Newsletter – Sydney May 2018

Dear friends

My intention in these newsletters is to highlight the challenges facing women and mostly the progress that they are making around the world, often underreported.

This time I start by recognising the outstanding achievements of the former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who has just been awarded in Rwanda the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Prize for Achievement in African Leadership Governance. After that, however, I will highlight the attainments of two significant men. The first is Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist and champion for global economic justice, who has won the 2018 Sydney Peace Prize for leading a global conversation about the crisis caused by economic inequality while advocating for just solutions to the defining challenge of our time. The second is Tim Hammond, a promising member of the Australian federal parliament who has resigned from a key shadow portfolio position to put his family – his wife and three young children ahead of his political career. Doing this in the face of what society expects of men, he has opened a conversation that we should all be having with the young men in our lives,

As usual it is a long letter so please choose from the links below any particular items of special interest.

Rwanda hosted the celebration of Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Prize for Achievement in African Leadership Governance, won by former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is nearly 80 years old. Liberia was the only country to improve in every category and sub-category of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. She praised President Paul Kagame for the outstanding development that has taken place in Rwanda and quoted his words, “What we are doing here in Rwanda is not a miracle, nor is it impossible elsewhere, it is simply the commitment of an entire nation, especially Rwandan youth and women.” Sirleaf said, “I receive this distinction on behalf of the many women and men who helped to navigate the profound complexities of the post-conflict country that is Liberia. As the first woman to receive this award it is my hope that women and girls across Africa will be inspired to break through barriers and push back on the frontiers of life’s possibilities.”

Some of the words in Sirleaf’s acceptance speech resonate with my life experience. “God has bequeathed upon me a restless spirit. One that is never fully satisfied, always believing things can be better – for Liberians, for Africa, for people in poverty, for women and girls around the world. And now, after eight decades, I have come to realize that this impatience, which at certain times in my life felt to be an unrelenting burden, is actually a gift—a great treasure. I am convinced it is this restless spirit, in part, which drove me to public service and, like a wind against my back, propelled me forward towards dreams I had yet to even visualize. I submit that it is a restlessness that took hold of our fallen sister, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, giving her the fiercest of courage to stand up against Apartheid State despite the imprisonment of her husband, and in the face of physical and psychological abuse.  Her indomitable spirit will continue to drive me through my remaining years.”

Each year the Sydney Peace Foundation honours a nominee who has promoted ‘peace with justice’, human rights and non-violence. Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University professor, former chief economist at the World Bank, Nobel Prize winning economist and champion for global economic justice has won the 2018 Sydney Peace Prize. He is well known for his criticism of trickle-down economics as well as his work on bridging the inequality gap, one of the biggest challenges our world faces today. The top 1% of the population is undermining the future of the 99% – a haunting reality and powerful concept he has pioneered since the 1960s. Around the world, the gap between the rich and poor is spiralling out of control, growing wider each year. Oxfam recently reported that eight billionaires own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. Inequality is created and is the result of deliberate policy choices by people in power.

Tim Hammond, a prominent shadow minister in the Australian federal parliament shocked the nation when he resigned a promising political vocation putting his family ahead of career in the face of what society expects. He explained that with children aged six, two and a half, and seven months, he could no longer balance his work and family life. The cost of negotiating family and work is territory familiar to every wife, mother and daughter around the world. However, despite the rise of men working part-time, it is still uncommon to see a man publicly engage in a significant career change in order to spend more time at home. He said, “We have tried everything we can to keep all of this together in a way that isn’t going to compromise the strength of what we all have as a family.” It is important to continue to change our workplaces so that all workers can have an acceptable work-life balance. A young family places demands on mothers and fathers and they only have a single chance of watching small people grow and forming a good relationship with them. Young men need to be told that a career can wait, but babies cannot. Hammond plans to go back into the law, representing the sick and dying, and Aboriginal victims, while being “at home every night”.

Politics Equality Issues Women on Boards Women in Australia


Women In The World Women and Sport Work and Travels. Bereavements


Women in Politics.

Epsy Campbell Barr is the first black person and the first woman ever to become vice president in Costa Rica, and the first black woman to do so in Latin American history. She is one of the founders of the ruling Citizen Action Party and will be second in command to president-elect Carlos Alvarado Quesada. Campbell Barr said, “It will be a responsibility not only to represent people of African descent but to represent all women and men in the country, a country that gives us all the same opportunities”. Born in San Jose, she is a third generation Costa Rican of Jamaican descent, named in honour of her paternal grandmother who emigrated from Jamaica.  Campbell Barr follows in the footsteps of Thelma Curling, the first Afro-Costa Rican legislator, Victoria Garron the first vice-president and Laura Chinchilla the country’s first female president.

Bogolo Joy Kenewendo is Minister of Investment Trade and Industry in Botswana after being specially elected by the President. At 30 years old, she is also the youngest MP in the country. Kenewendo won a Chevening scholarship to complete a Master of Science degree in International Economics at the University of Sussex. She was one of two Botswana youth delegates to the 64th Session of the UN General Assembly where she presented a statement of African youth. Kenewendo has been working as a trade economist in the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Ghana and was previously employed as an economic consultant at Econsult Botswana. Her priority coming into office is the revitalisation of the economy through better job’s perspectives. Her motto is ‘Dream it, believe it and make it happen’.

Krishna Kumari Kohli, is the first ever lower-caste Hindu Dalit woman to be elected as a Senator in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority South Asian nation.  A member of the left-leaning Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), she is one of the ‘untouchables’, the lowest rung of the caste system that still prevails in Pakistan and neighbouring India. Kumari was married off while she was in ninth grade, but her husband and in-laws supported her education. In 2013 she completed her post-graduation in sociology from the Sindh University. She worked for a non-governmental organization (NGO) before joining the PPP of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, actively working for the rights of downtrodden people of marginalised communities. “I feel delighted, this was unthinkable for me to reach the senate”, Kumari said. The number of non-Muslims elected by the opposition party is now six, the highest minority representation in the upper house in the history of the country.

Amanda Stoker

Several new female politicians have taken up positions in the Australian Federal parliament this year. Ged Kearney has a seat in the lower house while Kristina Keneally and Amanda Stoker are in the Senate. At 35, Stoker becomes one of youngest women in the Senate, and brings an extensive legal background to the role of Attorney General. She has stated her areas of focus: “I’m ready to fight to improve the international competitiveness of Australian students’ school performance, and to ensure there are high-quality education opportunities available in regional Queensland.”

Kearney is the first woman ever elected to Batman in the electorate’s 112-year history. A former President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions she has a long history of fighting for better working conditions. She is a passionate and vocal advocate for social justice and gender equality and a fierce supporter for more funding of domestic violence shelters, employer-paid schemes and resources. “I don’t just want to be a voice for your values – I want to make a real change,” she said.

Women now represent 48% of Labor MPs in the federal parliament – the closest either of the major Australian parties has come to parity. As recently as the late-1970s, there were no women in the House of Representatives. It is interesting to see the results of this in policymaking. Recently, the opposition announced that they will provide the Australian Bureau of Statistics with extra resources to reinstate the time use survey, a vital resource for measuring unpaid work, and remove the GST from tampons and pads  – replacing the revenue by removing the exemption for natural therapies that are not backed by sound science. These are sensible, mainstream policies, reversing decisions that were made by male-dominated cabinets and party rooms, and indicate that governments are more likely to get policy right when they have a party room that looks like the nation as a whole. The government has handed down its third budget without elaborating on its announcement that ‘significant’ funding of more than $100m would be set aside in the contingency reserves for the Women’s Economic Security Statement to be made around September 2018. The opposition’s Women’s Budget Statement put the economic disadvantage of women on the national political agenda, promising to narrow gender pay disparity.

In the federal parliament the Liberal party has 19 women out of the 84 Liberal MPs and senators, comprising around 22%, which is the party’s lowest number since 1993. In the Senate, women now hold 32 seats of 76, or roughly 42% of the chamber, while in the lower house women occupy 44 of the 150 positions, comprising almost 30% of seats. On the other hand, Rebecca White and Michelle O’Byrne leaders of Tasmania’s Labor team have achieved a lower house caucus of 70% women, all of whom are EMILY’s List MPs. This is accompanied in the Tasmanian upper house with 50% Labor women. Tasmanian women introduced affirmative action quotas into the party in 1998, and this has proved how effective they are in achieving gender equality. EMILY’s List parliamentarians fight for choice, equal pay, childcare, diversity, and equity in legislation and policy to make meaningful changes to the lives of women.

The Victorian Government’s Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence, Natalie Hutchins has launched a new peak organisation, Gender Equity Victoria (GEN VIC), that aims to promote gender equity and women’s sexual and reproductive health, prevent violence against women, and build an influential and sustainable peak body. Victoria has already made significant investments in addressing gender inequality across the state. In late 2016 it launched its first gender equality strategy, outlining a series of reforms and initiatives affecting government, business, sporting clubs and the media. It has also previously pledged half a billion dollars to addressing domestic and family violence. GEN VIC’s convener, Kristine Olaris, said “Until women are paid equally to men, until women’s autonomy over their own bodies ceases to be questioned, until all women are safe in their homes and in public, there’s still much more work to be done.”


Equality Issues.

The Better World We Live In. As former President Barack Obama has pointed out, there is much to be positive about in the world today. In a recent radio interview with Prince Harry, he said, “If you had to choose a moment in human history in which you’d want to be born you’d choose today because the fact is that the world is healthier, wealthier, better educated and more tolerant, more sophisticated and less violent”.

Country reports made in 2017 to the UN on progress made against the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) show that many more people have escaped poverty (768 million people still need to do so); fewer live in hunger; and fewer children die during childbirth. 85% of those living in urban areas now have access to safe water, and girl’s access to education is slowly catching up with boys. In several countries there are major efforts to address the plight of the homeless. UNESCO reports that the worldwide literacy level for 15-year olds & above is 86%. Even more progress could be made if equality issues could be more seriously addressed.

McKinsey Global Institute’s latest research on the Australian economy indicates that GDP could increase 12%, or by US$225 billion a year (AU$297 billion at current exchange rates) if we could advance women’s equality. Supporting women in the workforce is particularly needed for women aged 24 to 35 who have children, where the workforce participation rate is 75%, compared to the male participation rate of 91%. A larger number of Australian women in this cohort stop working outside the home. Significant structural impediments include the expensive and inflexible nature of childcare, and the continued burden of unpaid work that women take on. There’s also the gender pay gap, creating more incentive for fathers to be in the workforce than mothers. The report also finds that the Asia Pacific region could add a collective $4.5 trillion to annual GDPs in 2025 by advancing women’s equality, which would be a 12% increase. 58% of such potential growth would come from raising women’s workforce participation rates, while further gains would be made by putting women in higher-productive sectors and boosting the work hours of women.


Women on Boards.

Of the 56 appointments to Australian Security Exchange 200 boards in the first three months of 2018, 52% have been women. This marks the first time that female appointments to ASX 200 boards have exceeded male appointments since the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) began tracking monthly appointment rates. It compares to 33% female appointments in the first quarter of 2017 and 44% over the first quarter of 2016.

AICD Chairman Elizabeth Proust AO welcomed the figures but warned against complacency. “When it comes to increasing gender diversity on Australia’s largest boards, we know that it’s never been a supply problem, it’s been a demand problem,” she said. “We will only reach our target of 30% female representation across ASX 200 boards by the end of this year if the female appointment rate remains strong…Greater gender diversity on our boards is crucial to the future of good governance in this country.”

Cultural diversity. While Australia might pride ourselves on our diverse culture, there is little diversity to applaud when it comes to the cultural makeup of those who hold the 2490 most senior leadership posts in Australia. Of those, 95% have Anglo-Celtic or European backgrounds, which does not come anywhere close to reflecting our general population. The Leading for Change report released by Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane finds that 75.9% of Australia’s most senior leaders have an Anglo-Celtic background, while 19% have a European background. Just 4.7% have a non-European background and only 0.4% have an Indigenous background. The report finds just eight people from non-Anglo-Celtic and non-European backgrounds are at the helm of ASX 200 listed organisations. Meanwhile, not one of the 30 members of the Federal Ministry has a non-European background, while just one has an Indigenous background. In the public service, 99% of the heads of federal and state government departments have an Anglo-Celtic or European background, along with 38 of the 39 vice-chancellors.

Sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is an issue that has existed in various forms within the workplace and our wider society for a very long time. This is a human rights issue, one that many will see as a part of the broader gender equality discussion that has started to assume its rightful prominence at board and executive levels. According to AICD’s Dr David Cooke, boards may well set the tone and issue directives, but the real work must be done at the executive level: “The importance that the CEO places on creating a safe workplace, free of sexual harassment, is paramount and true leadership must be publicly demonstrated.” However, it is inadequate if the standards being espoused are not driven through every level of management, and understood and practised by all employees, contractors and other stakeholder groups. Cooke said, “When it comes to sexual harassment, it needs to be amongst our highest priorities because it is completely wrong and totally unacceptable, not simply because of some reputational risk mitigation strategy.”

