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.
Women in Sport.
As an Ambassador for the Women’s International Cricket League I have taken a renewed interest in sport as a powerful opportunity for girls and women to build their self-esteem, courage and agency, and accelerate leadership development.
This month I was in Canberra with CEO Shaun Martyn talking with ministries and departments, including Maxine Sells, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, about support for our FairBreak documentary series (photo).
Cricket is the fastest growing women’s participation sport in the world. The Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars made history yet again, claiming the inaugural International Cricket Council Women’s Championship. Since its 3-0 series win over Pakistan in August 2014, Australia has completed series’ wins over West Indies, England, India, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, dropping just three matches along the way. They were successful against South Africa while the men’s cricket team floundered. Captain Meg Lanning has been the leading batter for Australia with 1000 runs to date in the Championship, including four centuries and a highest score of 135 not out. All-rounder Ellyse Perry is the second-highest scorer with 797 runs, while spinner Jess Jonassen has been the most successful bowler with 29 wickets.
At the national level, Cricket Australia announced in April that Australian-contracted women players would earn a minimum of $80,000 plus match fees – a small move towards parity. This compares with the minimum that a male Australian-contracted player earns of $260,000 a year. One cricket team in New South Wales, the Lendlease Breakers has become the country’s first domestic women’s team to be fully professional following a landmark deal with Lendlease to expand its sponsorship and ensure cricket women are paid as full-time employees.
This could become a national trend to move sportswomen to a level playing field giving women and men the same chance to succeed. Each player will earn at least $35,000, the national minimum wage, with some earning more than $100,000. This is not much when compared with what the men are earning, but it is a start. The new deal also ensures female players receive a travel allowance when playing interstate, income protection insurance, coverage for out-of-pocket medical expenses and an allowance to pay for a carer for a child under 12 months. The move is the latest in a series of announcements to see women getting paid in sport.
In other sports, Netball Australia has announced that its players in the new national league would see their minimum wage doubled to $27,375. The Australian Football League set a minimum wage of just $5,000 for players in its new Women’s Football League, but following widespread ridicule and negotiations has raised this. In year one, marquee players will be paid $27,000, the next tier of players will receive $12,000 and the remaining listed players will be paid $8,500, with all three tiers rising in the second year. While the numbers are significantly lower than those in the men’s game where the average salary exceeds $300,000, it is a big step forward towards getting to a position where the women players are considered and looked after equal to the men. Australian women will sadly miss renowned sports journalist Rebecca Wilson, who died from breast cancer at the age of 54 and was a brilliant advocate for women’s sport. She has been awarded a posthumous Walkley award for ‘her constant drive to challenge conventions and pave the way for young sports reporters’.
At just 22 years old, Tyler Wright has finished her maiden world championship year as the 2016 women’s world surf champion after her win at the World Surf League event in Hawaii, the seventh Aussie woman to rule the surfing world: “My inspiration for this year has been learning…learn quickly, learn on the fly and then change and adapt”. Tiffany Thomas Kane, one of our youngest athletes at the Rio Paralympics, claimed gold and broke the world record in the women’s 100m breaststroke for competitors of short stature. Gold-medal rower Kim Brennan took out the Sportswoman of the Year Award at the 2016 Women’s Health I Support Women in Sport Awards. With her husband, Kim spent some of her honeymoon in Zambia recently as ambassadors for a clean water project sponsored by World Rowing, also teaching local children how to row. Michelle Payne, the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup has been named the first woman jockey to ever win the Don Award at the annual Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
In Netball, West Coast Fever’s Caitlin Bassett won the 2016 Sport Award in the Western Australian of the Year Awards, sharing the title with Fremantle Dockers’ AFL player Nat Fyfe. Bassett was honoured for helping guide West Coast Fever to their maiden Championship finals series, becoming the first player to score 600 goals in a single season, securing her second World Championship with the Australian Diamonds, being crowned the Liz Ellis Diamond as Netball Australia’s Player of the Year and becoming the first Australian, and second player in history, to score 4000 goals in the Championship. The global soccer governing body FIFA has appointed New Zealander Sarai Bareman as its first ever Chief Women’s Football Officer, a former player on the Samoan women’s national soccer team and deputy secretary general of the Oceania Football Confederation. Moya Dodd, a former Matilda’s vice-captain, board member of Football Federation Australia, the International Council for the Arbitration of Sport, and the first female vice president of The Asian Football Confederation, was selected as the Top 100 Woman of Influence in the 2016 Australian Financial Review/Westpac 100 Women of Influence awards. She is one of only three women to have served on the FIFA executive committee, leading the ‘Women in FIFA’ campaign for gender equality during the recent reform process.
