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.


In my document search I am being pleasantly reminded about my time in the 1970s and 1980s in several positions in Canberra, ranging from the Disadvantaged Schools Program, National Women’s Advisory Council, Equal Opportunity Unit of the Public Services Commission, ACT Schools Authority and the Australian College of Education (ACE – photos of when I was president, firstly with Jean Blackburn, recipient of the College medal, ACT school principals Julie Biles and Cheryl O’Connor at a national education conference, and below with the Australian Governor General Sir Ninian Stephen and Lady Stephen at the opening of the Canberra ACE headquarters). It is always a joy to revisit special memories shared with passionate reformers over the years. Among my Victorian memorabilia are the photos of many wonderful occasions and colleagues who shared various experiences and events in the 1990s, many associated with my time as dean at the Ballarat University College, CEO of the Council of Adult Education, and CEO of the City of Whitehorse.

I am also most grateful to a late dear friend of mine, Val Riseborough, who befriended us when Alan and I were working in a one-teacher school in Dudinin in Western Australia in 1964, and kept every newsletter I had written since 1966, when our family went abroad as volunteers to open the Methodist Teachers College in Papua New Guinea. I sent out monthly SOSs for donations, library books and volunteers to help build facilities, establish the library etc.

It has been great for me to find family photos (Erica’s 21st, 1985) that I am passing on to the children and grandchildren. I have kept records electronically since the early years of this century, and next month I have an appointment to see the National Library’s digital staff – sorting electronic materials in order should be easier.


Shirley Randell Scholarships.

When the students and staff of the Centre of Gender, Culture and Development at the University of Rwanda farewelled me in 2012, my senior lecturer Professor Gertrude Fester announced that she was sponsoring a Shirley Randell scholarship for the Centre’s Master of Gender and Development degree. There have been several donors for this scholarship, including international friends who participated in the two Women and Leadership Study Tours with me in Rwanda, and some people on my newsletter list as well as relatives. Eileen Menton, president of American Association of University Women, Maryland, Jeri Rhodes, president of the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund, New York and Dr Sharon Meagher, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Widener University, Pennsylvania are investigating establishing a Foundation for the Scholarship in USA.

Please let me know if you would like to contribute to this continuing learning opportunity for worthy Rwandan scholars.

Two wonderfully generous Rwandans who worked with me as volunteers to establish the Centre before we attracted funding are now beneficiaries. Josephine Musabyimana , a law graduate and a former deputy mayor of social affairs was the Centre’s volunteer secretary/administrative assistant, graduated, in December after completing a thesis on Community contemporary perceptions of female virginity: A case study of Gasabo District / Kigali City. Prisca Iraguha, an education graduate, teacher and businesswoman was the Centre’s research assistant and is now in her first semester of master’s studies.

The inaugural awardee of the Shirley Randell Social Science Scholarship at my old school, Perth Modern School (PMS) in Western Australia is Orlagh Latawski . Her achievements include being placed second from WA in the Interstate Numero Competition, and in the top three of Tim Winton young Writer’s Competition, when she was presented to the then prime minister, Julia Gillard. At PMS, Orlagh was chosen to attend a three-day leadership camp at Curtin University, was a school ambassador and organised a sleep-out to raise money for Youth of the Streets. She was chosen as the youngest member of the WA Debating League’s team squad and was runner up winner. Orlagh sits on the City of Melville Youth Advisory Council and gave an address at the United Nations Youth Voice competition. Not only was she a conference delegate at Shenton College for Amnesty International she is also a member of the PMS Student Council and seeks a political career – a very worthy champion. I am still waiting to hear the 2016 winner of my International Student award at the Mary White College of the University of New England, Armidale. It is a great pleasure to be involved in acknowledging and supporting these students’ accomplishments at the institutions that have meant so much in my life and career.


Women in Sport.