Care for older people. Two federal bodies have been merged to create the independent Aged Care Quality and Safeguards Commission, which will also take over regulatory functions when it begins operating from 2019. A recent inquiry into the federal regulatory regime, catalysed by revelations of horrific abuse at the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service in South Australia, has led to the promise of options for a Serious Incident Response Scheme to be put forward to prevent such incidents occurring again. The Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt said, “Our senior Australians have built the nation that we enjoy today. They have rightly earned the respect of the community and must be cared for with the dignity they deserve.” As an ambassador of the National Older Women’s Network I am a member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People in Australia and we are working towards a UN convention on the rights of older people.


Women in Australia.

Women and Leadership Australia (WLA) has released its 2018 list of women who will be receiving excellence in women’s leadership awards at events across the country in the coming months. The awards recognise individuals who have worked to elevate the visibility and importance of Australian women achieving equitable access to higher levels of leadership across all industries and organisations. Gail Kelly receives the national award, for pioneering as the first female CEO of a major bank, Westpac; Professor Gillian Triggs in Sydney as the former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission; Magda Szubanski in Melbourne in recognition of her comedy, acting, writing and activism; Dr Kirstin Ferguson in Brisbane, for a leading company director, role model to women, and the #CelebratingWomen campaign recognising 757 women from 37 countries; Major General Simone Wilkie AO in Canberra for Commander of the Australian Defence College and the Australian Defence Force; Nova Peris OAM in Darwin, for achievements as an Olympic Gold Medallist, Federal Senator and adviser across sport and recreation; Dr Kate Stannage  in Perth as President of the Australian Paediatric Orthopaedic Society; Taryn Brumfitt  in Adelaide, for campaigning on women’s body image and founder of the Body Image Movement; Marita Cheng in Hobart as a women-in-technology advocate and technology entrepreneur. These high achievers have shared their opinions and persevered, many despite relentless campaigns against their work.

Magda Szubanski and Yassmin Abdel-Magdied have also been officially recognised for their efforts, receiving free speech awards from Liberty Victoria. Szubanski, a comedian, actor, author and activist, received Australia’s top free speech honour, the Voltaire Award, in recognition of her work for marriage equality. Szubanski became instrumental in the marriage equality campaign by lobbying and leading, making numerous media appearances, and frequently addressing rallies in support of the cause. Abdel-Magdied, a mechanical engineer, social advocate, author and broadcaster received The Young Voltaire Award for speaking out on several issues, including for her February 2017 Q&A appearance that received 12 million views in just a week, her acclaimed TED ‘What does my headscarf mean to you’, her autobiography Yassmin’s Story, and her many public appearances speaking out against racism, discrimination and harmful stereotypes and giving voice to the experience of young Muslim women in Australia and beyond. Behrouz Boochani, a journalist currently being held on Manus Island received the Empty Chair award, given to someone who cannot be present because they are detained or in jail as a consequence of their exercise of free speech. He has shared stories and details of life on Manus, with his work published in the Guardian and elsewhere, and for his film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time. 

Six years ago a small group of women made a bold move, creating the Stella Prize, a major literary prize for women’s writing, that reclaimed Stella ‘Miles’ Franklin‘s first name, in order to help combat the unconscious gender bias occurring in the literary world. The effects have been fast and far-reaching, shifting the numbers on diversity. Hard data proved that women writers were underrepresented in three key areas: as winners of the major literary prizes, authors of the books that received the most reviews and media coverage, and authors of the books on the school curriculum. Literary value is a cultural construct, as are our expectations of what men and women are good at. In the literary world, the books that win the major prizes shape our culture, national identity and form the canon that we teach the next generation. Who wins prizes, gets reviewed, and are taught in schools sends clear messages about whose voices, whose stories and whose experiences are most important.

In material terms, earning a living as a writer is pretty tough in Australia. Currently, the average annual salary that authors earn from their writing is $10,900. Prize money – $50,000 in the case of the Stella Prize – is a significant additional income to a writer, as is the boost to sales. Having your book added to the school curriculum is also an important generator of increased sales and income. In establishing the Stella Prize the founders aimed to celebrate Australian women’s contribution to literature and shine a light on all the talented female authors who were being overlooked. Six years on, the effects have been fast and far-reaching. Not only have women won the Stella Prize for the past five years, they are now winning more prizes generally. The Miles Franklin Literary Award, established by a bequest in Stella Franklin’s will, had been won only 14 times by a woman in the 55 years before the Stella Prize was founded. In the past five years, four of five winners have been women and 17 of the 25 short-listees, with the first-ever all-female shortlist in 2013.

Looking back on her long and successful writing career, the 2018 winner of the Stella Prize for her non-fiction book Tracker, Alexis Wright, says she remembers “working hard, and constantly, and thinking deeply”. Her $50,000 prize follows Wright’s Miles Franklin Award for her novel, Carpentaria in 2006. She says that she pushed through the ups and downs of writing large manuscripts by always holding on to the belief that she had made the right decisions regarding how to write and construct books. She said, “Tracker is a departure from my recent fictional work of Carpentaria and The Swan Book, and I have created the book as a collective memoir of a remarkable man. I had to create a different form in this work to capture the scope of his personality, his work, and the world he operated in. I thought very deeply about how to develop this book by using our own Aboriginal storytelling principle of consensus. I wanted Tracker to be a book for our times and from our place in the world.”

The Australian government has outlined a $50 million ‘seed funding’ investment to establish an Australian space agency that will strengthen the growing global space industry worth an estimated $420 billion a year.

Dr Megan Clark will lead the agency for its first year, having completed a government review of the space sector. She has a PhD in economic geology and has served as Commissioner of the International Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. Clark led BHP Billiton’s global efforts in health, safety, environment and community engagement prior to becoming in 2014 the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). She is a principal in the Global Research Alliance that brings together nine global applied research peers to support inclusive innovation for the world’s most disadvantaged.

The Australian Football League’s first female commissioner and champion of the AFL Respect and Responsibility Policy, Sam Mostyn, has been named Chair of Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), an independent, not-for-profit company established under Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. Their mission is to translate and deliver relevant research, driving policy and practice to reduce levels of violence against women and their children. Mostyn said on her appointment: “The extent of domestic, family and sexual violence against women and their children in Australia is simply unacceptable…I am extremely proud to be serving an organisation that is confronting such a serious and complex social issue”.

Elizabeth Cosson has been appointed secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) that has now achieved gender parity at the most senior level of the Australian Public Service, with nine women and nine men serving as secretaries. Cosson has been the deputy secretary at DVA since May 2016, has impressed with her professionalism, dedication and determination to care for veterans and their families, and has been instrumental in the reform process currently underway. She served in the Army for over 30 years, reached the rank of Major General – the first woman to do so, and was given the Member of the Order of Australia for exceptional service to the military and the broader Defence organization. She has also earned the Conspicuous Service Cross that recognizes her outstanding achievement as chief of staff to the Peace Monitoring Group Bougainville, and in logistic planning and management of the Combat Force of Land Headquarters.

Leading private sector human resources executive Emma Hogan has been appointed New South Wales’ Public Service Commissioner. Noting the position’s focus on lifting standards and improving outcomes, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on the appointment: “Our Government’s vision is for the NSW public sector to be known as people focused and engaged, with a dynamic culture that delivers high quality services and infrastructure throughout the State.” Other senior bureaucrats said, “Emma has a strong track record in people and change management within large and complex organisations, and her strong stakeholder and communications skills will serve her well in continuing to drive change and readying the public sector for the future…leadership that combines private sector focus and public-sector principles”.

Caroline Spencer has been appointed Western Australia’s Auditor General for the next ten years, the first woman to serve in this role. She has previously been the managing partner of the Canberra-based Vista Advisory, a firm she co-founded in 2008 specialising in governance reviews, financial and performance audits and reviews of public sector agencies. In 2017 she was appointed as a non-executive member of Certified Practicing Accountants Australia and has previously provided advice and assurance to the Australian Electoral Commission on its risk management, financial and performance reporting. Treasurer Ben Wyatt noted that her appointment to lead a statutory review of WA’s auditor general and his office in 2015 gave her plenty of background for the role.

Colonel Susan Neuhaus, a surgeon, has become the first woman to deliver the Australian War Memorial’s dawn service address in Canberra, where she shared the often-overlooked role of women in recent history, going all the way back to the Boer War. “You don’t often hear [women’s] stories because it’s often the very stereotyped narrative of the male soldier in the slouch hat and the horse that we hear about,” she said. Neuhaus shared stories from history, including one about 22 women who were killed after being evacuated from Singapore in World War II. They were members of the Australian Army Nursing Service. “When their ship, the Vyner Brooke, was torpedoed in the Banka Strait, they swam through the night to the shore,” she said. “Shortly after 10am, they were lined up along the beach, still in their uniforms, a red cross emblazoned into their left sleeve, and at bayonet point they were ordered into the sea. They were under no illusion as to their fate. In those last moments before the machine guns opened fire, Matron Irene Drummond turned to her nurses with words of comfort and courage and her words speak for a nation: ‘Chins up, girls. I’m proud of you & I love you all’.”

Merren McArthur will lead budget airline Tigerair from May, after being appointed to the role by parent company Virgin Australia (VA). She wants to see more women in similar top jobs, telling the Australian Financial Review, “The more women we get into CEO roles, the more things will change.” McArthur’s already had a ten-year career with VA, joining in 2008 as general counsel, before later being appointed to lead VA Regional Airlines and VA Cargo. She is also a former Rio Tinto executive and deputy state solicitor in WA. McArthur recently told The Australian: “If you come from a male-dominated industry and you start to see some women coming into the industry you straight away would be able to see the benefits they bring in terms of new ideas, new thinking…innovation will be key for aiming to further grow.”

It was the disturbing stories her teenage daughter reported about catching transport at night that triggered a light bulb moment for George McEncroe, a teacher, radio presenter, comedian, CEO and successful entrepreneur: “Why is there no option for women to travel together?” Not long passed, before the concept of Shebah sprang to life—a ride-sharing business operated solely by women for women. George assembled a small team and set the wheels in motion, crowdsourcing for the business, and launching on International Women’s Day 2017. Her drive was fuelled by a simple but powerful purpose: women had the right to enjoy nights out without fearing their journey home afterwards. George says she became aware of women’s wariness while teaching at TAFE. When the young men left the class at night, they did so without a care in the world while the young women would congregate together to walk home. “All this energy going into keeping themselves safe… when really it should be a universal human right to engage with the world in a way that feels safe,” she says. Only 4% of cab drivers and 10% of Uber drivers in Australia are women.

Gail Kelly retired as CEO of the Westpac Banking Group in February 2015, and now another woman will take the helm of one of Australia’s largest banks. Marnie Baker has been appointed the next managing director of Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, the fifth largest retail bank in Australia. She is an almost 30-year veteran of the bank after first joining in 1989. Baker spent more than two decades in the executive team, most recently as Chief Customer Officer, and has held numerous leadership roles, including across digital strategy, capital markets, technology and payments systems, and treasury. And Alexis George has just been appointed Deputy CEO of ANZ Bank.


Women around the world

Her Majesty the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth has honoured my long-standing friend Merilyn Tahi, coordinator of the Vanuatu Women’s Centre as the 40th Commonwealth Point of Light for her inspiring work campaigning for women’s rights and supporting thousands of victims of gender-based violence. Tahi accepted the award “on behalf of the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, all the management team, and colleagues who have travelled with me in this journey since 1992…the tremendous support from my family and many other families and also the donor partners.” Commonwealth Points of Light is a special series of awards recognising inspirational volunteers throughout the Commonwealth in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018. The award was created to recognise outstanding volunteers who have delivered a significant impact on the lives of others, creating innovative approaches to social challenges and inspiring others to make a positive change within and beyond their communities.

The carefully targeted shooting of a black, lesbian councillor Marielle Franco aged 38 by apparently professional killers has dealt a new blow to communities oppressed by gangs. Brazil’s favelas mourn the death of a champion that has sent shockwaves across the world and is forcing Brazilians to ask searching questions about their country’s inherent racism, violence and culture of impunity. European parliament deputies condemned the killing. Brazil’s prosecutor general, Raquel Dodge, called it an attack on democracy. The great Brazilian music star Caetano Veloso wrote a song for her. Alberto Aleixo, president of a local non-profit group who had known Franco ever since they campaigned together against the Rio police’s introduction of armoured vehicles in 2006 said, “She always had an opinion, and a desire to find a solution…she fought for the rights of women, single mothers like herself, gay people and favela residents and denounced the violence inflicted by Rio’s police on the community”. Franco is yet another human rights defender greatly missed.

Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond was selected from more than 26,000 submissions after the Bank of Canada announced plans to put a Canadian woman on the country’s regularly circulating currency for the first time. Born in 1914, Desmond rose to prominence as an entrepreneur. The incident that would propel her into Canada’s history books  took place after her car broke down while on a business trip. Looking to kill time while her car was being repaired, she stopped by a local movie theatre. It was a segregated space – floor seats were for white people while black people were relegated to the balcony. Desmond, who was short sighted, tried to buy a floor seat but was refused, so she bought a ticket for the balcony where tax on the seats was one-cent cheaper and sat in the floor area anyway. She remained there until police arrived, dragged her out of the theatre and arrested her. She spent 12 hours in jail after being charged with tax evasion over the single penny. Later attempts to fight the conviction in court proved fruitless. Desmond died in 1965 and her act of defiance, which helped ignite Canada’s civil rights movement as well as usher in Nova Scotia’s legal end to segregation in 1954, was overlooked for decades by many. In 2010 Nova Scotia apologised to Desmond and the posthumous pardon was signed into law by Mayann Francis, the province’s first African lieutenant governor. “Here I am, 64 years later – a black woman giving freedom to another black woman,” Francis said.

