Tuesday, March 13, 2012

International Women's Day 2012 - my best ever!



It is safe to say that IWD 2012 was the best I have ever had (and that includes giving an address at the Australian Consulate in Shanghai in 2008!). This year gave me memories I will cherish forever. Here’s why…

MT ALVERNIA:
My day of celebrating sisterhood began early as I headed to Mt Alvernia College in Kedron, Brisbane, to spend IWD-eve with their students, staff and parents.

As my cab chauffeured me to the school around 8am last Wednesday, I had a real sense of excitement within myself about the day ahead. And I had every right to feel that way. I spent the morning surrounded by friendly, helpful and somewhat glamorous female staff in their ICentre as I worked with Year 11 students. Together we talked about how I research and write my own novels and how the students themselves could find their own  authentic Australian voice, specifically for a short story project they are about to embark upon.

I was then treated to an experience that was food for the soul; a yarning circle titled ‘Sistas Doing It For Themselves’, where I sat with beautiful young Indigenous women from Mt Alvernia. Joining us on the day were students from Mary MacKillop College, St Rita’s College and Lourdes Hill College. Together with Quandamooka Community Elder Aunty Joan Hendriks we discussed the importance of family connections and identity. That’s the gorgeous bunch of girls at the top of this post.

After a fabulous lunch, where the local Murri gals formed new friendships and networks, I had a brief moment of reflection in the schools garden, where both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags moved gently in the hot Queensland breeze. I am a firm believer in the role and importance of symbols, and flying the flag is a clear statement that the school stands on Aboriginal land.

I took the stage at the assembly and faced a sea of fresh and engaged faces, while aiming to inspire the girls to consider their capacity to contribute to various communities. It was then a quick costume change before returning to meet with the school’s Parent Book Club and Alumnae. What an excitable bunch of men and women that lot are. I threw out my prepared speech the minute I walked in the door, and decided just to tell my story, share what I write and why. We laughed, we cringed, we shared a moment in time that told me the world, this world can be a caring place where we live in peace.



The evening event was also a fundraiser for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the raffle of goodies raised $220! The pics above and below show the warm school community – teachers, students and parents – there on the night.




I am incredibly grateful to the school for their hospitality and the generosity of spirit they showed to me. I felt truly blessed to be there and left that evening feeling I had been part of something quite extraordinary on planet earth that day.




BLACK, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL:
I cannot remember the last women’s gathering I attended that was a marathon of solidarity and celebration, laughter and family disclosures and with some many various reunions. In my world, reunions usually happen at family and community funerals. But on IWD 2012, I was an invited speaker at the Black, Bold and Beautiful (BBB) Indigenous Women’s Luncheon, hosted by CEO Enterprises and brainchild one of our first Indigenous models Sandra Georgiou (picture with me above).  

 
Who’d have thought that the Greek Club in Brisbane would be the best place to host 300+ women (mostly Indigenous) to celebrate IWD, but I’m told the event sold out within ten days of tickets going on sale. And I’m not surprised! Highlights of the day included being moved by the voice of gospel singer Pat Morgan, feeling completely old and unfit watching the young Murri models in a funky and energetic fashion parade and hearing the story of QAS Paramedic Deidree Whap. It was also an opportunity to catch up with some of my oldest friends in Jackie Huggins and Sandra Phillips, and connect with Twitter-babes Delvene Cockatoo-Collins (pictured above) and Amanda Hayman (pictured below). 


Next year I think I might even fly up for it, because seriously, if you were in Brisbane on IWD and you weren’t at the lunch then you aren’t on the ‘A’ list (and that’s NOT ‘A’ for Aborigine!).

MEN WHO CELEBRATE WOMEN: It made me smile to see men – albeit only a handful- at the BBB luncheon. We mightn't have had a token bloke on each table, and some might consider these fellas were brave in attending a 'ladies lunch', but I think they were incredibly smart. I’m grateful for the most handsome man there who sauntered over to me, smiling big and looking dreamy in his suit, just to say: ‘I think we’re related!’ And that’s how it is in our community, and that’s exactly how I like it. One big good-looking family! Big shout-out to Jarrod Atkinson-Walker (pictured below), you can sit next me any time, just don't call me ‘Aunty’!  
 
STELLA PRIZE NIGHT:
What better way to climax on IWD than with the celebration of an award for women writers. I’m grateful that my favourite Brisbane bookstore Avid Reader are behind the Stella Prize designed to raise the profile of women’s writing in Australia. I was grateful to be in the audience as Krissy Kneen chaired a panel comprising Susan Johnson, Mary-Rose MacColl, Mary Philip and the darling Benjamin Law. Not a token bloke, just a smart fella recognising that you can promote women’s writing without being tokenistic. And for that I am also grateful. (pic below of Avid Reader owner Fiona Stager with Krissy Kneen taken earlier in the day at the BBB event).


3 comments:

San said...

Anita, A Powerhouse of Womanhood! It was great to see you in Brisbane, and look forward to seeing you again soon. srpxx

Pirra said...

What a gorgeous post. (And gorgeous pics to go with it.) Makes me really want to attend a BBB luncheon! It looks like it was a lot of fun.

Dr Anita Heiss said...

San - was absolutely fabulous catching up with you, albeit briefly. What a wonderful day eh? XXX

Pirra - next year we should all coordinate to get there, although I think we're planning something for Sydney also. So stay tuned! :)