As ambassador of Women’s International Cricket League (WICL)/FairBreak, an initiative that exists to create education and performance opportunities in sport for women, I was delighted to attend the launch of our partnership with SolarBuddy, an Australian not-for-profit organisation with the goal of ending the devastating cycle of energy poverty for marginalised communities across the world. The photo illuminated by the SolarBuddy lights includes Subba Rao (and Dr Saryu) Varigonda, chair Council of Indian Australians, Geoff Lawson, WICL, Sachin Bajaj, director Cricket Club of India, Simon Doble, CEO SolarBuddy, John Ridge, ED Australian Computer Services (ACS), Kiah Leary, Edinburgh Business School, Brad Duce, Energe, Jackie Lauff, Sports Matters and Jimena De Uria, Symantec. SolarBuddy aims to educate Australian children about energy poverty, renewable energy and global citizenship and to help them to provide safe, reliable and effective solar energy solutions to communities who suffer from the limiting effects of energy poverty. School programs and partnerships connect communities across the globe, combining learning and education with assistance and aid. Nearly 20 percent of the world’s population has no access to electricity and some families spend up to 40 percent of their income on kerosene. Approximately two million children in developing nations die every year from respiratory diseases, many caused by kerosene fumes used for lighting. SolarBuddy lights are easy to assemble, only cost $30 + GST per light, including freight, customs duties and taxes, provide a transformational boost to family income, safety, health and learning and are widely used by the humanitarian agencies including AusAid and UNHCR. At our launch, John Ridge presented 600 SolarBuddies that ACS had sponsored and had been made in one day by students at Hilltop Road Primary School at Merrylands. The lights will go to the Sri Ayyappan School in Bangalore and other communities in India that are off the grid. You may know of a school or business or NGO that would be interested in participating in this program.

Another enjoyable sport function was the Primary Club of Australia’s Sydney Test Match breakfast held at the cricket stadium prior to the Australia versus Pakistan match that began on 3 January. It was a huge pleasure to attend with Caroline Falkiner, honorary secretary of the Club, and Jackie Lauff and Liesl Tesch AM, co-founders of Sports Matters for everyone for life. Liesl is a true inspiration (photo of her with Jackie, Osman Samiuddin, Pakistani journalist, Hon Stuart Ayres MP, NSW Minister for Sport, and Primary Club officials, Rick Glover, Mike Coward and Jim Maxwell). Liesl became an Australian wheelchair basketball player and sailor as an incomplete paraplegic after a mountain bike accident at the age of 19. She competed in her national wheelchair basketball team at five Paralympics, winning three medals, and was the first woman to play the sport professionally. Liesl took up sailing in 2010, winning gold medals at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Paralympics with partner Daniel Fitzgibbon.

The Primary Club is the cricketers’ charity providing sporting equipment and recreational facilities to people with disabilities. Almost $6 million has been raised since 1974 and donated to projects, including playground equipment, balls for blind cricket, horse-riding arenas, hydrotherapy pools and specialized yachts for people with special needs. Each time an Australian cricketer scores a primary (golden duck), members pay a $5 fine or donation to the charities trust. It was also a pleasure to meet the renowned Daphne Benaud (photo with Jackie, Daphne and Caroline) at the event.

In the women’s division, of the 2016 Commonwealth Bank Australian Country Cricket Championships, East Asia-Pacific team (photo) won the tournament final by eight wickets over Victoria Country, securing back-to-back women’s championships. East Asia-Pacific’s, Norma Ovasuru (42 not out) and captain Pauke Siaka (41 not out), both from Papua New Guinea, led their side to victory with an unbroken 98-run stand to chase down Victoria Country’s total of 99. Pauke was named captain of the women’s Australian Country XI. After going through the 2016 ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier, East Asia-Pacific was undefeated, and PNG also dominated the team of the tournament selections with six of their players chosen by selectors. Pauke was named player of the tournament based on umpire votes, and jointly topped the runs scorers with 109 runs at an average of 54.50 and a highest score of 53 not out.

At the Allan Border Medal Ceremony awards this week, Meg Laming, captain of the Southern Stars won the Belinda Clark Award for the Best–performed Woman for a third time, also taking out the inaugural award for Domestic Player of the Year. Laming won the women’s highest cricketing honour after registering 1100 runs for the Southern Stars at an average of 50, including three 100s and five 50s, beating contender Ellyse Perry by eight votes. Victoria and Renegades rising star Sophie Molineux was named the Betty Wilson Young Player of the Year, an award introduced this year to recognise a player aged 24 years or younger who had played 10 or fewer matches before 5 December 2015. The late Betty Wilson, one of Australia’s greatest all-rounders, was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame – she is already in the International Cricket Council Cricket Hall of Fame, one of only six women in history to feature in the ICC list. Wilson, who died in 2010 was the first cricketer – male or female to score 100 and take 10 wickets in a Test in 1958 – including the first hat trick by a woman in that form of the game.