Two Danish artists, Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaugh Belle have created Denmark’s first public monument to a black woman, Mary Thomas. Ninety-eight percent of the statues in Denmark represent white males. Thomas with two other female leaders were known as ‘the three queens’ and they unleashed an uprising in 1878 called the Fireburn. Fifty plantations and most of the town of Frederiksted in St. Croix were burned in the largest labour revolt in Danish colonial history. Though Denmark prohibited trans-Atlantic slave trafficking in 1792, it did not rush to enforce the ban. The rule took effect 11 years later, and slavery continued until 1848. The project is about challenging Denmark’s collective memory and changing it. The torch and the cane bill held in the statue’s hands symbolize the resistance strategies by those who were colonized. Henrik Holm, senior research curator at Denmark’s National Gallery of Art, said “It takes a statue like this to make forgetting less easy… to fight against the silence, neglect, repression and hatred…Never before has a sculpture like this been erected on Danish soil. Now Denmark is offered a sculpture that addresses the past and is also an artwork for the future.”

When one of Southwest Flight 1380’s engines exploded recently, shattering a passenger window and spraying shrapnel into the cabin, it was Captain Tammie Jo Shults’ years of experience in the cockpit that enabled her to guide the plane safely to an emergency landing. When the crisis struck, Shults maneuvered the plane, telling air traffic control, “Southwest 1380, we’re single engine. We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit.” As terrified passengers braced for impact, she steered the Boeing 737 through a rapid descent to a smooth landing and then came out of the flight deck to check on the passengers and crew. It is clear that Shults’ skill in the cockpit saved the lives of 148 of the 149 people on board. “This is a true American hero,” passenger Diana McBride Self wrote later on Facebook. Another said, “She has nerves of steeI…I applaud her…she was awesome.” Shults is a former Navy pilot who entered flight school in 1985 and later became one of the first female pilots to fly tactical aircraft. Today, women make up only 6% of commercial airline pilots, and far fewer when Shults was training.

UN Women has increased its efforts to help end women’s experiences of sexual harassment, by appointing Purna Sen to the newly created role of Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Addressing Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Discrimination. Sen, who is currently UN Women’s Director of Policy Division, brings a huge amount of knowledge to the appointment with almost 30 years as a ‘violence against women and human rights’ activist, expert, academic, and politician. Sen said, “There needs to be greater recognition of the regularity and widespread nature of harassment that women face. Women’s accounts tell the world how pervasive this is and we will support this momentum…#MeToo has shown women’s powerful solidarity and given notice to abusers; it is incumbent on employers and others in authority to create respectful and safe workplaces.”

Midst all the political turmoil in Turkey, there is some good news on women’s rights. For the first time in the Turkish Republic’s history, a woman has been appointed deputy head of the country’s top religious body, the Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet. It is the highest office in the directorate ever held by a woman since the institution’s founding in 1924.  Huriye Marti, a professor at Necmettin Erbakan University, had previously edited and wrote at the directorate’s Hadith Project. In 2011, she headed Diyanet’s Family and Religious Guidance Department. Among her writings is The Traces of the Negative Image of Women in Fake Hadiths. Diyanet President Ali Erbas has said that more female officials will be employed “as soon as possible” across Turkey. There are currently seven women serving as department heads at the directorate’s headquarters.

Gina Haspel will be the first woman ever appointed to the role of director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US. A veteran of 30 years with the CIA, Haspel has spent much of that time working undercover, and has the right skills set, experience, and judgment to lead one of US’s most critical agencies. Throughout her tenure she has received several awards, including the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism and the Presidential Rank Award, the highest award in the federal civil service. Despite this, Haspel is deemed a controversial choice for such a promotion. In 2017, The New York Times reported that Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects at a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 and was subsequently involved in the destruction of videotapes documenting that torture. She has since renounced torture before her acceptance.

Last week Julia Gillard was appointed head of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. The Institute aims to hasten progress towards gender equality, recognising that we live in a world in which only 23% of parliamentarians, 26% of news media leaders, 27% of judges, and 15% of corporate board members are women. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, the world remains 217 years off gender parity. Experts agree that many of the barriers to equality, including unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, are invisible and insidious and as a consequence are so much harder to dismantle. One quick yet much-disputed fix is quotas, however whenever quotas are discussed opponents clamour about the importance of ‘merit’ as if old boys’ networks and unconscious bias don’t exist. Quotas bring women’s merit out into the open and have on-going impacts in terms of providing role models and shifting societal attitudes.


Women and Sport.

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2002 file photo, athletes from North and South Korea march together, led by a unification flag during opening ceremonies for the 14th Asian Games in Busan, South Korea. Seven months ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics, many in South Korea, including new liberal President Moon Jae-in, hope to use the Games as a venue to promote peace with rival North Korea. To do so, the North's participation is essential, but an ongoing nuclear tension and a lack of winter sports athletes in North Korea could ruin the attempts at reconciliation. (Yonhap via AP, File)

Playing for Global Goals exemplifies the role of sports in development. From Jesse Owens defying racial stereotypes to win four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics to Team Refugees demonstrating the strength of the human spirit in Rio, to the two Koreas marching together at the recent winter games in Pyeongchang – there is nothing that brings humanity together quite like sports. Although there is limited comparable data to prove the impact of sport on peace and development, the inspiring stories of compassion, cooperation, fair play and respect for the opponent are an undeniable proof of the power that sports hold over our hearts and minds. The 2030 SDGs recognize this power, describing sport as an important enabler for sustainable development that contributes to the promotion of tolerance, respect, empowerment of women and youth, health, education and social inclusion. Foxtel has recently agreed to show 90% of all women’s sport on Australian TV, four times more than all free-to-air networks combined.

Wheelchair athlete Madison De Rozario has taken out the London Marathon completing the race in one hour 42 minutes 58 seconds, only days after her victory at the Commonwealth Games. She made history as the only Australian woman to ever win London Marathon’s women’s wheelchair event. De Rozario told interviewers after the event, “I feel very surprised still, it’s unreal, that was amazing”. She added that her recent win at the Commonwealth Games had given her the confidence to back it up in London. “Just physically doing the 42km felt a lot easier after last weekend and knowing that my body is happy to do it. Then you throw in the competitive part on top of it and I had a bit more confidence going in, knowing that I could stay and that I could maybe sprint finish,” she said after beating four-time champion Tatyana McFadden.

The dramatic build up to this year’s AFL Women’s (AFLW) grand final escalated on the eve of the game when Western Bulldogs captain Katie Brennan announced she would lodge a formal sex discrimination complaint against the AFL with the Australian Human Rights Commission. It compelled the AFL to completely rethink its approach to sanctioning women. Brennan’s two-game ban had raised immediate allegations of sex-based discrimination: if Brennan were a man, she would have been asked to pay a fine, instead of being suspended. The sole reason women do not get the option of paying a fine is wage disparity – the average wage for a male AFL player is $371,000, whereas AFLW rookies receive just $10,500. Rather than opting to have women pay smaller fines on a pro rata basis, the AFL went with a different system that resulted in them being sanctioned more severely. Brennan dropped her case when the AFL announced changes to the sanctions handed out in the women’s competition and agreed to change the rule to ensure AFLW players will no longer receive suspensions for identical offences that would only result in a fine in the men’s competition. “I am delighted the AFL has taken the time and responded to review and adjust the rules,” Brennan said. She did not play in the 2018 AFLW Grand Final that was won by her teammates but she is free to play in Round 1 in the next season.


Work and Travels.

I have two interesting honorary positions in Australia – Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of Canberra and Conjoint Professor of Practice in the Faculty of Education and the Arts at the University of Newcastle. The latter brought me the great opportunity in March to work with 16 Public Service Commissioners and Directors in a delegation from the Kenyan Public Sector Commission. The Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Newcastle hosted the Kenyan delegation in an Australia Award Fellowship program on a collaboration titled Strengthening public service performance: Building capacity in effective governance. Part of my responsibility was to provide some insights into mentoring and strategic planning for gender equality for these very experienced and senior public servants at their training sessions in Canberra, Sydney and Newcastle.

Another continuing involvement has been with indigo foundation’s development work overseas – 11 community-based projects in seven countries – managed by a volunteer board and volunteer partnership coordinators both in Australia and overseas. Two very interesting fund-raising dinners where international visitors involved in the projects will make presentations will be held on 2 June at the Moore Park Golf House in Sydney and on 15 June at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. Two special guests from India, renowned civil rights activists Annie Namala and Paul Divakar will speak at the Annual Sydney Gala Dinner with Verity Firth as MC, and Ali Reza Yunaspour will speak on rebuilding education in Afghanistan at the Melbourne Winter Banquet. And of course, there’ll be delicious food, entertainment and much fun with friends old and new, in support of indigo foundation and our partner communities.

In March I was pleased to attend once again the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s rights in New York, which concluded with the strong commitment by UN Member States to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. Coming on the heels of unprecedented global activism and public outcry to end gender injustice and discrimination worldwide, the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) reached a robust agreement highlighting the urgency of empowering and supporting those who need it most. For too long women and girls living in rural areas have been left behind. Priorities are to address poverty; improve access, ownership and control of land and other productive resources; and provide opportunities and address challenges in agriculture, including food security and nutrition. The agreed conclusions also recognized that the lives of women in rural areas are not only confined to food production and agriculture, and addressed the impact of climate change, and the need for infrastructure such as for ICT, energy, transport, drinking water and sanitation.

As usual, I met some good friends and extraordinary women at CSW 62. Tiffany Easthom Executive Director Nonviolent Peaceforce, a global non-profit organization that protects civilians in violent conflicts through unarmed strategies. It builds peace side by side with local communities and advocates for the wider adoption of these approaches to safeguard human lives and dignity. Two South Sudanese NP workers, Tandiwe Ngwenya and Sarah Nyathiang, who work on the front lines in South Sudan as unarmed peacekeepers spoke about their courageous work. Lilly Be’Soer is the founder of the women’s human rights NGO, Voice for Change, in Papua New Guinea. She has been a victim of tribal conflict and is also a survivor of polygamous marriage currently raising six children alone. She defines herself as ‘a women’s human rights defender’ and has taken the lead in facilitating the mediation of tribal conflicts and wars in PNG. Dinah Musindarwezo has just completed her contract as Executive Director with The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). She is one of my mentees, a gender equality expert from Rwanda whose past experience entirely focused on promotion of gender equality and women’s rights. We worked together on gender equality in Rwanda before this appointment. A mentee from Bangladesh, Kathita Rahman, who was one of my staff with the UNDP/Ministry of Women and Children Capacity Building Gender Management Program in Bangladesh, is working at UNICEF headquarters. So is my Rwandan friend Eunice Kabanyana, both of whom hosted me to a meal. Sylvie Nsanga and Mediatrice Kagaba paid their own fares from Rwanda to attend CSW62. Judith Saror, President of the Nigerian Association of University Women and Nkechi Eneh from Nigeria were with me on the Graduate Women International delegation of 20, all of whom are great women.

The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zambia to the UN and Zonta International sponsored a CSW62 partnership side event in UN Headquarters. I spoke as the Zonta representative on the theme Challenges for Rural Women and Girls: Education, empowerment and the impact of harmful traditional practices. The panel discussed lack of access to quality education, increasing cases of gender-based violence, and the negative impacts of female genital mutilation and child marriage, which affect the realization of girls’ full potential and the attainment of gender equality and economic empowerment. Other speakers included Hon Emerine Kabanashi MP, Minister of Community Development, Social Welfare, Zambia, Dr Auxilia Ponga, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Zambia, and Mariangels Fortuny, International Labour Organisation. The seminar was chaired by President of Zonta International Sonja Honig Schough and moderated by Zonta UN facilitator Leslie Wright, who offered me generous hospitality while I spent time with other good friends after CSW62.

After my arrival in New York, Dr Neelam Gorhe asked me to speak at the Stree Aadhar Kendra (SAK) parallel workshop. Dr Gorhe is the founder of SAK, based in Pune Maharashtra India, and has been working for three decades specialising in sensitising police on violence against women and assisting with gender issues during natural disasters. The workshop topic was The Strengthening of Gender Just Disaster Management: Global experiences for eTech-response: Disaster preparedness by using technology. I focussed on Challenges and best practices in IT for disaster management. The aim of the workshop was to provide information on the use of modern e-technology leading to working towards an NGO global community discussion to find the way forwards.

