and to keep on’ freakin keepin’ on. So; well done everybody. You’ve made it to the 2023-24 summer holidays and we implore you to take some time out from commerce and to rest. Every year Ruby Assembly compile our Annual blog, which is a contribution from each team member. Amongst them are opinion pieces, personal reflections and entertaining listicles. We hope you enjoy this spot of holiday reading. Thanks for journeying with us as we forge into our 15th year in practice. We’re so glad to have you on the ride.

Barbie To The Front 

Katherine Allan

Greta Gerwig has been my favourite movie director since I watched ‘Frances Ha’ at the Melbourne Film Festival on a whim in 2012. The narrative parallels between ‘Frances Ha’ and ‘Barbie’ are surprisingly close: both feature a pretty, white, blonde in her mid-twenties experiencing an existential crisis as she grows bored of her boyfriend and contemplates the meaning of life. With a cool soundtrack.

When I left the cinema in 2012 after watching ‘Frances Ha,’ I had to catch my breath. It hit me right in the chest. I had never seen myself so vividly represented on screen before. (This was before the ‘girl tries to get it together’ trope became a thing.) I was so exhilarated that when I ordered dinner later that night, and they asked for my name, I told them Frances. (That was embarrassing then, and it is embarrassing now.) I wore my love for that movie proudly on my sleeve, just like millions of other women did for the Barbie movie in 2023.

I don’t believe Barbie was a record-shattering phenomenon solely because of the incredible marketing campaign. The movie made over a billion dollars because so many women saw themselves truly represented on screen for the first time. I’ve never experienced euphoria at the movies like I did during the Pride and Prejudice scene or the Matchbox Twenty montage. Every woman has had a man play a song to them on the acoustic guitar with mediocre skills or had ‘The Godfather’ explained to them as if it’s in a different language and we couldn’t possibly figure it out for ourselves.

For women to even get to sit in the Director’s Chair is a monumental achievement. We live in a world where women have to be perfect to even sit in the same room as men. And when they do, sometimes the men don’t even show up because they’re too busy making submarines.

Greta Gerwig & James Cameron for Variety’s Directors on Directors.

2023 is the year that saw a lot of terrible things happen in the world. But it’s also the year I saw the ‘Barbie’ movie and the year that millions of women around the world ordered their dinner and gave the name Barbie. (Because that is a perfectly normal thing to do, right?)

I can’t wait for Greta Gerwig to continue making movies forever. Did she make a perfect film? No. Did she dismantle the patriarchy? Not yet.

Top 5 Movies You Should Definitely Watch

Marion Slatter

Tis’ the season for binge-watching, and if you’re a big movie fan (like me!) you might be wondering what to put on your gift-wrapping and turkey-brining playlist – so here are five of my favourite Christmas themed movies for 2023!

Home Alone (1990)

‘Keep the change, ya filthy animal!’ Chances are you’ve already seen this much-loved family film about a boy left alone in his giant family mansion over Christmas, and his daredevil plan to foil the efforts of two boorish thieves who attempt to rob the joint. However, if you haven’t seen it in a long time, this is definitely one to give a much needed re-watch!

Christmas Vacation (1989)

‘I’m sorry, this is our family’s first kidnapping.’ Yes, yes, we can all agree that Chevy Chase is a dumpster fire of a human, but god was he funny in his heyday?! Full of slap-stick humour and hilarious one-liners, this film is a powerhouse of comedy performances (extra points if you spot a very young Julia Louis-Dreyfus before her ‘Seinfeld’ days).

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

‘Oh, there’s an empty place in my bones, that calls out for something unknown.’ This classic Tim Burton stop motion masterpiece, while inherently dark and brooding – is undeniably wholesome. Also, did you know that Danny Elfman (the mastermind behind The Simpson’s theme music) is the singing voice of Jack Skellington?

Elf (2003)

‘So, good news…I saw a dog today.’ It’s the purest, most wholesome and silliest Christmas-themed film, and it will always be on my watch-list every holiday! Will Ferrell shines as Buddy, the man who grew up believing he was an elf – who takes an epic journey to New York City to reconnect with his biological father. With an unsettling cameo from a blonde, fringe-less Zooey Deschanel (be to fair, the only thing unsettling about her performance is how incredibly different she looks in this film) – this is one you should absolutely add to the list!

Silent Night (2021)

‘Goodbye Mum… Goodbye Dad.’ This offering is a bit of a departure from the regular family-friendly programming, as it is a dark, apocalyptic comedy – that poses the question: how would you spend your Christmas if you knew everyone was going to die the next day? While this film received rather mixed reviews after its release, it’s definitely one to watch as it has an eerie point-of-difference from other Christmas-themed films. Plus, Keira Knightly… am I right?!

My Reflections on 2023

Michelle House

It’s a mid-December Monday in 2023, and I find myself back where I started the year: my parents’ house in Western Australia, with a gin in my hand – and my oldest and dearest by my side.

And as we’re cackling away sharing stories, my bestie turns to me and says:

‘I remember you said 2023 was going to be your year Michelle… but boy, did it throw you some curveballs!’

Ok, if I’m honest, the language was a little more colourful. But you get the gist.

And she’s not wrong. 2023 definitely didn’t turn out how I had planned.