The first edition of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and its all-Sydney final in 2016 changed women’s cricket in Australia. The men and women were on the same stage in the Big Bash finals and Sydney Thunder captains Alex Blackwell and Mike Hussey received the WBBL and BBL trophies together (photo). Placing female cricketers on accessible and flashy platforms, the competition included big hits, impressive feats and plenty of tight finishes. Its intensity produced such high ratings that extra games were broadcast on TV, with many upgraded to mainstream channels. The influence was felt beyond national level too, with the Women’s Cricket Super League in England a result of Australia’s success; the Governor General’s XI introduced as an annual event; a number of young players promoted to debut for the Southern Stars; and the push for better pay resulting in NSW’s team being elevated to professional status. Nevertheless the reporting on the BBL so far in 2017 far exceeds that of WBBL.

The failure of the media to report women’s sport received more publicity following a day recently when there was more coverage of a stomach ache suffered by one male commentator of one men’s sport in the national news than there was for the entire gamut of women’s sports being played. Julie Tullberg who now teaches digital journalism at Monash University, said to sports producer Tracey Holmes on ABC NewsRadio:

“Yeah it’s pretty funny, I covered AFL many years ago for the Australian and I’ve been unwell but when I left the coverage no-one could be bothered writing about what I went through — if I was pregnant, or whatever — but with men, for someone live on air for a big event like a Test match, that’s newsworthy because they have such a large audience”.

Turn on the radio, television, or go online during the ‘summer of sport’ and there are updates galore on cricket, basketball and football (the round-ball variety). But until the commencement of the women’s football matches last week, which attracted record spectator crowds and impressive television ratings you would be excused for thinking only men play these games despite the fact there are concurrent women’s domestic competitions being played. In a country where there are four times as many journalists accredited to cover the AFL than federal politics, sport is a key component of the national culture. The past 18 months or so in Australia have been record breaking for women’s sport – new competitions, new pay deals and a new level of respect from sports bodies themselves. Let’s hope this will extend to day-to-day mainstream media coverage, , as already occurs for tennis.

In other sports news, the Bradman of women’s cricket: former Australian Test cricketer and NSW Women’s captain Joyce Dalton (circled) died aged 83. Joyce played for New South Wales in domestic cricket and in three tests for the Australian Women’s Cricket team in 1958, averaging 34.66 with a top score of 59 not out. In what was another era for women’s cricket, all the players were amateurs and the uniform was somewhat different to that of today!


In Memoriam.

Other deaths recently include pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin, who helped find powerful evidence of dark matter aged 88, and The Star Wars star, Carrie Fisher, aged 60 who was an important role model for women as an artist and as a feminist, because of the work she has done and the examples she set in her own life, giving candid and honest interviews about with her experiences with bipolar disorder and addiction, She provided inspiration and encouragement to the millions of people who struggle with mental illness by reminding us that we can still achieve our dreams. Carrie’s mother, Debbie Reynolds (photo) an American actor, singer, businesswoman, film historian, and humanitarian, died the next day aged 84.

Clare Hollingworth, the British correspondent who broke the news of the Nazi invasion of Poland that marked the beginning of WWII, aged 105 was a determined journalist who defied gender barriers and narrowly escaped death several times. She spent much of her career on the front lines of major conflicts, including in the Middle East, North Africa and Vietnam, working for British newspapers.

Closer to home, I lost a dear friend Margaret Edeson, aged 77 who was a classmate with me at PMS and more recently a lunch companion, despite her ill health, every time I visited Canberra. And Australian author, broadcaster and film-maker Anne Deveson AO, pioneer and social commentator in the mental health industry, the human rights, women’s rights and film and radio industry died aged 86. Anne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and her death came three days after her daughter, novelist Georgia Blain (early photo), died after a long battle with brain cancer aged 52. At this time of my life I must expect such sad bereavements to become more frequent.