It is wonderful to see some of our amazing women athletes giving back to the community like champion surfer Layne Beachley with her Aim for the Stars Foundation that inspires and empowers girls and women to achieve their goals.
Her dream is to award 100 scholarships for sisSTARs every year. I attended her Director Institute-sponsored Women’s Leadership Forum focusing on ‘being resilient, knowing who you are and what you want, and not being afraid to go for it!’ Brilliant speakers included our first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard (photo) who, like another speaker, Elizabeth Broderick, is now on the world stage working internationally for girls’ education as senior fellow of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education and chairwoman of the Global Partnership for Education.
Women in Australia.
In other Australian news, the recent World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index revealed that global pay parity is another 170 years away and Australia slipped from 36th on gender equality on the list in 2015 to 46th place, one place behind the US, well behind every country in Europe, and significantly lagging on other parts of the world including Rwanda, New Zealand and Mozambique. We have managed a steady ten-year decline since taking out the 15th spot in 2006.
A recent McKinsey study found that if countries increased their national female participation rates to match the best in their region it could add USD12 trillion (£9.9tn), or 11%, to the world economy by 2025. Current trajectories towards gender equality will not get us the world we want. According to McKinsey’s estimates, it will take another 50 years to achieve gender parity in politics, 118 years for parity in women’s participation in the economy, and 95 years to reach parity in girls’ lower secondary education for the poorest 20%.
We must improve the pace of change, knowing that increased clarity and integrity of planning and action comes from hard facts and data. Thirteen women from all three parties took their place in the ACT Legislative Assembly, presenting the first-ever female majority for an Australian parliament (photo). The Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in his first statement to the ninth Legislative Assembly: “It should be acknowledged and celebrated that this is the first time in Australian political history that a parliament has more women than men. This represents another first for the ACT, something that we can all be proud of,” he said. “By reflecting the diversity of our community I’m confident that together we can serve them better”.
At local government level, NSW has had six premiers and the nation six prime ministers in the time the City of Sydney has had one Lord Mayor Clover Moore, elected again for the fourth time since 2004. Darriea Turley, Mayor of Broken Hill, received an Edna Ryan award that celebrates women who make a difference, as the extraordinary first woman to hold this position in 133 years.
Justice Susan Kiefel is to be the next Chief Justice of the High Court, the first woman to occupy the position after 113 years since the establishment of Australia’s High Court. Women’s exclusion from legal and political power for much of last century makes Kiefel’s appointment all the more significant. Women will now have been in roles at the peak of each of the branches of government – as prime minister, Commonwealth attorney general and governor-general. Women now hold 40% of the seats on federal government boards after a slight decline over the previous two financial years, but that is still a long way from the government’s new 50-50 target.
Veteran television presenter Virginia Haussegger will leave the ABC to head up the University of Canberra’s 50/50 by 2030 Foundation dedicated to increasing the number of female policymakers in government and public sector leadership in Australia.
Indigenous leader Andrea Mason, the chief executive of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council, who runs an organisation that works across a 350,000 square kms area of a remote part of the Northern Territory helping to empower women and their families has been awarded Australian Businesswoman of the Year: “I found myself in the organisation where I’m in the right position at the right time, and doing the right work with the right people.” Karlie Noon, a Kamilaroi woman from Tamworth is the first Indigenous graduate in New South Wales to obtain a double degree in science and mathematics at the University of Newcastle and will go on to study Indigenous astrology – UoN has 1000 Indigenous students, 3.5% of its student population.
The top award for fiction writing at this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary award has been shared by two women, Lisa Gorton for her novel, ‘The Life of Houses’ and Charlotte Wood, for her work ‘The Natural Way of Things’. Professor Jean Armstrong, Australia’s first female engineering lecturer, who has long pioneered a path for women in engineering, has been awarded the prestigious Mountbatten Medal for her outstanding contribution to the promotion of electronics and their application. Susan Pascoe AM, inaugural Commissioner for the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission has won the top Chartered Accountants Australian and New Zealand honour at the Leadership in Government Awards for her work building stronger economies, stable nations and stronger communities
Women in the United States.
The US Presidential election result, although a close race, was a disappointment to many women around the world with Hillary Clinton the subject of stereotyped criticism from tone of voice, to stamina, to what a leader ‘looks’ like, to how the media covers gender. Women did not make gains in Congress either, with the number of women remaining unchanged at a low 19 per cent. This is less than the global average of women in parliament, also too low at 23 per cent in 2016. Nevertheless, America got closer than ever before to electing its first woman President and millions of young girls across the country and indeed the world have been empowered to dream even bigger and see no role as out of their reach.