My dear colleague Professor Jaya Dantas, Dean International at Curtin University in WA and I once again worked together to present on Education and ICT with rural women in Rwanda and Australia. With the wonderful help of Josephine Nyiranzeyimana, Government Chief Information Officer at the Rwanda Information Society Authority we drew on examples from rural and remote Australia and Rwanda. This panel session highlighted the potential for ICT to improve educational outcomes for rural and remote women through use of on-line education and to improve health and wellbeing through the use of Telehealth interventions. Josephine and I discussed the successes of the Rwanda’s implementation of ICT initiatives, the University for Health Equity, and open source decision-making health support systems used especially with women’s health. The session demonstrated the interconnections between education and health and the SDGs 3, 4, 5, 15 and 17. After CSW62, Jaya and I visited the magnificent Grand Canyon for the first time.

In April I attended the Federation of University Women of Africa (FUWA) Conference in Egypt and enjoyed meeting with old friends and contributing to the FUWA program and the Rotary Club of Cairo Metropolitan and Rotarians in Alexandria before embarking on a visit to Aswan and Luxor and a river cruise down the mighty Nile River. I had visited the sources of the Nile in Rwanda and Uganda so it was special to see the upper and lower Nile and its Delta with the High Dam and the many ways the river is harnessed for the 99% of the Egyptian population that live along its banks. It was also a pleasure to swim in both the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. My 79-year older brother Bob Izett organized the tour when he knew I was going to be in Egypt, and I have appreciated being with him and my 77-year old younger brother Bill Izett, the first occasion for us to have any real time together since I left home to be married at 18 years of age. We also enjoyed a cruise on the Adriatic Sea, which Bob had organised. My cabin companion was soul-mate Kathleen Messina, a US friend my brothers had met on a previous cruise and have ‘adopted’ as their little sister.

I will be doing a lot of travel during the next months but should be home-based for most of the last half of the year. I travel to London for the last week in June to attend the Fairbreak Cricket Day of Gender Equality, watch the gender equality cricket match between Sir Paul Getty XI and FairBreak XI, and speak at the gender equality round table on 30 May. This is the first time the Sir Paul Getty XI will field a women’s cricket team having invited the FairBreak Global XI to play this inaugural match. The Fairbreak Global XI is made up of players from 11 different countries: Rwanda, Vanuatu, West Indies, India, Singapore, Oman, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and USA. We are raising funds to live-stream the game –

I am delighted that a Rwandan, Diane Bimenyimana will be in the team and that the High Commissioner of Rwanda, London HE Yamina Karitanyi will be hosting the international XI at a reception. Diane is a 24-year-old all-rounder and has featured in the Rwanda women’s national team since 2013. She was awarded the ‘player of series’ in the Rwanda women’s league 2017. I will visit Rwanda in the first week of June on my way back to Sydney and will discuss the possibility of a Fairbreak African tournament on their amazing new cricket ground, visiting Kenya colleagues for a few days before returning to Sydney.



JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – DECEMBER 16: Veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during outgoing ANC president Jacob Zuma's final speech at the party's 54th national elective conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on December 16, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. In his speech‚ Zuma reminded the ANC of the journey it had taken in 2017‚ remembering the longest-serving president of the ANC‚ Oliver Reginald Tambo. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)

Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, mother of South Africa and global struggle icon has died aged 81 after a long illness and is mourned by her comrades in Nigeria, Niger, England, Ethiopia, all over Africa and even Australasia. The Parliament of South Africa has paid a fitting tribute to this South African anti-Apartheid activist and politician, the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela. Thandi Modise said, “Her life, her trials, her tribulations, her few moments of joy, track what we went through as a nation and South Africans as a nation must remember the huge contribution she made.” MP Sophie Thembekwayo said, “Mama Winnie was a practical person who offered practical solutions to the communities in dire need at all times. We have lost a heroine.” Articulate, fearless, vocal, unflinching, feisty fiery freedom fighter she was detained and tortured by the Apartheid State and seriously maligned by propaganda about her activities in its efforts to destroy her. Winnie served as an MP from 1994 to 2003, and from 2009 until her death, and was a deputy minister from 1994 to 1996.

My cousin John Greenway, aged 87 died peacefully on 9 March 2018 in Perth. His widow Diane and his children said he was ‘passionate about learning, would celebrate understanding, colourful, cheeky, fair, proud of our achievements, inspiring, head strong, encouraging, wise and incredibly brave’.  He won entrance to my alma mater, Perth Modern School and returned as a science teacher. John was passionate about teaching maths but unhappy about the ‘rote learning’ approach under which the student learned many methods and only had to decide which one to apply to each problem. He was admitted as the first ‘alien’ to the National Science Foundation Course at Princeton in the USA where he examined new approaches to the teaching of maths, and on his return to Australia was appointed Superintendent of Mathematics. The Maths Revolution began as teachers were retrained, the syllabus was updated, new texts were prepared, and the exam system was modified. Students had to analyse, think, understand and apply. John made a real difference to education in WA.

Shortly afterwards my sister-in-law Alva Ingamells died at the age of 86 in Victoria. We had a wonderful family reunion to celebrate her life with all of her children and their partners, grandchildren and great grandchild. The Loneragan cousins from Brisbane and Perth attended and Erica, Judy and I represented the Randells at the thanksgiving service for her life at the Pakenham Uniting Church. Unfortunately, brother Alan was briefly in hospital in Canberra and unable to be there. Alva was a marvellous nurse, dairy farmer, church and community contributer for much of her life plus a wonderful mother, grandmother and a very proud great-grandmother to Eadie. She is remembered as a strong, gracious lady who was always caring and interested in all she touched.

The bereavements of family members less than a decade older than me make me aware again of how fortunate I am to still be fit and well enough to lead a very full life, and remind me of the words of Martha Medeiros, often mistakenly attributed to Pablo Neruda.

“You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking every day on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.”


Newsletter – Sydney March 2018

Dear Friends,

I celebrate my 78th birthday this year on International Women’s Day. At this time of my life and the lives of my age-mates, it is to be expected that we will be more frequently celebrating the lives of family members, friends and people of significance to us throughout our journeys.

So I begin this first newsletter for 2018 by recording the passing of Zelda D’Aprano, a very special woman role model and mentor of mine, as well as four other special women mentioned below: two renowned singers, my cousin Joyce Izett Lieth OAM and Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries; Ainslie Gotto, confidante of Prime Ministers and adviser to young political aspirants and women in business; and a ‘colossus’ of sci-fi and fantasy literature, Ursula K Le Guin.

What a joy it is to also welcome and celebrate new life and in my case the birth of Joash Douglas Randell, my second great-grandchild. I feel so fortunate to be keeping well and fit, enjoying my daily swimming and walking, and taking every opportunity while I can to celebrate being with family and friends as well as public speaking that involves travel both in Australia and abroad. More of that follows with my usual round-up of news about women – my small attempt to bring to light their activities and accomplishments that are sometimes lost in the persistent bias of the news on our computers, television and radios.

As usual, it is a long letter so please choose from the links below any particular items of special interest.

Activism  United Nations  Women and Religion Politics Women In #STEM Sport Women In The World Family Other Activities


Zelda D’Aprano, the legendary equal pay campaigner, has died at the age of 90. In 1969 she famously chained herself to the Melbourne Commonwealth Building to protest the dismissal in the arbitration court of an equal pay case, in which she was a party, along with other women who worked with her at the Australasian Meat Industry Employee’s Union (AMIEU), For many of us, that picture of D’Aprano chained to the Commonwealth Building is now iconic but as powerful and memorable as it is, it documents only one moment in a lifetime spent fighting for change. ‘No more male & female rates, only one rate’, her sign said. This was a revolutionary idea at a time when it was perfectly legal to pay men and women different rates for doing the exact same job. Though police eventually cut D’Aprano free from her chains, ten days later she was back, this time joined by Alva Geike and Thelma Solomon. They chained themselves to the doors of the Arbitration Court, the one that had dismissed their equal pay case, and for her efforts D’Aprano was promptly dismissed from the AMIEU.

Born in 1928 in Melbourne to European immigrants, D’Aprano left school at 14 to work in a variety of factory jobs before gaining qualifications as a dental nurse. She later worked as a clerk for the AMIEU and also as a mail sorter. It is fair to say that D’Aprano’s tendency to speak truth to power and challenge injustice saw her fired from more than one job but the personal consequences never seemed to deter her. A year after she chained herself to the doors of the Commonwealth Building, D’Aprano, Geike and Solomon founded the Women’s Action Committee and the Women’s Liberation Centre, from which the Women’s Liberation Movement in Melbourne was born. With her fellow activists, she travelled around Melbourne paying only 75% of the fares, because women were given only 75% of the wage of men at the time. They did pub-crawls across Melbourne because women were not allowed to drink in bars, only in lounges. And they helped arrange the first pro-choice rally in 1975. A staunch feminist, labour unionist, and pay justice advocate, Zelda had a profound and lasting impact on the women’s and labor movements within Australia. She also took the time in her later years to mentor and nurture young feminists. I, and many others am a benefactor of that kindness, and we find ourselves grieving an immense loss.

My cousin Joyce Izett Thiele OAM died last week in Sydney aged 92 years. She was born in New Zealand and came to Australia in 1950 where she had an outstanding singing career in several states. In 1952 Izett was runner-up in the ABC Aria awards. She sang in Sydney opera productions on stage and radio: the role of Marguerite in the ABC radio production of Gounod’s Faust; leading roles as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata and Tales of Hoffman; and shared with Marjorie Conley the role of Euridice in Gluck’s Orpheus at the New South Wales (NSW) Conservatorium. Izett also sang in Melbourne and in Brisbane – the soprano solos in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony during the ABC Beethoven Festival National Opera’s 1953 season. Critics called her singing ‘remarkably attractive, warm toned, and technically agile…that brought poignancy and dramatic stature to the interpretation’.

A friend from years back, Ainsley Gotto, a life-long advocate of the independence, power and contribution of women to business and politics, has died aged 72. She was a National President of Women Chiefs of Enterprises International (WCEI) and a former Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister John Gorton. Gotto’s passion for the empowerment of women ran in parallel to her commitment to Australian politics. For over five decades she worked in support of the Liberal cause, being active in policy discussions and always encouraging women to engage in politics. Her political career included senior roles supporting Ministers and as Chief of Staff to Senator the Hon Helen Coonan. Gotto was an intensely proud, strong and resilient person with an incisive and deep understanding of politics and the political game. She made a difference in the world by working hard, leading by example, supporting the causes and women she believed in. I was fortunate that through WCEI I met Gotto and developed a close friendship, as I have with many WCEI members.

The Cranberries’ front-woman and lead singer of the 90s indie band, Dolores O’Riordan has died aged just 46 following a remarkable career singing anthems that stay with us today and define a very different period of history. Many will remember O’Riordan’s distinctive, melodic and often haunting vocals in iconic tracks like ‘Zombie’ and ‘Linger’. Her voice propelled The Cranberries into fame making them the second best-selling rock band in Ireland following U2, with over 40 million records sold world-wide. The band was also well recognised for their activism during a turbulent period in Ireland’s history. O’Riordan said that the lyrics to ‘Zombie’ speak about “the Irish fight for independence”, inspired by an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombing in Warrington Cheshire, England on March 20, 1993 in which two children were killed in the attack. Weeks after ‘Zombie’ was released on August 31, 1994, the IRA declared a ceasefire to 25 years of conflict. Many people speculated that the decision was symptomatic of The Cranberries popularity and The IRA’s fear of more songs being written about them.

Ursula K Le Guin, sci-fi and fantasy author, a radical and a trailblazer died aged 88 in Oregon USA. Her seminal works, including the children’s fantasy ‘Earthsea’ cycle and the ground-breaking gender-fluid science fiction novel ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, have been hugely influential over the last half-century. The author of more than 50 books, spanning poetry, criticism and short stories was named winner of the World Fantasy award for lifetime achievement, and made a ‘grand master’ of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She influenced a generation and more of writers – women by inspiration and example – but also any men with an ambition to work with science fiction and fantasy. A pioneering feminist, Le Guin pushed at boundaries in both her writing and her campaigning. In 2004, she attacked the SyFy Channel’s adaptation of her Earthsea books over its casting of Ged as a white man, when in the books he has “red-brown” skin: “Most of the characters are rainbow…Whites are a minority on Earth now – why wouldn’t they still be either a minority, or just swallowed up in the larger coloured gene pool, in the future?”



#TimesUp on women having to put up with harassment, assault, and misogyny and in February they made a big public statement of strength and solidarity in marches around the world.

In Australia, we met in Hyde Park and after speeches organised human chains to demonstrate our commitment to ‘a global show of strength and solidarity’. The theme was ‘Unbroken’ and the Sydney organisers said, “We are taking a stand against assault, harassment and violence against women. We are unbroken.” I was quite delighted to be invited to join the Grandmothers Against Detention of Children in the demonstration. Our human chain stood for equality and respect. 

Women’s rights activists and celebrities – dressed in black – took to the 75th Annual Golden Globes red carpet not only to celebrate the last year in film and television, but also to shine light on systemic sexual harassment in the workplace. The major stars of the night may have been eight activists for gender and racial justice who accompanied celebrities to the event. Films considered feature some ground-breaking stories about LGBTIQ people and celebrate the LGBTIQ actors and allies who brought them to the screen. The award show was hosted by Seth Meyers, a long-time diversity advocate who received the Human Rights Commission Equality Award last year.  All eyes were on the red carpet, as many actors showed solidarity with the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment.  Among the activists was Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo, which inspired millions of women and men to share their own stories of abuse and harassment online. Women attending the British Academy Film Awards also wore black.