The Women’s March.

I joined the Women’s March in Sydney on the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in one of the first of hundreds of solidarity marches in over 30 countries, from Germany to East Timor, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The March was a grassroots movement that went global and was organised in Australia with the support of ActionAid, OzHarvest and Mums for Refugees. It was estimated that as many as 500,000 Americans marched in Washington in what was described as a human rights demonstration of historic proportions. Over 2.2 million more women are estimated to have marched in support in 161 cities across all seven continents and Antarctica. I marched in Sydney (photos) with 3,000 others, a march attended by men and women of all ages as well as children, which closed down Sydney’s city traffic. There were great speeches from singer and songwriter Amanda Palmer; Mariam Veiszadeh, senior manager, Inclusion & Diversity at Westpac Group; Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro; Jane Caro, social commentator; and Tracey Spicer, radio, print and television journalist who chaired the event. The crowd included activist groups for causes such as Aboriginal land rights, gay rights, refugee rights and some unions, and drew support for the rights of women, minorities and immigrants, disabled and LGBTQI women, and female workers. Other marches in Australia’s capital cities also drew huge crowds – Melbourne up to 5,000 and several hundreds in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra.

I marched for women’s rights but many around the world were clearly marching as well against President Trump, despite his legitimate election. Instead of the 50:50 gender cabinet promised by Hillary Clinton, the Cabinet team and staffers that he has nominated to support him do not meet his promise to drain the swamp of the Washington establishment interests, many of whom represent the very special interests and elites he said he would expel.

Most are male, many are untested in public life, and many hold views that are antithetical to the responsibilities they will hold in public office. Exceptions include the appointments of former military men – General Mad Dog’ Mattis as Defence Secretary and General John Kelly as the Homeland Security Chief, and the nominations of Elaine Chao as Transport Secretary and former Governor Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador.

One speaker at the Sydney march drew a strong reaction from the crowd when she talked about the negative comments by some groups about an Australia Day billboard.

The controversial Melbourne billboard, depicting two Australian girls in hijabs celebrating Australia Day, was taken down due to abuse and threats on the advertising company. Advertising guru, Dee Madigan launched a crowd-funding appeal to have the billboard brought back and there was a stunning response. Within two hours on the first day, the GoFundMe appeal had raised $11,500 encouraging Ms Madigan, executive creative director with Campaign Edge, to revise her target of $20,000, to $50,000, and incrementally as donations increased, to raise it to $150,000. The total today stands at over $165,000 and the advertisement will now be featured in full-page newspaper advertisements in capitals in all the nation’s states and territories, and in street posters and billboards around the country.


Women around the world.

Women’s leadership reached a historic milestone in 2016: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May lead two of the world’s top economies. Elsewhere, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, and Janet Yellen, chair of the board of governors of the US Federal Reserve, are in charge of major global financial institutions. This represents a significant shift in gender dynamics in politics and the economy. António Guterres in his previous role as High Commissioner for Refugees, showed great leadership in supporting the cause of refugee education and has made achieving gender parity at the world body a priority of his tenure. He has appointed Nigeria’s environment minister, Amina Mohammed (photo) as his deputy and two other women to key leadership posts. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, a senior Brazilian foreign ministry official, will serve as Guterres’ chief of staff, and Kyung-wha Kang of South Korea has been appointed to the new position of special adviser on policy.

Former refugee Ilhan Omar became America’s first Somali-American Muslim woman legislator after she claimed a strong victory in the Minnesota House race. The 34-year-old moved to the US at the age of 12, after four years living in a Kenyan refugee camp following her escape from the Somali civil war. As well as her political duties, she is director of policy at the Women Organizing Women Network—a group that aims to empower all women, particularly first and second-generation immigrants, to become engaged citizens and community leaders.

After Pope Francis stating that he believed the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women becoming priests is forever and can never be changed, he appointed Barbara Jatta (photo) as the first woman ever to direct the Vatican Museums – the highest-ranking female administrator inside the Vatican. The very old boys club of cardinals and bishop take up most positions of power in the city-state but the Pope, who appointed the first woman deputy spokesperson to the Vatican press office in 2016, has told Vatican officials to start appointing women and lay people to top jobs in the Curia, the Holy See.