We also lost the opportunity to see the first woman appointed as Secretary General of the United Nations, with the Security Council choosing the former prime minister of Portugal, António Guterres to serve as the ninth UN Secretary-General. Despite months of campaigning and the hope that the organisation would select its first ever woman leader, it did not eventuate. This role is one of many at the UN from which women are routinely excluded. In 2015, eight out of ten top jobs at the UN went to male candidates. Of the 15 current members of the Security Council, only one – the United States – has a woman ambassador. One bright spot is Kristalina Georgieva, vice president of the European commission and a former head of EU humanitarian affairs, joining the World Bank as its CEO.
Diversity drives success by bringing different perspectives to bear on the world’s greatest challenges and to achieve that diversity we need women in the highest positions. Ellen DeGeneres was presented with a Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given in the US (photo). Both she and President Barack Obama were visibly overcome as he described the enormity of Ellen’s coming out: “It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago. How important it was, not just to the LGBT community but to all of us, to see somebody so full of kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, somebody who could be our neighbour or our colleague or our sister, challenge our own assumptions, remind us that we have more in common than we realise, push our country in the direction of justice,” he said.
Women in Africa.
Historically, women in West Africa have not had a voice. Men decide if their wives can use birth control or have access to money; fathers decide if their daughters will stay home from school, marry young, or undergo female genital mutilation. Typically, the outcomes of these decisions tend not to benefit the women but this is changing. The United Nations Population Fund has launched the School for Husbands program in Niger as a means of educating men on all things related to gender equality. Community leaders convene with village chiefs to identify ten ‘model husbands’ who have the willingness, drive, and progressive point of view required to learn about modern-day practices like family planning, birth spacing, and discontinuation of domestic abuse. They learn about reproductive and maternal health, gender equality, genital mutilation and cutting, and other issues that adversely affect women and girls and meet weekly to spread the word in an effort to bring other men on board and real change in the arenas of maternal, infant, and women’s health. There are now more than 1200 husband schools in session across West Africa, with most villages seeing promising results. Women and men throughout the community are all benefiting from the engagement of men and boys in becoming champions for women and girls.
Women in Asia.
Official figures show that 550 million people – nearly half of India’s billion plus population – defecate in the open. The fact that more people have access to mobile phones than toilets invited much ridicule about misplaced priorities. The credit for Dhamtari, home to 800,000 people, to become the first district in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh to be declared free from open defecation is being given to Kunwar Bai Yadav, a woman who claims to be 105, and sold her only assets – a few goats – to build a toilet at her home, an example then followed by everyone in her village. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has bowed before her and touched her feet to express his appreciation for her work.
For those of you who know my family, I am including the comments of family members on their year. Doug and Julie celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this year, cruising around New Zealand. Doug took up a new position as Senior Medical Officer for Aspen Corporate Health in September in Canberra and is enjoying the travel medicine side of the work. Julie has continued her involvement with Raey School in Addis Ababa, and travels regularly visiting friends and family. Raey school has now been going for ten years, and this year Julie was able to work with the primary classes as well as her kindergarten classes during summer school, growing gardens, flying kites, and putting on the play ‘Handa’s Surprise’. Both Doug and Julie have enjoyed ongoing involvement with YWAM medical ships and its primary health care work in Papua New Guinea. Nathan completed his Honours degree in International Security Studies at the Australian National University with Distinction and will travel to the US to spend Christmas with his wife Kaylin who is still applying for her visa to join him in Australia.
Andrew and Vicky have had a busy year with rowing and family responsibilities. After their coaching in Rio and Europe they enjoyed their month with Vicki’s families in England and came back to juggling their full lives with the assistance of Kayla Sampson, a Canadian au pair who is now well and truly part of their Canberra household. Andrew has been appointed Men’s Senior Coach at the Reinhold Batschi Men’s National Training Centre and Vicky has accepted a coaching role at Radford College in 2017. Beatrix turns three on New Year’s Day and attends day care two days a week (photo). She has an inquisitive personality and loves her dogs and playtime. Matilda recently turned one and is almost up and about on her own. Emilia has completed another year working as one of three fulltime carers for a family of six Syrian children whose parents were killed in a bomb blast in late 2014. She has completed her second year of university studies in Gender and Development, the same course her aunty Ellen is studying. Harry has successfully completed his teaching degree at Sydney University and will graduate early next year. He loves his rugby and is hoping for a solid injury-free season in 2017 while continuing coaching rugby and rowing at The King’s School. Isabella has completed her second year of pharmacy at Sydney University and works part time in the Pharmacy shop across the road from home and also for a friend’s cleaning business.
