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This Is Northern New South Wales



Copyright Ilona Harker
Copyright Ilona Harker

Common Ground invited three spirited, eloquent, well-known women in the community to talk about International Women’s Day and what this auspicious day means to them.


I would like to pay my respect to my grandmothers, aunties and tiddas – all the dubbay who have walked with me and acknowledge their struggle so that my family could have the rights we have now. International Women’s Day (IWD) is an important time for woman from all social groups to come together to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women. International Women’s Day began in 1911 when more than one million women and men attended IWD rallies throughout Europe campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. Australian women who were British subjects, 21 years and older, gained and the right to vote in: South Australia – 1895; Western Australia – 1899; Australia (Commonwealth) – 1902; New South Wales – 1902; Tasmania – 1903; Queensland – 1905; Victoria – 1908. (AEC It wasn’t until 1967 that the same rights were fought for and won by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women. IWD has evolved to create an opportunity for women to come together, to create autonomous spaces, to celebrate and reflect upon being women in contemporary context. The event creates a space to practice and create women’s culture and enjoy a safe space where women’s culture is predominate. This is important in the continuation of an ancient cultural practice of women’s spaces and women’s business.

The IWD theme for 2015 is Make It Happen: Celebrating Women’s Celebrate Women’s Achievements, Call for Greater Equality, and it reflects the values and principles of Western society which is a male construct. The Call for Greater Equality misses the opportunity to demand the basic human rights of the women and children who fled their homelands to escape war and seek asylum on Australia only to be forced into detention.

The theme further overlooks the reality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) women. The life expectancy for ATSI women is 10 years less than non-indigenous women. ATSI women are experiencing higher rates of psychological distress, mental health conditions and suicide than non-indigenous women. Aboriginal women are more likely to experience incarceration, domestic violence and sexual assault throughout their lives. (Close the Gap Progress Report 2015.)

During the late 1800s until the 1970s Aboriginal people had their wages withheld, which in many cases were misappropriated or stolen by officials and employers. Governments and churches have made it difficult to access records and this money has not been returned. Many Aboriginal people whose wages were stolen were also stolen children of the stolen generations, denying them both cultural and economic futures. In 2015, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women balance the responsibilities and expectations from two cultures. In additional to fulfilling obligations to the Western society our mob have to meet our cultural and community obligations. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women life is centered on our relationships and responsibilities to; provide, care for and support family and community and care for country, protecting and rehabilitating sacred sites. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are pressured to participate in wider community life; perform public ceremonies, contribute to cultural activities, share their stories, values and principles on demand, participate on boards or committees responsible for land management, protecting cultural heritage, or manage organisations that deliver services to our mob, educate our children’s peers on culturally appropriate behaviour and so much more. Most of this work is unpaid or under paid.

Let’s celebrate the achievements of women from a myriad of different cultural context and be mindful of for us to achieve greater equality for all women, there is still a massive gap to close.


With the wage gap between men and women globally sitting at 10-60%1 and with gender inequality a constant ‘hot topic on the View’, it seems we women should be feeling deflated, beaten and mistreated. With every reason to be, but this is just not how I feel.

I have made a conscious choice as a woman, mother and friend to many, to put a price on my own worth. I expect the pay that I believe is fair, reflective of my worth and one that gives me the freedom of choice – to live a good life. And so far, so good! Who has time to look sideways and compare yourself to someone else? I’m too busy taking the next step forward. Women have so much currency right now. Our money yields the power to send messages to brands and companies about our beliefs; fast fashion made in sweatshops, no thank you. I choose to support responsible companies whose values emulate mine. I care enough to want to do what I can to give women in developing countries a fair and living wage, to give them choice like I have. I want the food I give to my family to be chemical free, organically gown and I want the farmers to be paid a fair price for their craft. Our time yields power – why spend time away from your family unless you can feel fulfilled at the end of the day. Kindness is underrated. You can be feminine, caring and have empathy and still get the job done. You don’t have to be a total arsehole to succeed anymore. Those days are over. You simple won’t keep the next generation engaged or behind you. And they matter, a lot.

Women who work in this way are my inspiration and I see the high impact and impressions they leave in the memories of those with whom encounter them. Megan Quinn, co-founder of net-a-porter, being one of my most favourite women in business.

Women are not always granted the luxury of choice however, given their circumstance, and therefore it’s up to female business leaders to display empathy and be the change that acknowledges this. Present flexible work options, permit job sharing, and don’t be ruled by what precedence has determined to be a working day (9-5). The loyalty, quality of work you receive, as do your customers will astound you. Having staff is a privilege in life and respect begets respect.

International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the contribution we make to the world, our ability and power to effect change through choice, and if someone doesn’t have it – do something today to help them. It’s a choice. Because let’s face it, without women, the world would end. We matter, a lot.

References: 1


As a woman; one who has travelled extensively internationally (Bali last year and Phuket 10 years ago) and because I am quite fond of many women in other countries, I feel my opinion about International Women’s Day is very relevant and due to my unquestionable credentials, surely I, must be a world-wide expert on the subject.

As such an expert, I feel the need to inform you, my dear reader, that the only thing I really know about women is that every woman is different. Therefore, I can’t really talk on behalf of all women, that would be as daft as having a bloke as the minister of women! I can only talk about me! Thankfully, I’m quite good at this subject.

Lately, I have been thinking a bit about gender stereotypes and what it means to be feminine and especially the wafty dribble that, like Nag Champa*, permeates the core of sexual intimacy for bored white-folk workshops. Femininity is a cultural stereotype and therefor not universal, nor absolute.

This poppycock about all women being innately feminine, feminine being soft, kind, nurturing and really good at embracing and holding things like babies, weeping women and other people’s space, doesn’t explain my friend Hec.

Hec is one of the most feminine people I know. He managed to bring my black stubby succulents back to life, whilst nursing his 2 year old through a gastro bug and consoling me with chocolate, Hawaiian ukulele and essential oil steam sessions after I broke up with another man because he got too clingy. Hec is happily ensconced with a ballet dancer.

It also doesn’t explain my friend Nancy. Nancy hates babies. And high heels. And long hair. And coffee pods. Nancy is a gemologist and likes Carl Sagan, diving watches and scrabble.

Hec and Nancy are not a couple because this is not an opposites attract, Hollywood love story. Thank heavens.

You see, women come in all different shapes, sizes, ideologies, colours, dreams, desires, hairiness, hopes , talents, skills and eating habits. I’d like to suggest that these gender stereotypes be questioned like we questioned slavery. They were made for a time when men where men and woman took Valium and gin chasers to deal with those men. Maybe women do have certain traits in common but these are not across the board, except for one thing. The one thing all woman share is having a vagina or the desire to have one (LOVE UP TO MY TRAN SISTERS!)

Well maybe two things, vaginas and world-wide repression.

And gosh, how lovely are vaginas, who like their owners come in all different shapes, sizes, ideologies, colours, dreams, desires, hairiness, hopes, talents, skills and eating habits.

*Really strong incense found in rainbow shops, temples and my teen son’s room.