Oprah Winfrey delivered an instantly seminal speech after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes, marrying the blights of racism and sexism with her future vision. “I want tonight to express my gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they – like my mother – had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue,” Winfrey said. “They’re the women whose names we’ll never know,” she added. “I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon…And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women…and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”


United Nations.

One of the phenomenal men praised by Winfrey is António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations. For the first time in human history we have gender parity in the leadership of the UN. He has promoted Lopa Banerjee to Director of the Civil Society Division at UN Women raising the profile of civil society at the UN to new heights. He has also charged Tendayi Achiume with investigating and tackling the worldwide problems of racism and xenophobia as the Special Rapporteur on Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in November 2017. Her role is to look into the issues worldwide, visiting specific countries and reporting back with solutions and best practice ideas to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council. Achiume is an Assistant Professor at the University of California Los Angeles’ School of Law, teaching at an international human rights clinic and researching issues around refugees and international migration. She has looked, in particular, at how the problem of xenophobic discrimination relates to the growing global movement of people, and the way “life is just structured by gender and marginalisation”.

On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) UN Women announced the appointment of renowned activist Jaha Dukureh of The Gambia as their Regional Goodwill Ambassador. She will dedicate her efforts to supporting UN Women’s advocacy to end FGM and child marriage in Africa, with a focus on mobilizing youth. Herself a survivor of FGM and forced into child marriage at the age of 15 Dukureh is the CEO and Founder of the NGO ‘Safe Hands for Girls’ that provides support to African women and girls who are survivors of FGM and addresses its lifelong, harmful physical and psychological consequences. Alongside women’s organizations and civil society, she contributed to the Gambian Government’s ban on FGM after youth mobilization and campaigning in the country. Dukureh was also instrumental in advocating with President Obama’s administration to investigate the prevalence of FGM in the United States of America (US), and the subsequent Summit to End FGM on 2 December 2016 at the US Institute of Peace. 

Globally, 200 million girls alive today have undergone FGM, and in Africa alone, some 125 million girls and women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. They experience a range of negative consequences, from high rates of death in childbirth to the end of their education, with long-term implications for their ability to break out of poverty and inequality, or to have a voice in decision-making in their own lives. Ongoing initiatives throughout the continent, from those of the African Union, women’s organizations and grassroots activists to the long-standing global programming of UN agencies are addressing these challenges. Dukureh said, “These issues are personal to me, they’re part of my life history. We won’t have equality until girls can grow up with control over their own bodies and futures…I want to see the day when no parent makes a decision that will change and limit their daughters’ lives. The girls of Africa and worldwide need to know that their future is bigger than they imagine.”

I will be attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) meetings in New York again this year from 10 -28 March as a member of the Graduate Women International delegation. The theme is ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls’, with a review theme of ‘Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.’

I will be participating as a Zonta International representative on the Government of Zambia side event panel on Challenges for Rural Women and Girls: Lack of access to Education, Economic Empowerment and the Impact of Harmful Traditional Practices and speaking with Professor Jaya Dantas, Dean International at Curtin University on Education and ICT with Rural Women in Rwanda and Australia. We are well connected with the Australian delegation led by the Minister for Women, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, and other Australian participants and it will be wonderful to meet again with women graduates and friends from all over the world.

Sizani Ngubane, a powerful 72-year-old woman from Natal, South Africa who has dedicated her life to promoting gender equality and fighting for women’s rights has been selected as the 2018 CSW NGO Woman of Distinction. She is not only an activist, she is also a human rights’ defender. Ngubane’s personal actions have had a huge impact on the South-African society and especially for indigenous and rural women and girls as the founding Director of the Rural Women’s Movement. RWM, a coalition of some 501 community-based organizations with a membership of approximately 50,000 women, is the only grassroots movement leading an intensive campaign for women and girls’ independent land, property and inheritance rights. RWM lobbies National Parliament and policy-makers for policies that are user-friendly to indigenous and rural, disabled and LGBT women and girls, widows, single mothers, married women, women and girls with HIV/AIDS, girls that have dropped out of school, and survivors of abductions, torture, forced marriages, rape and incest.


Women and Religion.

After years of discussion since 2002 the Reformed Church of East Africa’s (RCEA) General Synod has approved the ordination of women and is expected to ordain the first woman this year. The current RCEA moderator, Musa Kipkorir Kapkong Maina, expressed his joy and thanked the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) for being a beacon of light. Najla Kassab, WCRC president and the second woman ordained in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon said: “We rejoice with RCEA for the decision taken…We stand in solidarity with the women who will be ordained for the path has challenges still, and also with all the churches that are still struggling with their journey”. The WCRC’s 2017 General Council adopted “A Declaration of Faith on Women’s Ordination,” the introduction of which states: “God, through the Holy Spirit, calls both women and men to participate fully in all the ministries of the church…In some of the cultural contexts in which our churches live today, this declaration goes against the prevailing ethos. Thus faithful Christians are often called to be countercultural.”

The next Bishop of London and the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally has been installed at St Paul’s Cathedral as the first woman bishop in the diocese of London. She was made Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2005 for services to nursing and midwifery, a year after she took up a full-time parochial ministry. Bishop Mullally said that she was “delighted and slightly terrified” at her nomination, which was a tribute to the Church’s commitment to greater diversity. “If our churches are to be more relevant to our community, this means that we need churches that are led by priests who are women, who come from black, Asian, and ethnic minority groups,” she said. “To have churches that are confident, we need local ministers and priests…London could be that gift to the rest of the Church of England to demonstrate how unity can work…My belief is that Church diversity throughout London should flourish and grow; everybody should be able to find a spiritual home; and that those who minister should be able to do so to the best of their ability.”

A group of religious leaders were arrested for blocking construction of the Adani rail link in Queensland. Five peaceful protesters from Uniting, Catholic, Buddhist and Quaker backgrounds blockaded the rail line from Abbot Point coal port to the Galilee Basin, site of Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine. The protesters were members of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), a multi-faith organisation that works with diverse faith communities to tackle global warming. Police charged them with failing to comply with a police directive and obstructing a road. Practicing Catholic and ARRCC President Thea Ormerod said that ARRCC decided to engage in civil disobedience because other avenues were not working. “We have done everything we could within the law to prompt our leaders to take action to move Australia away from dependency on coal, oil and gas,” she said. “Non-violence is at the heart of all the major faiths. We will continue to use all legal options open to us to convince our leaders to act for climate justice…However, where necessary, people of faith must not shy away from civil resistance.


Women in Politics


Iceland, a tiny Nordic nation has become the first in the world to make pay equality a legal requirement. Under the legislation, businesses with more than 25 employees will now have to receive official government certification to prove their equal-pay policies. Any companies or government agencies which cannot demonstrate equal pay between staff will risk fines. Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, says that the law would help to end the gender pay gap, which the Icelandic government hopes to eradicate entirely by 2020. “It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally…We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades but we still have a pay gap…I think that now people are starting to realise that this is a systemic problem that we have to tackle with new methods.” Despite its small population of only 330,000 people, Iceland has a long record of championing women’s rights. In 1975, one fifth of the country’s female population took to the streets of capital Reykjavik to protest women’s rights, while 90 per cent of women took part in professional and domestic strikes on the same day, bringing the nation to a standstill and paving the way for future gender equality wins. An all-female political party was founded soon after and by 1999, over one-third of Icelandic MPs were women. In last year’s national election, female candidates won 48 per cent of the country’s 63 seats.

The new President of Liberia is George Weah and the Vice President is Jewel Howard Taylor, former Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection. The Coalition of Political Parties ‘Women in Liberia’ seriously blames women candidates’ defeats in the 2017 Presidential and Representatives Election on lack of collaboration among themselves.  The head of the group Madam Regina Soka-Teah, a former lawmaker said “We have found the secret and we are going to deal with it. Women are not really strong politically and financially and they can have up to twenty men in a race competing, but the women are always two, three which makes it very difficult…We need women voices in the house, we have qualified women in Liberia in every capacity and we can even encourage one of the female lawyers and say to them get in the race we will support you.” The Coalition is now committed to search to find out the number of female contestants and call a roundtable meeting in order to select the most marketable candidate among them to rally their support.

After a recent partial ministerial reshuffle, the number of women ministers in Egypt’s Cabinet has increased from four to six, a 17.6 percent share. Inas Abdel-Dayem appointed as Minister of Culture and Rania El-Mashat as Minister of Tourism, are the first women in Egypt’s history to head their respective ministries. Nehad Aboul Komsan, chair of Egypt’s Centre for Women’s Rights, has emphasized that this is a positive step towards the participation of women in various ministerial posts and true engagement in the public policy-making and executive power: “We hope that such steps entail other important steps.”

Theresa May’s reshuffle of her ministry in the United Kingdom (UK) has brought in ‘fresh talent’ as she insisted that her government look “more like the country it serves”, axing a string of white men in their 50s and 60s while promoting a number of younger, female and minority ethnic MPs. May was left facing criticism for sacking one female gay minister while giving in to male colleagues and failing to promote ethnic minorities. Four of the 10 women ministers attending meetings are not full members of cabinet, the gender pay gap now being 11%. The reshuffle boosted the number of women in government from 30 to 37 and the number of ethnic minorities from four to nine. With almost 120 members of the government, female representation has risen from 25% but is still just 30%. Sam Smethers, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, welcomed a “more representative line-up” but added: “The party still has a long way to go to get more women into politics. Just 21% of Tory MPs are women. And we have to transform the culture in Westminster which has normalised sexual harassment”.

Women MPs of all parties, frontbench and backbench, in the UK have completed a survey ordered by Commons leader Andrea Leadsom in the wake of a raft of allegations of inappropriate behaviour and assaults in and around Parliament. It revealed the stark reality of their daily battles against sexism, bullying and discrimination in Parliament, with 30% reporting having experienced sexual harassment and half saying they have been bullied. Nearly 40% of all MPs, peers and staff experienced non-sexual harassment or bullying in the last year alone. Of 208 women in the parliament, 67 are Conservatives and 119 are in the Labor party. Responding to the question about what if anything needs to be done to improve their culture, one said, “I think gradually things will evolve, but it’s unrealistic to think it will change overnight.  It’s been a man’s world here for so many years.” Nearly one in five people working in Westminster have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment and politicians now found guilty of it could face the sack

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull started the new year by reshuffling his cabinet, with only 20% women. It showed that quotas and the lack of merit – the widely derided instruments that could not possibly be used to increase the representation of women in politics – are, in actual fact, alive and well, propelling several untested male newcomers to the top of the political tree on the basis of their alignment to parties or state affiliation – not their skills.  But quotas are not being used to install otherwise overlooked potential or under-represented groups into positions of power. Competent women have once again been relegated to ‘knocking on the door’ of Cabinet while their male counterparts have been promoted. If there is one positive thing to emerge from this reshuffle it is the fact it provides unequivocal proof of the myth of merit and that quotas are in effect: the Deputy Prime Minister having to be leader of the Nationals and the need to have ministers from all states. It is only women who may not benefit from quotas.

Deb Frecklington has become only the second female Queensland Opposition Leader in history. For the first time, the Queensland Parliament has women appointed to the positions of Premier, Deputy Premier and Leader of the Opposition. Frecklington will be the first woman to lead the merged Liberal National Party (LNP) and it will be the first time Queensland has had a female leader of both major parties. She leads a party with just six female MPs, all except one to new roles, with employment opposition spokeswoman Fiona Simpson one of four woman in the shadow cabinet, and Simone Wilson an assistant minister. Ms Frecklington said, “I would love more women in my shadow cabinet, I would love more women in my team,”. She said the LNP had “an exciting challenge ahead of us” to lift female representation and close a yawning gap with Labor, which has women making up nearly half of its MPs and cabinet roles. 

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has joined the End Malaria Council, convened by Bill Gates and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health, Ray Chambers. The council aims to rally political support and smart investments behind a roadmap to reduce malaria cases significantly and eliminate malaria from at least 20 countries by 2025. In 2013, Australia helped launch and continues to co-chair the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance: a convening of Asian and Pacific heads-of-government formed to accelerate progress against malaria and to eliminate it in the region by 2030. Launched late last year, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual World Malaria Report showed progress has stalled ‘after an unprecedented period of success in global malaria control’. While malaria deaths fell by 58 per cent between 2000 and 2015 globally, WHO’s report found that 2016 saw an increase of five million cases on the previous year.

Kristina Keneally has taken her seat in Federal Parliament. The former NSW premier-turned television host has told Labor officials she will make stillbirth research funding and constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians a personal mission during her time in the Senate. In a letter to the party’s powerful Right faction, Keneally also heaped praise on trade unions as the ‘ballast’ of the Labor movement and said social justice sat at the heart of her activism. “I believe our society is most healthy when our most vulnerable members are supported, protected and included: people with a disability, their families and carers; babies and children; and older people and pensioners. I will always put their needs at the centre of my work. On a personal note, with your support, I would advocate for research funding for pregnancy loss and stillbirth, which affects six Australian families each day.” Keneally gave birth to her stillborn daughter Caroline in 1999 and is the patron of Stillbirth Foundation Australia.