There was the moment my son was washed off the rocks by a freak wave and ended up with internal bleeding – and a lot of bumps and bruises.

And my epic dance floor fail where I spun myself off a step and ended up in surgery with a broken leg.

Then, some big financial blows and other health challenges entered the chat to keep me on my toes. And I crashed my brand-new car and lost my family cat and dog in one 24-hour period. All unrelated!

But you know what? Sitting there in the sun with my people reflecting on the year that was, I didn’t feel like I’d lucked out at all. Because there were also so many wins. 

I took myself overseas for the first time since the pandemic. I began dating a gorgeous man who I adore. My kids and I are closer than ever (which is amazing considering they’re both tweens/teens now!) I got a new role with Ruby Assembly, helping me realise my natural strengths and new goals. And my friends and loved ones showed up for me over and over again.

But mostly, I just feel happy, lucky and content.

Because life is always going to be a ride, but when you have good people around you who really give a sh*t how you are… everything else is workoutable.

So, the moral of the story? If you want a fulfilling 2024, pour into the relationships that matter most. And always make time for a laugh over a gin.

Happy New Year! 

Michelle (aka Yoda)

What a Banger

Iolanthe Gabrie

At the start of every year, I have a couple of planning days set aside from my holidays to undertake formal planning. I do this at the State Library of Victoria, and my husband does likewise. Sitting in the airy cool of the library and reflecting on the essential numbers of the year that’s passed and noting all that you were able to achieve feels endlessly optimistic. And even though I will be going on maternity leave for four months from mid-February next year, I am still undertaking this formal planning session. 2023 was truly a year of elevation in terms of the systems within Ruby Assembly, and I’m proud that my colleagues and I now have the scaffolding in place to make 2024 perhaps our most successful year yet.

Some of the notable changes we undertook in 2023 included working with Rachel Service of The Happiness Concierge, who facilitated an excellent half-day reflection workshop on 2022’s activities with our team. We’d never done something formal like this before, and I think we were all a little bit nervous. We needn’t have been worried; it actually put the year on an incredibly positive trajectory, uncovering blind spots around communication within the business we addresses with more regular meetings and group-troubleshooting. As a business owner, it was also very wonderful to receive feedback that I was doing a good job from my colleagues! This time in reflection and planning with Rachel was invaluable and I recommend doing likewise in your own business. Not because there’s something ‘wrong’, but because you’ve reached a stage of business maturity where you want to dig deeper and do better for your clients, your team and yourself. I feel sure that this coming together and confidence in giving one-another feedback also empowered my team to suggest a necessary new role within the business – that of Client Strategist, held by the talented Michelle House. I feel that my team choosing to give me feedback about what they need is a real privilege. If I were a crap employer or they were scared of me, they wouldn’t tell me what they need or where we can do better. So I take note and I take action; it has been a brilliant symbiosis and I’m so pleased with the work we’ve all done together.

In 2023 I also note a few big wins; notably being the Darebin Finalist of the Northern Business Association Awards before taking out the Winner Gong for Philanthropy and Community Service. Throughout the whole process of reflecting on Ruby Assembly’s contributions during application through to the Grand Final event, I felt very supported by the City of Darebin. Whilst it is easy to feel that council or chamber of commerce-based awards are cheesy, acknowledgement of small and medium-sized business is actually incredibly important and gratifying (as I now know!) for business owners.

This was also a year in which my husband and I did a round of IVF. It’s not that we’d been trying for ages to get pregnant – after all, we have a three year old – it was more that as a 40 year old by medical standards I’m ‘geriatric’. Whilst I have previously had my eggs frozen, the whole IVF cycle felt overall much more emotionally challenging. We didn’t fall pregnant via IVF, but we did fall pregnant in 2023 and are expecting a new family member in 2024. During my last pregnancy I was at home during COVID, so few people actually saw me pregnant. Being at home also made the pregnancy feel less tiring in a way (but additional tiredness is probably being caused by said three-year-old, too). This time I’ve worked through the pregnancy and whilst I had a super-energetic second trimester, the first and third have been pretty tiring. Luckily, we have a big couch-beanbag thing from Sage and Clare in the Good Axe office which has provided a spot for me to sleep for around an hour each afternoon to keep on keepin’ on. The pregnancy has also made the business eminently more practical around setting in place additional supports and structures for my maternity leave, so both new clients and onboarding clients will experience our careful service and attention to content detail ongoing – despite my four month absence.

2023 was also a year of investment in Good Axe, our professional workspace. In the past year we’ve had artist Jasmine Holmes create a beautiful mural in the space for us; we’ve furnished the space comfortably and elegantly (including a hanging garden!), and have both dedicated desk spaces and two break out ‘hot desk’ zones for casual work. Just two weeks ago we finally had the wrap signage put on the front of the building and we’re nearly at capacity at our Preston HQ. We’re now in discussion to open another Good Axe in 2025, as the flexible workspace category isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Third spaces to work are important to freelancers, employers and employees and we hope to build a workspace brand that appeals to creative, professional practices.

2023 has been a big year. It’s been difficult, it’s been happy, it has been tiring, it has been life affirming. And in so many ways I feel we’ve done the work to make 2024 an absolute bloody banger.

Season’s greetings all!