The first woman rabbi, Regina Jonas, ordained in Germany in 1935, served the Jewish community of Berlin and continued to help guide the Jewish community after her deportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp – she died in Auschwitz. Since 1972, when rabbinical schools began ordaining women, women rabbis have transformed Jewish life around the world. The Jewish Women’s Archive has exhibited video clips of women rabbis from across the Jewish spectrum telling powerful stories about their role models and leadership styles, their faith and their families, and the challenges and blessings they have encountered along the way.

Rabbi-Elaine-Zecher-Temple-Israel-of-BostonMost recently, Elaine Zecher  became the first female Senior Rabbi of the historic Jewish congregation in the Temple Israel of Boston. She is a teacher, spiritual guide, community leader, platinum caliber mentor, cancer survivor, marathon runner, and mother of three. She is a nationally influential liturgist, whose work has reinterpreted her faith tradition for new generations, drafting and editing the core prayerbooks used daily and on high holy days nationwide in the largest of American Judaism’s streams.


Women in Australia.

Jackie Huggins (photo) Indigenous Australian author, historian, teacher, and beloved community activist of Bidjara Central Queensland and Birri-Gubba Juru North Queensland peoples is a ‘social justice warrior’ fighting the good fight, in style. Her work on reconciliation, Aboriginal rights, gender equality, and education has influenced generations of activists, feminists and community advocates. This celebration of her 60th birthday came on the eve of Breakthrough 2016; a two-day conference in Melbourne centred on the status of gender equality in Australia.

Rosemary Huxtable PSM (photo) is secretary of the Australian Department of Finance. She is responsible for a range of significant services delivered by Finance including supporting the delivery of the Australian Government Budget, oversight of the financial framework of Australian government agencies, shareholder aspects of government business enterprises and the ongoing management of the Australian Government’s non-defence domestic property portfolio and key asset sales.

Deer farmer, food blogger and journalist, Sophie Hansen took out the 2016 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Rural Women’s Award. Her business My Open Kitchen, presents an online learning course which helps local food producers use social media to better connect with their consumers. Kate Palmer was appointed first woman CEO of the Australian Sports Commission after a very successful 10 year stint at Netball Australia.

As I write this, the 45th premier of New South Wales has been elected unopposed, former Deputy Premier and State Treasurer, Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP, just the second woman to run the biggest state. She is the daughter of migrants who came to Australia with limited English as survivors of the Armenian genocide. She signed off on the Government’s signature infrastructure projects, supports marriage equality and is compassionate towards the plight of refugees. The NSW Government agreed to resettle about 6,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees over two years, and the Premier has publicly supported this proactive approach. During her first media conference she was irrelevantly asked, as Julia Gillard had been, about being unmarried with no children. She responded that ‘the closest people in my life are my family’  and they joined her for the government investiture ceremony.


Women in Africa.

I recently learned that just eight men own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population and two people own as much as 20 percent of Australia’s population. With the population of seven southern African countries on the brink of starvation, warnings of potential genocide in South Sudan, and emerging health crises such as Zika taking a heavy toll, 2016 has been a devastating year for some of the world’s poorest countries. The continuing war in Syria and terrorism in the Middle East and around the world are horrific.

However, there has been some significant progress. The ratification of the Paris Climate Change Agreement by 114 countries covering 70 percent of global emissions agreement was a plus. The world has made incredible progress in its efforts to understand, prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, even though progress among the most marginalised and difficult-to-reach populations must be accelerated.

The Ebola vaccine has proved safe and effective in trials (photo). Sri Lanka is the latest country to be declared malaria free. The task of reducing the toll of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, which has 90% of cases and 92% of deaths, is hard and needs more resources The number of women in the world’s poorest countries using modern forms of contraception has jumped by more than 30 million in the past four years, with the most significant progress made in sub-Saharan Africa. Some 64% of women aged between 15 and 49 who are married or living with a partner are now using traditional or modern forms of family planning, up from 36% in 1970. Looking ahead to 2017, there is concern about the shifting aid agenda in the UK, and what the election of President Trump might mean for the developing world. One of the President’s first acts was to sign an executive order to stop funding health organisations that provide abortion advice and this may be only the start of his intentions to wind back the reproductive rights of women. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 21 million women have unsafe abortions in the developing world each year. This accounts for about 13 percent of all maternal deaths. American money has helped 27 million women access contraceptives, thanks to $600 million of funding each year on international assistance for family planning and reproductive health.