Kelly O’Dwyer became Australia’s new Minister for Women. She’s a former lawyer, bank executive, political staffer to former treasurer Peter Costello and first elected in 2009. 

Since then she has served as the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, and the Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer. O’Dwyer founded the ‘Parliamentary Friends of Women in Science, Maths and Engineering’, and serves as an Ovarian Cancer Ambassador. She has also personally demonstrated how to combine motherhood and a career in politics, having had her two young children during her time in government. O’Dwyer believes Australian politics needs a number of strategies “in order to encourage women to have the confidence to put up their hand for Parliament, to make sure that they’re supported and set up for success.” And one such strategy would be to use targets to “focus people’s minds on the fact that there are a lot of women of great merit who could make a wonderful contribution in the Parliament.” O’Dwyer will lead our delegation to CSW62.


New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford have announced their first pregnancy. Ardern tweeted that she will be joining the long list of parents wearing two hats – juggling a career and a budding family. Their baby is due in the middle of the year. Clarke will continue his TV work as ‘first man of fishing’ as well as a stay-at-home dad. Ardern said, “It’s fair to say that this will be a wee one that a village will raise, but we couldn’t be more excited”. For months Ardern has faced unfair public scrutiny over her capacity to start a family and juggle the responsibilities of leading the country. Despite this, she has remained fiercely resolute that the two are not mutually exclusive. She also noted that the news was particularly special for the couple, given they were unsure about their chances of conceiving naturally.


Women in #STEM.

Scientist Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons has been named the 2018 Australian of the Year for her pioneering work in quantum physics. She leads a team developing a silicon quantum computer able to solve problems in minutes rather than thousands of years, and having the potential to drive seismic shifts in drug design, weather forecasting, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. Simmons is passionate about encouraging girls to pursue a career in science and technology. “Seeing women in leadership roles and competing internationally is important. It gives them the sense that anything is possible,” she said. A global trailblazer, she hopes to shatter expectations of what careers women ought to pursue and what they can achieve. Simmons has issued a clarion call to all young women contemplating their futures: “Don’t live your life according to what other people think. Go out there and do what you really want to do…I’m conscious when a person starts to believe in what others think of them, that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In my life, I have lived four mantras. Do what is hard, place high expectations on yourself, take risks and do something that matters. These ideas have kept me going when things have got tough”.

Women in STEM are still severely underrepresented in industry leadership positions. One initiative to combat this is the program selecting 80 astronomers, engineers, physicists, science communicators, Antarctic and Arctic specialists, doctors, social scientists and other women scientists of diverse experience from across the world. They include 35 Australians and have embarked on an expedition to Antarctica to learn about the effects of climate change and to promote the role of women in global sustainability. The trip is part of the Homeward Bound program, a 12-month intensive leadership initiative delivered by leading scientists comprising lectures, exercises, personal coaching and open discussions aimed at promoting and supporting future female leaders in science. In its third year, the program was the brainchild of leadership activist, Fabian Dattner and Jess Melbourne-Thomas, Project Leader with the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. Their overarching vision is ‘To equip a 1000-strong global collaboration of women with a science background to lead, influence and contribute to policy and decision making as it informs the future of our planet.

The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund is supporting a campus in Rwanda that will help expand science, research and conservation activities, enhance educational programs, and engage people from Rwanda and the world to join the effort on behalf of wild gorillas. Its design will include laboratories, classrooms, meeting space, an interactive exhibit focusing on Dian Fossey‘s work, and provide housing for visiting researchers and students. Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board said the government has pledged to work with her to make sure that their efforts in Rwanda’s conservation are successful. “We think that getting someone with both passion and a network like DeGeneres is a very important step in our conservation work…One of the factors of our success in conservation has been how we work with partners”. President and CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Tara Stoinski said the campus will serve as a brilliant focal point for their efforts to protect wild gorillas over the next decades.


Women and Sport.

The Australian Honours recognised several female athletes on Australia Day: Betty Cuthbert AC ‘golden girl’ for eminent service to athletics at the national and international level, particularly as a gold medallist at the Melbourne and Tokyo Olympic Games, and as a role model, fundraiser, and advocate for research into a cure for multiple sclerosis; Wiradjuri woman Evonne Fay Goolagong-Cawley AC for eminent service to tennis as a player at the national and international level, as an ambassador, supporter and advocate for the health, education and wellbeing of young Indigenous people through participation in sport, and as a role model; Belinda Jane Clark AO for distinguished service to cricket as a player, captain and administrator, through support for national and international professional councils, and as a role model for young sportswomen; former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis AO for her distinguished service to netball as an elite player and coach, through support and advocacy for young women, as a contributor to the broadcast and print media industries, and to the community; Olympic swimmer Shane Gould AM for her significant service to swimming at the elite level and her work with water safety programs in developing countries. The fact that the honours list was still just 33% women demonstrated that society needs to value women’s work equally to men’s.

Dr Bridie O’Donnell, head of Victoria’s first Office for Women in Sport and Recreation did not discover her sporting strengths until she was in her 20s when she was at medical school. “I was not a sporty kid and I wasn’t good at team sports as a young woman in high school…What I think happens for so many women if they’re not the best footy or netball player or cricket player, is that they get lost…They don’t consider themselves to be athletes and therefore they don’t keep competing, or even just participating.” Later O’Donnell competed in Olympic-distance and Hawaii Iron Man triathlon, was a champion rower for seven years and when she was 33 a professional bike rider racing in Europe and America. “My story is probably that I felt like I was not talented, but I also wasn’t taken seriously because I was an older athlete and I started a lot of these sports in my 20s.” In speaking to rural groups across Victoria, O’Donnell says, “We want more women to be coaches, umpires, referees – to hold the keys of the sheds, so to speak…to be presidents of these clubs in regional Victoria and to be CEOs of sporting clubs and on boards.”

WA Senator, Linda Reynolds has caused ripples within the government after suggesting that elite sports in Australia be reviewed to potentially incorporate mixed-gender teams. Formerly Australia’s first woman brigadier in the Army Reserve, Reynolds told Fairfax Media that sporting codes should follow the lead of the army in promoting women more rigorously. “Like in the military, sport requires many different qualities in an individual player but also in the team,” she said. “We no longer segregate women solely on their gender. Women now have the opportunity to compete on merit in the military, maybe it is time to rethink the segregation of women in sport simply based on their gender and not on the talent.”

Cricket. Indra Nooyi, the PepsiCo Chair and CEO has been appointed to the International Cricket Council Board as the organisation’s first independent female director, and as part of wide ranging constitutional change aimed at improving the global governance of the sport. She is a global business leader, consistently ranked by Fortune Magazine among the World’s Most Powerful Women. Since 2006 under Nooyi’s leadership, PepsiCo has focused on offering more nutritious foods and beverages, minimizing their impact on the environment, and creating opportunities for their employees and people across the markets they serve. She said: “I love the game of cricket. I played it as a teenager and in college, and to this day, I cherish the lessons the game taught me about teamwork, integrity, respect, and healthy competition. I am thrilled to join the ICC as the first person to be appointed to this role. And I look forward to working with my colleagues on the board, ICC’s incredible partners, and cricketers around the world to grow our sport responsibly and give our fans a new reason to follow every ball and shot.”

The Commonwealth Bank has had a partnership with Cricket Australia for over 30 years and been supporters of the women’s teams for the last 18 years: it is the single largest investor in women’s sport in Australia. CommBank is delighted to see how far the game has come and has now committed to levelling the playing field with its ongoing flagship, the CommBank Cricket Club sponsorship program. To demonstrate its continued support for grassroots cricket, each year CommBank offers local clubs the chance to apply for one of their two-year sponsorships. If successful, clubs receive $2,000 per year, brand new cricket equipment and CommBank gear, for example, marquees for game days. It believes cricket is a sport for all and wants cricket to be the most inclusive sport in Australia so has increased its support for diversity and community cricket programs, recognising the importance of creating more opportunities for girls of all ages to play, compete and learn. CommBank is also extending its commitment to Indigenous, multicultural, disabled and LGBTIQ community cricket initiatives.

Vanuatu national women’s cricket team captain, Selina Solman is currently in Adelaide on player placement with the Southern District Stingrays under the sponsorship of FairBreak Global, an organization that aims to create opportunities for women in sports, business, media and education to achieve gender equality. They along with Vanuatu Cricket and the Stingrays are supporting Solman in boosting her cricketing career. She is the first national women’s cricketer from Vanuatu to go on an international player placement and play premier first grade cricket in Australia and has been selected based on her experience and skills, as both captain and the leading player in the national team. Vanuatu Cricket would like more girls to go on placements like this because it will allow them to experience playing on turf wickets and playing conditions that are similar to the conditions they will face when playing international matches. These opportunities are great female development for Vanuatu Cricket.


FairBreak Global/Women’s International Cricket League and the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network are holding a Day of Gender Equality at the John Paul Getty Estate at Wormsley, UK on 30 May 2018. The day will begin with a round table discussion on two pertinent issues relating to gender equality. I will be participating on the panel on Equal Pay and Leadership/Governance in my role as Ambassador Education of FairBreak Global. Other participants will be drawn from senior levels of business, education, media and sport globally. The recommendations from this event will be provided to relevant and influential global bodies. The afternoon starts with a Women’s T20 Cricket Match between the first ever John Paul Getty Foundation Women’s X1 and the FairBreak Global XI consisting of players from 11 different countries. Proceeds from the day go to creating opportunity for women, gender equality and to support our Corporate Social Responsibility partner SolarBuddy in helping to end energy poverty. I hope to visit Rwanda and Kenya in June after this event.

Inspirational star all-rounder, 27-year-old Ellyse Perry has won the Belinda Clark Award for a second time, officially confirming her as Australia’s best woman cricketer over the past 12 months. Having previously won the award in 2016, Perry was honoured at Allan Border Medal Night in Melbourne to cap off a 12-month period that also saw her named the ICC’s Woman Cricketer of the Year.  She received 116 votes to win the award by a staggering gap of 38, the same margin that separated the next eight players who followed her on the list of vote-getters. Batter Beth Mooney, who was named the Domestic Player of the Year, was Perry’s nearest challenger with 78 votes while fast bowler Megan Schutt (65) and injured skipper Meg Lanning (63) finished third and fourth respectively under the system that factors in votes from players, team officials and umpires.

Football.  The increased visibility of role models since the introduction of the women’s national Australian Football League (AFL) has dramatically increased women’s participation: a massive 30% with nearly half a million women nation-wide now playing, and a 76% increase in female teams across the country. Last year, 195,000 people attended debut women’s league games, with a further 6 million tuning in on television. 

As Nicole Livingstone, the Head of Women’s Football at the AFL puts it: “If girls can see role models at the elite and leadership level, they are more likely to believe they too, can make it.” Other codes have followed suit. In 2015 for instance, there were approximately 150 all-girls community cricket teams across Australia. Last year, that number had grown to over 700. Cricket Australia, the state associations and territories continue to invest efforts and resources into female participation, identifying it as the sport’s fastest-growing market. Encouraging girls to participate in teams whether it is sport, scouts, debating or music will help develop the critical skills of confidence and resilience and foster our next generation of leaders.

Retired judge Margaret Nyland has become the first female club chair in the South Adelaide Football Club’s 140-year history. Nyland has spent 48 years working in law in South Australia — including seven as a District Court judge and 19 on the bench of the Supreme Court. She is passionate both about the club and the region: “I consider it a great privilege to be appointed as chair of the South Adelaide Football Club, the club I have supported all my life…Growing up in the southeast corner of the city, South Adelaide was an integral part of the community and the late great South Australian (SA) legend Jimmy Deane was my hero…I am also excited to be involved with the club as we embrace the inclusion of women’s football and the opportunity this will provide young women. Nyland was one of three women appointed to the vacant positions, with Surf Life Saving SA CEO Clare Harris and Nicole Kinnear also appointed to the board. This gives the Panthers the highest female board representation of any SA NFL club.

Soccer. Samantha Kerr, the 24-year-old who has taken the soccer world by storm and is the biggest name in Australian soccer of either gender, has been named Young Australian of the Year. In her speech, Kerr said she was truly humbled: “For me, personally, nothing gives me a greater sense than pulling on the No. 20 jersey for the Matildas. I truly view this award not just for me but rather as an endorsement of the achievements of the Australian women’s football national team and more broadly, Australian women’s football and women’s sport in general.” When her dream of playing Aussie Rules in the AFL was shot down because of her sex, Kerr switched to soccer. She now competes in America’s National Women’s Soccer League, recently becoming its all-time leading goal scorer. In 2017, she was named a finalist for the International Football Federation’s (FIFA) Female Player of the Year. The National Australia Day council described Kerr as “an inspirational sportsperson, a champion of equality and a young woman whose achievements serve as motivation for girls to aim high and chase their dreams”.

