MENTORS, culture and equality were among the key themes four Wimmera women used to illustrate their press for progress on International Women’s Day.
Michelle Shanks, Joanne Harrison-Clarke, Maddi Ostapiw and Catherine Morley were the guest speakers at an event in Horsham Town Hall yesterday.
More than 100 people – mainly women – gathered to hear guest speakers at Horsham’s fourth annual event.
Hairdresser Ms Shanks used the platform to highlight Hair Aid, a charity she works with that involves teams of hairdressers travelling to the Phillipines to teach their craft to people who live in poverty.
“Our students are amazing and they are forever in my heart,” she said.
“To be able to give them this skill is the most amazing thing.”
Miss Harrison-Clarke provides cultural awareness training specific to the five clans in the Wimmera region.
She spoke about family violence in Aboriginal communities, and how to break the shame for Aboriginal women.
She said gaining an understanding of past practices and working with mainstream services were vital, along with cultural awareness training and ensuring safe workplaces.
“It’s about making sure that when you are working with Aboriginal people, you are listening to their story and walking alongside of them,” she said.
Wimmera Pride Project co-founder and LGBTI youth support worker Ms Ostapiw spoke about how bodies were no longer an accurate representation of gender. She challenged people to stop thinking of gender as existing on a straight line, where one end is male and the other female.
She also spoke about ways women can be a force for change.
“Much of the rhetoric around caring, compassion and women's movements these days focus on nurturing as a burden for our gender,” she said.
“It's absolutely true that we don't hold boys and men to the same expectation of empathy and understanding of women. But I believe that the ability of women to support and nurture makes us the true caretakers of the world and gives us the capacity to be the standard-bearers of positive change.”
Wimmera Health Care Group chief executive Ms Morley spoke about the role models in her life, from her grandparents, children, and those she has worked alongside.
“No matter what age, what education or what you do, people teach us and we learn from people,” she said.
“So what are you teaching to our women and community members in the Wimmera, and what are you learning?
“And when you’re learning something, what are you doing with that?
“We all need to be the best we can be, live a life to the full, and make a difference to the people we’re privileged to work with.”
Event MC Pam Capstick left the audience with a powerful message about equality.
“True change will only happen when we go back to our homes, workplaces and schools and start asking the critical questions that will drive us closer to parity,” she said.
“Society really does need to change its thinking. Because equality is not just the right or fair thing to do, it's the smart thing to do.”
Horsham’s Delys Jolly was among those in attendance.
“I’ve never been to one of these events before, but I’ve always wanted to go,” she said.
“It’s a very important day to be part of.”
Joan Johns and Keryn Ackland, both of Horsham, enjoyed a chance to catch up.
The pair formerly worked together as teachers at the same school.
“I thought the speakers would be really interesting to listen to,” Mrs Ackland said.
“Plus it’s International Women’s Day, and we want to celebrate that.”