The Griffiths family has had a good year. Ellen has also taken on a new role as Women’s Senior Coach at the Hancock Prospecting Women’s National Training Centre, which is starting up in Penrith, completing many years as head women’s coach at the University of Technology Sydney. Adam’s business continues to be successful; he has spent another year as treasurer at St David’s Uniting Church and is now playing in the Inner West Concert Band, which he is loving. Jess is finishing year 10 and choosing her HSC subjects and Alicia is completing year 8. Both girls have continued dance this year and performed in their yearly dance exams and various concerts and events. They are all looking forward to the family holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia in December.
Erica and Ian have had a very full year. After graduating PhD from the University of Western Australia Erica spent much of the year working as head curator and project manager for a six months Aboriginal art exhibition at Monaco. Ian worked on his new book Rattling Spears: A history of Indigenous Art that was launched early August. Highlights of their year included a couple of weeks in South Africa around a conference in Johannesburg and Capetown, introducing grand daughter Mila to her first horse rides during a family visit to Bundanoon, and Ian’s research trips to Yirrkala and Yuendumu for a new Australian Research Council project. In Melbourne, Lena has enjoyed the challenge of a new job as solicitor for a workers’ union in Melbourne, Paris is now half way through his Master of Law degree while staying active in art history, and Inci has achieved straight HDs for his Computer Studies this year. Levi is enjoying visual arts at UWA and continuing with his work as DJ and barrister in Perth.
Alan and Judy have had a year based at home in South Australia for successful medical treatment and are travelling interstate again now.
I am thoroughly enjoying my semi-retirement in Sydney with the opportunity to travel regularly to Canberra and Bundanoon, and spend time with our children and grandchildren as well as with friends. It is also wonderful to see movies (with Lyn Casey), visit art galleries, experience performances of the Australian Chamber Orchestra (with Rita Avdiev and Erica), Sydney Chamber Choir (with Sandra Gamble) and Australian Ballet Company (with Ellen, Jess, Alicia and Bella), and functions like the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards and Women World Changers Summit.
I hear fabulous speakers at these events, The Women’s Club, the Rotary Club of Sydney, the Zonta Sydney Breakfast Club, and other associations. I am continuing my interesting voluntary work for not-for-profit boards, councils and committees, especially evaluating international projects for Graduate Women International and indigo foundation. It has been the quarter for their annual general meetings that has taken me to Brisbane, Bowral, Mosman and Sydney city, including to Canberra in a new position as Council member of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia. In Brisbane I shared a birthday celebration with niece Ranjeny Thomas, John Loneragan and family. I was pleased to give a keynote speech, ‘A case study of Rwanda’ at the Australian College of Educators 2016 National Conference on Changes and challenges: The power of education to build the word to which we aspire. I will be travelling overseas with the Griffiths family and three other grandchildren for the last two weeks of the year, on an itinerary organised by long-standing friends – Dianne Longson in Vietnam and Dr Vin McNamara in Cambodia. Erica will join us for the visits to Phnom Penh and the temples of Angkor Wat.
At my brother Bob’s invitation I shared a cabin with him and his friend Joy for the Bravo Cruise of Performing Arts on The Radiance of the Seas. What a feast of music we enjoyed for that week while sailing up to New Caledonia and back (an opportunity to meet again with Tione Chinula and her daughters). There were splendid evening performances by Dame Kiri Te Kawana, David Hobson, Marina Prior, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Cheryl Barker, Peter Coleman-Wright, AlexandrIa Flood, Richard Fidler, Rachel Beck, Simon Tedeschi, Antonio & Kate Villano, Guy Noble and the Metropolitan Orchestra, the Idea of North and daily musical, choral and orchestral groups in every corner of the ship. I loved singing in Jonathan Welch’s choir and hope to find and join a choir in Sydney next year. As if we had not had a surfeit of music we celebrated Bob’s 78th birthday at My Fair Lady in the Opera House. It was a great pleasure to have Bob and Joy share my one-bedroom apartment and to welcome others, including cousin Lindsay Roberts from the UK, niece Kate, John and Meg Beeson from Perth and friends TJ Gaya and Dr Helene and Mark Berman from Canada whom I first met in Rwanda, and Dr Hilary Yerbury. I am looking forward to the New Year when I plan to unpack my Rwanda and Bangladesh artworks and treasures and to add more cabinets to accommodate my collections
“When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service into the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully…Don’t settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Have faith in yourself”
Wishing you happy holidays and blessings of love, joy and peace in the New Year