UN Women deputy executive director, Lakshmi Puri, together with the Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN, Harald Braun and the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, Téte António, have launched the Women’s Leadership Initiative for Stability in Africa (photo). The two-year initiative, starting in 2017 and generously funded by the Government of Germany, aims to strengthen African women leaders’ capacity to build sustainable peace in the continent. It will establish a network of African women leaders, facilitate their participation in major international and regional events and invest in increasing African women’s participation in national electoral processes, among other measures. As noted by the Global Study on implementation of the UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325, for peace to be sustainable and lasting, women must be included in all stages of the peace process—from prevention to negotiations, dialogue, peace building to recovery. Africa not only subscribes to the provisions of UNSCR 1325, but has also developed other continental instruments, such as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women, commonly referred to as the Maputo Protocol and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. To date, 19 African Union Members States have developed National Action Plans on its implementation. Targeting women in leadership positions in politics, the public sector, business, and civil society and the media, the new initiative will support women in conflict and post-conflict countries in Africa, those involved in building and supporting infrastructures for peace and conflict prevention, as well as those engaged in reconciliation, reconstruction and stabilization processes.


Women in the Pacific.

There are still no women in the Tongan or Vanuatu national parliaments, and the Pacific region has the lowest representation of women in the world, so it is pleasing to see women being recognised in government positions in Tonga. Three women have been appointed to CEO positions for the next four years: Fekita ‘Utoikamanu Tupou, who has been working for many years for regional organizations including the South Pacific Commission and the University of the South Pacific, has assumed duty as CEO of the Ministry of Tourism. Polouini Fa’otusia has been appointed the CEO of Finance and National Planning and takes over from Tatafu Moeaki who has taken up a regional assignment based in Nuku’alofa. Susana Faletau has been appointed to the position of CEO for the Ministry of Justice where she once held the post before her term expired. These women CEOs are in addition to other women already in the top government positions such as ‘Ana Bing Fonua of Internal Affairs, Dr Lia Maka of the Public Service Commission and Dr Palenitina Langa’oi – chief secretary and secretary to Cabinet.

Vietnam and Cambodia.

Vietnam is currently recovering from a crippling drought in the Mekong Delta from late 2015-2016, the worst drought in nearly 100 years, caused in part by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific known as El Niño. I joined eight children and grandchildren on a Christmas holiday visit to Vietnam and Cambodia and we faced the opposite problem with widespread deadly floods that affected the central region of Vietnam – at least 13 people died. Both disasters have humanitarian aid and development assistance issues – improving drinking water safety and hygiene and sanitation practices, providing food aid for the most vulnerable people and dealing with agricultural, roads and school damage. Integrated planning for climate adaptation, especially working with young people who will be the future leaders on these issues, focuses on education as a platform to raise awareness about climate change, and stresses the importance of including adaptation in curriculum, such as new forms of irrigation, new types of seeds and plant awareness. Medium-to-long-term strategies are just as important as immediate relief and equipping communities with the tools, knowledge and mechanism to adjust to a new normal.

We had a splendid time together on an itinerary organised by longstanding friends, Dianne Longson (ex Rwanda) for Vietnam and Dr Vin McNamara (ex PNG in the 60s!) in Cambodia, only slightly dampened by the floods in central Vietnam, but this was also an adventure, wading through water and realising again that we are so fortunate to live in Australia. Our experiences visiting the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia brought memories of our visits to the genocide memorials in Rwanda. Over 15,000 prisoners were detained in the compound during the Pol Pot regime from 1975 to 1979. The Democratic Kampuchea is estimated to have claimed well over 1 million lives– through execution, starvation and disease – as the Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia back to the middle ages. The Museum is engaging with the country’s harrowing past and establishing a dialogue of social reconciliation and healing for the country. The Cambodian Minister of Culture stresses the need for education to respect and protect cultural diversity which he maintains is necessary for the survival of Cambodia, as are the government policies on ethnic and religious groups and their freedom to express their culture and practice their custom and religions.