Rugby. The former New Zealand Netball chief Raelene Castle is Rugby Australia’s new chief executive set to head up and clean up, one of the four most popular sporting codes; Rugby Australia (formerly Australian Rugby Union). It is a position which has been plagued by financial concerns and the code has been known for its “boy’s club” business landscape with many off-field dramas that have tainted the code. The big question now is can Castle turn around the code’s finances and also, what can she do for women’s rugby, particularly around bridging the gender pay gap? Given that the Australian women’s rugby Sevens team won a gold medal in the Brazil Olympics last year, and more women’s rugby matches are being aired on national television, we are likely to see more of a focus on women. We could see women’s rugby as a path to help improve the code’s finances and if that happens the gender pay gap addressed. It’s not clear how much less Australian women get paid compared to the men, but it’s fair to say that the 15 per cent national gender pay gap is likely to be way short of the truth given the multi-million dollar contracts at play for the men.

Cycling. The SA Government gave a significant nudge to the 2018 Tour Down Under (TDU) event, contributing $90,000 to organisers, topping up the existing prize pool of just $15,000, to ensure the female riders received the same $100,000+ winnings as the men. It was especially great news for Australian Amanda Spratt, who took out this year’s TDU. SA Sport Minister Leon Bignell, who led the move, has labelled it a ‘world-first pay increase’. He said, It’s nice to see Australia leading at something when it comes to gender equality. It may only be one race, in one sport, but the broader message it sends is significant: we value the contribution of women as much as we value the contribution of men. And we recognise women have to fight and train just as hard in order to get to the top of their game. “These athletes are at the top of the game, displaying professionalism, determination and skill during every stage of the hard-fought race.” Bignell added that he believes the increase can help push a transformation for women in cycling. TDU also recently replaced ‘podium girls’ with junior cyclists, making it the first major international race to do so, sending a consistent message on body image. “What we actually want to do is inspire girls and young women who come to the motor racing to be car drivers or to be mechanics or to be engineers.”


Women in the World.


Rwanda. Jessica Markowitz founded Richards Rwanda IMPUHWE by when she was 11 years old to support educational opportunities for girls and it has now evolved into a new chapter: The Abari Collective. Through the design of a career, vocational, or technical entrepreneurship program the Collective will prepare women after graduating secondary school to develop a trade and launch a business. The program includes entrepreneurship training, development of business partnerships, support structures for the employment of women, basic IT training and the opportunity to participate in an emerging jewellery business. This will allow alumni women of Richards Rwanda to create a new ethical jewellery brand and enter the metal smith jewellery trade with income earning opportunities becoming business-savvy creative entrepreneurs and role models to the younger girls in their community. The Abari Collective has the opportunity to make significant sustainable and scalable impact by starting off with a small market and growing into a larger operation to allow women the financial independence they deserve.

Mexico. Two of my Mexican friends have been in the international news. Dr Gloria Ramirez de Guerrero from the Federación Mexicana de Universitarias (FEMU) attended the 70th Pre-sessional Working Group of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) held in November at the Palais des Nations.  She spoke to the CEDAW Committee about FEMU’s shadow report noting that violence against women remains a major and growing problem in nearly all parts of Mexico. Ramirez cited cases of femicide and increased disappearances, particularly of younger women, as well as threats made to human rights activists working on these issues. She also spoke about the problem of the criminalization of abortion and the injudicious jail sentences handed down to women who abort or miscarry. 

FEMU’s Convener of International Relations, Glenda Hecksher, the renowned international sculptor with whom I stayed when in Mexico City last year, recently travelled to the Vatican and met Pope Francis, to whom she presented a unique sculpture she created especially for him.

In the United Kingdom, Carrie Gracie a 30-year veteran of the British Broadcasting Commission and its China editor who speaks fluent Chinese has resigned her position in Beijing in protest over what she called a failure to sufficiently address a gap in compensation between men and women at the public broadcaster. Her departure is the latest aftershock from the BBC’s forced publication last year of pay levels for its top earners that showed two-thirds of those in the top bracket were men. Presenting the corporation’s flagship ‘Today’ program on Monday alongside John Humphrys, the BBC’s highest-paid news broadcaster, Gracie said the support she had received for her decision had been very moving and showed the degree of frustration among many over the issue of equal pay. Gracie, who took on the newly created job of China editor four years ago, said women at the BBC were running out of “patience and good will” in the face of what she called a “divide and rule” approach and a continuing refusal by the corporation to admit to discriminatory policies.

Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin has been appointed Vice President/Vice-Principal (International) King’s College London. She is a Professor of Security, Leadership & Development and was the Founding Director of the African Leadership Centre (ALC) and its flagship programme, Peace and Security Fellowships for African Women. She has also been Programme Director of the ALC King’s College London MSc programmes Security, Leadership and Society and the Post Graduate Research Programme on Leadership Studies in Security and Development. Olonisakin is internationally renowned for her passion and expertise in the area of effective leadership in peace building and security and she has had a long and distinguished career at King’s in both research and teaching. She is a member of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture, the UN’s Advisory Group of Experts on the Global Study on Youth, Peace & Security and lead investigator for the ALC’s ongoing research on “Peace, Society and the State in Africa”. 

On St Valentine’s Day, the United States experienced its 18th school shooting since 1 January 2018. It was devastating: 17 students and teachers were shot dead and 15 more were injured when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We watched footage of grieving students, parents and teachers on our screens in horror, wondering how much longer America could stomach such atrocities. #NeverAgain is a vow that has been pledged by thousands of American students as they come to terms with their grave reality. Three days after the shooting, the school’s students held a loud, furious protest for gun control at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Standing before a sea of young, heartbroken faces, Emma Gonzalez, a 19-year old former student, gave an impassioned speech that quickly cemented her as the movement’s leader: “All these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see”. For ten minutes, Gonzalez laid out a passionate and concise rationale for greater gun control. A young woman – shaved head, powerful voice, brave heart – became the country’s symbol for hope.

The school involved is named for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, an American journalist, author, women’s suffrage advocate, and conservationist known for her staunch defence of the Everglades River against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development, redefining the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp. As a young woman Douglas was outspoken and politically conscious of the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements. She would have been proud of the advocacy of the students of the school named after her. Douglas was called upon to take a central role in the protection of the Everglades when she was 79 years old. For the remaining 29 years of her life she was ‘a relentless reporter and fearless crusader’ for the natural preservation and restoration of South Florida. Her tireless efforts earned her several variations of the nickname ‘Grande Dame of the Everglades’ as well as the hostility of agricultural and business interests looking to benefit from land development in Florida. Douglas lived to 108, working until nearly the end of her life for Everglades’ restoration.


After completing four years as Chair of the Federal Reserve, the capstone to two decades of public service at the Fed and in the White House and an accomplished academic career, Janet Yellen will join Brookings as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with its Economic Studies program. Yellen will be affiliated with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy. Both before and during her tenure at the Fed, Yellen’s interests went beyond macroeconomics, monetary policy and financial stability to the job market, wages, globalization and inequality. She will reflect on her impressive career and work with other leading economists as she continues to advance the state of economic knowledge. Brookings will benefit from her advice as they work to improve the quality and effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies and public understanding of them.

Cabinet Secretary US nominee Dr Margaret Kobia has pledged to bring in honesty and credibility to the Public Service and Youth Affairs position. She said she is well aware of issues that deal with the youth, gender and women’s empowerment. Kobia told the Committee on Appointments during her vetting that she is ready to serve the people and that she is competent for the job with the skills provided by her PhD in Human Resources studies and her studies on women issues in leadership and the Women’s Enterprise Fund: “I am convinced that I am the right person for this job. I bring a wide knowledge and experience from the studies I have done…Gender isn’t about women, it’s about equity, equality and women empowerment.” 

In Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar has led celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Australian Government’s apology to the Stolen Generations that took place in February, when the nation said sorry to make amends and to right past wrongs. The apology was one of 54 recommendations made in the landmark Bringing them Home Report into the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Last year, the Australian Human Rights Commission launched a new Bringing them Home website to continue educating Australian teachers, students, and the public, about the Report and the Stolen Generations.  In addition to a series of curriculum mapped teaching resources, the website features information about the Report and personal stories from members of the Stolen Generations and their families. Oscar said, “As we know, teaching Indigenous content in schools is particularly important, not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who need to see their culture respected and valued in the classroom; but equally for all children to learn the true history of this country.”

Julia Gillard set up the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, as a last PM action, five years ago and it has just handed down its report on abuse and cover-ups covering five decades. Quentin Bryce then Governor General appointed Jennifer Coates Commissioner who had a long career in children’s justice as did Angela Sdrinis solicitor for abuse victims and Gail Furness counsel assisting the Commission. The Commission examined the history of abuse in educational institutions, religious groups, sporting organisations, state institutions and youth organisations. Relentlessly brave women lawyers forced perpetrators to account and eased the way for thousands of victims to find voice and speak their truth about serial rape, criminal assault and heinous acts. The report is tens of thousands of pages long and contains a total of 409 recommendations for religious institutions, federal and state governments which aim to make institutions safer for children.


Professor Margaret Sheil AO has been appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the Queensland University of Technology from her position as Provost and deputy to the VC at the University of Melbourne where she has led the implementation of the online strategy and other curriculum reform, business transformation and the recruitment and development of academic leaders. A highly respected chemist, she is a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Mass Spectrometry and the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, and a Fellow and Board member of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. Sheil is also a member of the Board of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. Previous successful experience as a university leader has been at the University of Wollongong prior to her appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council from 2007 to 2012; a role that saw her lead the development of the Excellence in Research for Australia evaluation of Australian university research and the implementation of a range of initiatives to support women, early career and Indigenous researchers.

Dr Collette Burke has been appointed as Victoria’s first Chief Engineer to help oversee the state’s record infrastructure pipeline and provide expert advice to the Government on major project design and engineering. Burke has experience in both the private and public sectors – having been appointed Director to the VicTrack Board in 2015, and currently serving as the Managing Director of engineering consulting firm Exner Group. She is a former National Director of the National Association of Women in Construction. The new Chief Engineer role is based within the Office of Projects Victoria – a new expert body established by the Government to oversee the planning and delivery of Victoria’s unprecedented pipeline of major infrastructure projects and to provide advice to Government when developing and delivering new projects. Burke will also help the Government establish a registration system for engineers – ensuring the industry is properly regulated for safety, compliance and competency.

Alina Bain has been appointed CEO of the Export Council of Australia (ECA) taking the helm of the organisation as it aims to further promote Australian industry in international markets. She has public policy experience and comes from the position of CEO of the Australian Services Roundtable. ECA chair Dianne Tipping said, “Alina’s extensive experience in seeking and delivering positive policy outcomes in highly complex and challenging environments along with her unique skills in skills development and delivering member benefits will help grow the ECA at this critical time for Australia’s exporters.”

Change is happening at Cooperative Bulk Handling (CBH) Group, where the major Western Australian (WA) wheat grain marketer and exporter has just appointed its first woman to its board, grain grower Natalie Browning. This marks a significant shift for the 85-year-old co-operative, given no woman has ever served on its 12-person board. Based in Kondinin, WA, Browning runs a 6400ha property with her husband and three children and has been involved in all aspects of farming from financial management to machinery operation and business for the past 17 years. She describes herself as being an analytical and strategic thinker with great communication skills and that by offering a different perspective as a young grower, she can bring diversity and a fresh approach to the board. CBH chairman Wally Newman has welcomed Browning’s appointment: “Her deep background in farming and her experience on CBH’s Growers’ Advisory Council will bring valuable capabilities and perspectives to our Board.”

Olivia Wirth has been announced as the new CEO of Qantas’ Loyalty Business and Vanessa Hudson has been appointed to the role of Chief Customer Officer, both joining the Group Management Committee and reporting to Group CEO Alan Joyce. Joyce said the reshuffle was reflective of Hudson and Wirth’s talents and deep knowledge of the company: “At the senior executive level we have a number of very high calibre individuals who have a deep understanding of our business, and Olivia and Vanessa are two standout examples of that”. Wirth has been on the Group Management Committee for eight years and has very successfully led the Qantas brand, including managing the marketing function for Frequent Flyer, as part of her portfolio. Hudson has led many key customer improvements over her 23 years at Qantas, including the introduction of Neil Perry and Rockpool into Qantas in-flight dining and the complete re-design of its domestic check-in experience.

Marina Go, the founding publisher of Women’s Agenda has an extensive background in journalism and media, including in CEO and General Manager positions and has been appointed as a non-executive director (NED) at 7-Eleven Stores. Her existing additional roles are Chair of the Wests Tigers NRL Club, Office Brands, and the Advisory Board for the Centre for Media Transition at The University of Technology Sydney. 7-Eleven chair Michael Smith said Go’s appointment adds strength and diversity to the board, given her extensive experience across digital and traditional media, retail and franchising, compliance and governance, and driving change and transformation, along with her visionary leadership. “With the business pursuing a significant growth and transformation strategy, Marina’s remarkable career and insights will significantly enhance the Board’s contribution…and deepen our understanding of the many cultures within our business and franchise network, Marina’s unique perspective will propel our journey.”