I will be travelling on 11 March to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women’s 61st meeting (UNCSW61). Professor Dr Jaya Dantas and I last presented together at the Graduate Women International General Assembly in August (photo) and we will be again be presenting a parallel session in New York, this time on how education and sport can lead to women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and improve health for women and families. WEE is a global policy priority as it contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals. WEE allows women equal access to and control over economic resources, and leads to increased investments in children’s education and health, and reduces household poverty.

Economic empowerment is possible through education and entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs challenge gender norms, inspire and act as role models. Similarly, sport builds leadership, self-esteem, and courage in women. The cascade effect of sport, continues off the field and women become physically stronger, and healthier and develop skills of teamwork, physical and social development. Sport challenges gender stereotypes, brings together women from different cultures, and promotes respect.

We will present narratives from Australia, Rwanda and Bangladesh on empowerment through education, health and sport, speaking in New York – UNCSW61 on 15 March;  Washington – Women’s National Democratic Club on 20 March; Norfolk – Old Dominion University on 22 March; and Cuba – National Institute of Public Health on 27 March in New York, Washington, Norfolk and Cuba, returning to Australia on 31 March.

Please let me know if you are on our route and we could speak at a university, VGIF, WG-USA or AAUW group along the way.

And finally, a quote by Dr Jane Goodall (photo), British primatologist, ethnologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace to close this newsletter:

“You can’t get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”


Blessings of love, joy and peace for 2017



10 Replies to “Newsletter – Sydney Feb 2017”

  1. Great Shirley
    This is the first time I read your News Letter I appreciate your commitment to the cause
    All the Best for 2017
    Warm Regards
    Rekha Monani

  2. I’m exhausted just READING about all of this! It is a delight to learn of your continuing involvement with the causes for which you have devoted so much of your time and energy. You are a true hero and an inspiration to many. “Long may you wave!”

  3. Shirley, it’s great hearing from you. The newsletter is simply wonderful! It carefully documents the very giant strides you have taken to ensure a better lot for girls and women across the globe. Bravo. The scholarship scheme is certainly a brilliant idea. I’m already involved in that of my NGO, Educational Foundation for African Women(EFAW) but will keep it in mind. God bless.

  4. I am happy to read your newletter. I am always impressed by your courage, your time management and the way you keep recording everything. Congratulations to the initiative of scholaship for Rwandans…. Happy to learn that Josephine and Prisca are the beneficiaries. Blessings

  5. Thank you Shirley for continuing to include me on your letter list. The past year or so has been more than stressful for women in the USA and it doesn’t look as if it will improve anytime soon. You letter is uplifting and most encouraging about women around the world and certain made my day. Will share with others. Sorry to miss you on your March visit. Please know we would welcome you here in Arizona whenever you can come our way.

  6. Thank you Shirley! I have really enjoyed reading your newsletter, the first for me! (We met at the Australian Federation of Graduate Women in the Southern Highlands and also when I gave a talk on war brides at The Women’s Club last year.)

    I am most interested to hear of your new project for this year, to deposit your papers for research purposes with the National Library of Australia. It certainly must be a daunting task for you as you have had so many interests and projects over the years!

    I am also hoping that the NLA might be interested in my much smaller collection of papers resulting from my study on Australian WWII War Brides for my PhD in 2010 and the book which I published in 2013. I am still receiving letters and memorabilia from war brides and their families and feel that the NLA is the best place to deposit these treasures. I must say the photo of your desk makes me feel better, as mine is in a similar state, although probably not nearly as organised! I wish you all the best for this project as I know it will be a most significant and useful resource for future researchers.

    I look forward to receiving your next newsletter.

  7. Thank you for the link. I enjoyed reading your latest news letter which is my first one to read. Thank you for updating us how we women are coming up holding high offices around the world. In Vanuatu we still have a long way to go but hopefully we will make a difference in 2020 for the parliament. We are striving for a change.

  8. Thanks Shirley,
    I enjoyed reading through your latest newsletter. Thank you for getting in touch during your brief visit to Noumea late last year. It was lovely to catch up. I missed out on commenting on your previous newsletter as I only just got round to reading it.
    All the best for 2017.

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