The best family news this month was the arrival of my second great grandchild Joash Douglas Randell, son of Nathan and Kaylin and first grandchild of Doug and Julie.  After the birth, D & J spent some time in USA where Doug undertook an International Leadership Development Program for Physicians at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. As Group Medical Director of Aspen Medical, Doug travels frequently and is looking forward to meeting Joash when he visits Townsville as guest speaker for a YWAM Medical Ships primary healthcare team. Both Andrew and Ellen are in country preparing their rowers for the next international competition, although Ellen had a special visit to Indonesia as speaker for an Asian Rowing Federation workshop. Erica continues her Inyenga yoga training and art in Melbourne and I was pleased to visit her when attending the CSW62 preparatory sessions for Australian delegates. I also enjoy being with her during her six-weekly visits to Bundanoon.


My Other Activities


I was pleased to give a presentation in Canberra to the National Rural Women’s Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Muster program ‘Strengthening Women in Leadership’ for 14 rural women leaders in the 35+ age bracket. The program was intended for them to learn how to advocate for themselves, their communities and the leadership impact that they may have on other women. Each of the women has designed an amazing project as part of their learning journey, and they will be mentored along the way as they grow and contribute as strong and emerging leaders. I also spoke at the indigo foundation February gathering for board members and partnership coordinators in Canberra. In South Sudan, we completed our first round of teacher training for 25 teachers across 11 schools and in Rwanda we are now proud to support Club Rafiki’s thriving sexual health clinic that I hope to visit again in June. You can find out more about the achievements of all our community partners in indigo foundation’s 2017 Annual Report – showing that trusting communities to lead and implement their own development and building the power of local organisations works. It improves lives and builds resilient communities.


Another privilege has been to work in my role as Conjoint Professor of Practice in the Faculty of Education at the University of Newcastle with a group of 15 senior Australian Awards Fellows – Commissioners and Directors from the Kenya Public Service Commission during their two weeks workshop program in Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle. I was responsible for speaking on mentoring, gender and strategic planning, and following this up with one-to-one sessions. This new partnership between the University of Newcastle, the Kenyan Government and the Australian Government has facilitated a valuable education initiative under the Australia Awards Fellowships Program. A collaboration between academics and government representatives, the fellowship is aimed at strengthening public service performance and building governance capacity in Kenya. The initiative has given Kenyan Commissioners a unique opportunity to engage with some of Australia’s leading policy practitioners. The aim is for the fellowship to have a tangible impact on the ground in Kenya. 


On 16 April I will be travelling to Egypt to speak at the Federation of University Women of Africa regional conference and the following Bibliotheca Alexandrina 9th International Biennial Conference, BioVision, ‘New Life Sciences: Towards the Sustainable Development Goals’  in Alexandria. My two brothers, Bob and Bill Izett invited me to join them after this to take a boat trip down the Nile River. It is over 20 years since I was in Cairo for an International Adult and Further Education Conference. We will then travel to Rome to begin a Mediterranean and Adriatic cruise visiting Croatia, Venice, Slovenia and Malta. This is the first time the three of us will be together since we were children and I am very much looking forward to it.

Loving greetings of joy, peace and justice

Shirley Randell
Sydney March 2018


Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.


Newsletter – Sydney December 2017

Dear Friends,

This special season is a time for hope, so I begin my newsletter with the hope that the significant campaigns and achievements during 2017 that have built on the decades of work of activists and feminists across the world will lead to real continuing cultural change. The silence breakers who have raised awareness about sexual harassment and assault on women and men, the Royal Commission Report on the Abuse of Children, Undeniable, just released, the triumph of fairness and equal rights of marriage for all Australians, the equal participation of women in political decision making in Rwanda, Canada, France, Iceland, Queensland and the Northern Territory, and the advances towards equality for women and men in sport, are just a few of the milestones. We have still much to do in relation to justice for refugees, our first peoples given parliament’s failure to accept the Uluru recommendations, homeless people, and then beyond Australia to addressing some of the great inequalities between nations. The new year should dawn with renewed commitment to making progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals across the globe.

As usual, at the end of this Christmas newsletter, I have included short paragraphs from my four children about their families, with an outline of my own activities, both in Australia and during a recent visit with speaking engagements in Hong Kong. Continue reading “Newsletter – Sydney December 2017”

Newsletter – Sydney October 2017

Dear Friends

My travel over the last two months has been within Australia to Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Western Australia to visit children, grandchildren and friends, and to attend various functions. I expand on this at the end of the newsletter, which I invite you to read. However, I want to begin by recording the passing of a very special friend and mentor of mine many years ago, Dr Evelyn Scott. The passing of three other significant women are also mentioned below – Dr Kate Millett, Fiona Richardson and Anna McPhee – and 30 of my school mates from 1952-57.

As I experience the privilege of growing older, like many of you I mourn the ones who have passed before but also celebrate the many amazing living women whose achievements are touched on in this newsletter.
Continue reading “Newsletter – Sydney October 2017”

Making a Better World? – National History Challenge NSW State Presentation

National History Challenge NSW State Presentation 2017
The Jubilee Room, Parliament House of New South Wales
Thursday 19 October 2017

Shirley Randell AO speaking on ‘Making a Better World’


Making a Better World?
Professor Shirley Randell AO, PhD
National Foundation of Australian Women

I wish to add my acknowledgement that we are on Aboriginal land, thank you for your welcome to Country, and also pay my respect to Elders past and present.

Thank you to the sponsors and judges, and congratulations to the winners of these wonderful awards of the New South Wales Section of the 2017 National History Challenge. And special acknowledgements to the five young people here whose entries have also won national awards in their categories.


I am now 77. I have four adult children with their four partners, 14 grandchildren and a great grandchild, who I continually encourage to be global citizens and to contribute to making the world a better place. Today I would like to share with you some of what I have learned in 20 years of working with the governments and the people of Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

I would like to say a few words about making the world a better place, a world where human issues of gender inequality lie at the very crux of the global problems everyone suffers, from poverty to the age crisis, the rise in violent fundamentalism, human trafficking and human rights abuses. And we all have the opportunity, and indeed the obligation, to speed progress in those issues.


Today, the idea of ‘global citizenship,’ of humans growing and learning and acting and working, with consideration of both the history of our world and our place in the global community has become fundamental. Being globally connected, emerging as global citizens, will support women as well as men to show leadership and achieve equality. Each one of us needs to be globally connected. While bringing our distinct cultural knowledge and values to the table, the days of staying in our cultural and national boundaries are gone. Global citizenship obliges an ability and capacity to think as part of one broad humanity, and is essential for our survival.


It is in believing in the ‘oneness’ of humanity, that we are all connected and interconnected, all interdependent. Humanity cannot make progress without all of us feeling that way. Whatever we do in our own community has an impact – positive or negative – on the rest of the world. Nothing and no one can feel independent of connection with the world. Interconnected global challenges call for far-reaching changes in how we think and act for the dignity of fellow human beings, bringing shared values to life and actively caring for the world.

The study of history prepares us well for the six major global challenges that I believe require advanced global citizenship to find solutions: universal education, economic development, climate change, peace and security, global immigration, and eliminating violence against women and girls. Our historical studies have taught us to think critically and creatively, and the value of a good enquiry-based education is in learning from our shared and distinct histories, utilising our expanding knowledge and in our willingness to contribute and take part in the wider world. Global citizenship is a basic cornerstone for


effective leadership moving toward a sustainable international future.

The world is now our workplace as well as our home, and people from across the globe are now our partners. As ever, our family, neighbors and close community always remain critical, but our field of influence is the globe.

So I would like to leave you with a few questions.

How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
Will ‘ordinary’ be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you are wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you play it safe, or will you be courageous?
When it is tough, will you give up, or will you be resilient?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
Will you dare to take up a major global issue as a global citizen and passionately pursue it?

There is nothing naïve about our impulse to make a better world. Because all it takes is one act of service — one blow against injustice — to start a tiny ripple of hope. Our choices, words and actions can make a difference.

Malala Yousafzai, a young girl from Pakistan, has done more to raise the consciousness around the globe about the importance of education for girls in her country and indeed the world, than any government campaign or a thousand international aid awareness programs could do. Her words “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world” are now immortal.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out and use the critical analysis skills you have learned in this wonderful competition, to think independently and wisely. It is your ability that will hold you in good stead.

Just one word, one act – that is what makes a better world for all of us.


Download NFAW history awards 2017 PDF


Newsletter – Sydney August 2017

This is again a long newsletter but I invite you to skim through the headings that follow, in case there is a subject of particular interest to you at this time….

Dear Friends

Yassmin Abdel-MagiedI was absolutely delighted to meet fellow awardee,  Yassmin Abdel-Magied (photo), in 2014 at the Financial Review/ Westpac inaugural 100 Australian women of excellence ceremony. Yassmin is a Sudanese-Australian who moved to Brisbane when she was almost two years old, a mechanical engineer, author, activist, keynote speaker and part-time radio presenter. She hosted the Australia Wide television program on Saturday mornings on ABC News which was cancelled in May. Yassmin assisted in the establishment of Youth Without Borders, and has held membership in the Council for Multicultural Australia, the Federal ANZAC Centenary Commemoration Youth Working Group, the 2014 Youth G20 Summit, and the Council for Australian-Arab Relations. She was exactly the kind of Muslim that migrants in Australia are constantly told they need to be: a law-abiding citizen who worked hard and adapted to Australian life and mainstream values.
Continue reading “Newsletter – Sydney August 2017”

Newsletter – Sydney June 2017

Dear Friends

I have returned to Australia after a three-week visit to Mexico City, Atlanta and Los Angeles. I was especially pleased to return to Mexico – the birthplace in 1907 of my favourite artist, Frida Kahlo, whose home and museum I visited when at the International Federation of University Women’s biennial conference seven years ago. In addition to being an amazing artist, she has become a feminist icon, particularly for women of colour, LGBTIQ people and women with disabilities. Kahlo had originally hoped to be a doctor, but polio as a child and a traffic accident as a teenager left her with on-going physical injuries and unable to follow her original dream. While recovering, she picked up art, an old hobby from her childhood, and turned her canvases into commentary on gender, race, class, and identity. This painting, The Two Fridas was completed shortly after Kahlo’s divorce with Diego Rivera depicting her two different personalities and her desperation and loneliness after the separation. One is the traditional Frida in Tehuana costume with a broken heart, sitting next to an independent, modern dressed Frida. Later Kahlo and Rivera married again.

This is again a long newsletter but I hope you will skim through the headings that follow in case there is a subject of particular interest to you at this time….
Continue reading “Newsletter – Sydney June 2017”

Newsletter – Sydney April 2017

Dear Friends
I began this letter in New York at this year’s 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations headquarters (CSW 61). Four of us presented a joint paper for a parallel event on Health, Education, Sport and Women’s Empowerment: narratives from Australia, Rwanda and Bangladesh.

My companion presenters were Professor Dr Jaya Dantas from Curtin University, who concentrated on health and education while I spoke briefly on education in Rwanda and Bangladesh and then on sport. Shirley Gillett and her daughter Kat from New Zealand, spoke particularly about the bonding that sport brings to mothers and daughters

The theme of this year’s gathering was Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. We highlighted how education and sport can lead to women’s economic empowerment and improve health and wellbeing for women and their children. If you are particularly interested in CSW and women’s sport read on… If your interest is more generally on world issues affecting women in various countries go to the section starting at Travels in the US
Continue reading “Newsletter – Sydney April 2017”

Newsletter – Sydney Feb 2017

Welcome to my New Year newsletter with warm greetings for a peaceful and prosperous 2017.


A special personal project for me this year is the assignment of depositing my papers for research purposes in the National Library of Australia’s special collections and reader services. After an initial meeting with pictures and manuscripts branch staff, I am now facing the timely but daunting task of sorting through records on my own.

I am currently unearthing treasures from the 1970s-90s that have been stored under my daughter’s house while I was working overseas, relating to various positions and work I was undertaking at the time. Unfortunately, the library can no longer afford internship assistance but have kindly supplied archival folders and manuscript boxes for the various newspaper cuttings, media releases, photos and cards accumulated over the years.

For this first 2017 newsletter, I elaborate on this project and then cover 2016 winners of Shirley Randell scholarships, women in sport, sad news about women’s recent deaths, the Women’s March, the Australia Day billboard, news about women around the world, then Australia, Africa, and the Pacific, finishing with a brief mention of my family in Asia and my travels.
Continue reading “Newsletter – Sydney Feb 2017”

Newsletter – Sydney Dec 2016

Welcome to my Christmas newsletter with warm greetings for happy holidays and a great new year.

A special celebration for me in this quarter was the launch of the book edited by Julie Ankers, ‘Feisty, Fabulous and 50+’, short life stories of women, including mine, and available from Gleebooks and Amazon.

In my semi-retirement I am working with colleagues to refresh my website, Facebook page, and newsletter presentation. In 2017 I expect to send a much shorter letter more frequently.

For this fourth long 2016 newsletter, I have concentrated on women in sport, news about women in Australia, United States, Africa and Asia, and the usual contribution of my family to a brief summary of their year.

Read on if you have the time and the interest.

Continue reading “Newsletter – Sydney Dec 2016”