Newsletter – Sydney December 2018

Dear friends

My Christmas newsletter is late after a flurry of activities over the last two months. At 78, I am finding that obituaries for relatives, friends and people I have admired for many years are becoming more frequent and I begin with a tribute to Dr Bonita Mabo, known as the ‘Matriarch of Reconciliation’ and the ‘Mother of Native Title’.

Other news of First Nations people is followed by recognition of the 2018 Nobel prizes, then my usual round-up of women’s progress around the world. I end with more family news than usual for those readers who have followed my children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Again, it is a long letter but please use the links below to go quickly to the items that might interest you.

First Nations News  2018 Nobel Prizes  Politics Women in Australia Women in The World Sport Obituaries Family

Dr Bonita Mabo AO, the Indigenous and South Sea Islander rights activist who died at the age of 75 is remembered as a tireless campaigner. She was a Malanbarra woman and a descendant of Vanuatuan workers brought to Queensland. The widow of Edward ‘Koiki’ Mabo, whom she fought alongside for Indigenous land and sea rights, Dr Mabo worked for a decade on the Central Queensland Land Council. The Mabo case was legally significant in Australia because it ruled the lands of this continent were not ‘terra nullius’ or ‘land belonging to no-one’ when European settlement occurred. The Federal Court of Australia found the Meriam people, traditional owners of the Murray Islands, were ‘entitled against the whole world to possession’ of the lands. The case paved the way for the Native Title Act of 1993. In the early 1970s, Dr Mabo co-founded Australia’s first Indigenous community school, the Black Community School in Townsville, working there as a teachers’ aide.

Raising ten children, Dr Mabo worked nights at a prawn factory while Eddie worked as a gardener at James Cook University during the many years that they spent fighting the native title court case. 

Over 45 years of campaigning, Dr Mabo empowered countless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to speak from the heart and stand up for what they believe in. Member of Parliament Linda Burney said, Dr Mabo was “One of the great First Nations women of our time, fighting ’til the very end for the great truth of this nation.” Indigenous Western Australian Senator Pat Dodson said that Dr Mabo’s death marked “the reconciliation of two proud Australian souls, a loving couple who have made our country a better place, a more harmonious place and a more reconciled nation… I think Australia needs to honour people like Mrs Mabo who stood, to some degree, in the shadows of her husband, but who was the backbone and the steel that helped him and many others to continue the struggles.”

Other First Nations News

“We got our country back”, said traditional owner Jimmy Wavehill, who lives in Kalkarindji, and helped his Wubalawun family to lodge an official claim seven years ago that has been finally recognised by the Federal Court of Australia. For 18 years, the Wubalawun people have fought to gain native title rights over one square kilometre of land in the township of Larrimah in the central Top End. It was an historic day, the Northern Land Council said, as the case represented for the first time in the Northern Territory both parties had agreed that evidence of an Aboriginal economy in the area, prior to white settlement, should be part of the Court’s determination. Elders hope the younger generation will now be able to move into the town and take control of the economy.

A little over a year ago, a 41-year-old Aboriginal woman lay on the dusty pavement by the Stuart Highway in Alice Springs near the Todd River. She had been savagely beaten and stabbed in her legs and lower back by her ex-partner. After the attack she had been taken to hospital. A brief story in the local newspaper said it was an ‘unprovoked’ assault that police had described as being of a ‘domestic nature’. A few days later, the newspaper’s front-page story declared it was time to ‘stop the tragedy in the Todd’. 

For just a moment, the victim’s distraught family and friends thought the newspaper was launching a campaign to end violence against Aboriginal women.  But no. The ‘tragedy’ was the infestation of the Todd River with buffel grass – a weed – like it was a tragedy, and the campaign was a call for locals to get behind a new land care group. Local woman Shirleen Campbell said, “We felt so much anger for us women. As Aboriginal women, we are good women. We deserve to be taken seriously.”

This anger galvanised an extraordinary group of Indigenous women: the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group with Campbell as coordinator. The women, aged between 18 and 65, are residents of the town camps in Alice Springs, some of the most socially disadvantaged communities in Australia, and every woman has a personal experience of family violence. Some have been surrounded by violence, witnessed it, survived it. Others have lost aunties and grandmothers and mourn them still. Tangentyere’s Family Violence Program includes family violence case workers, social and youth work, a men’s behaviour program, education access, and emergency relief. It also includes a construction company, an aged care service and social-enterprise art gallery. Skilled staff run a night patrol service that picks up town camp residents and people visiting from remote communities who may be heavily intoxicated, and drives them home or to suitable accommodation. This keeps them out of the justice system and reduces the risk of violence.

Human Rights Commissioner June Oscar AO said every Social Justice Commissioner over 25 years has highlighted the need for constitutional reform to address the ongoing human rights concerns faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “Each process — the native title and social justice package of 1995, the reconciliation process to 2000, and the last eight years of debate on constitutional reform — has provided the same answers. Each time, four complementary actions have been identified: a representative voice for Indigenous peoples, constitutional reform, truth telling processes, and an agreement or treaty-making framework”. Oscar said Commissioners are hoping their latest submission for Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices), based on more than two decades of advocacy, will offer a pathway forward for strong political leadership to address the unfinished business in this country. In similar vein, Melanie Mununggurr-Williams from Darwin dropped a stunning slam on Aboriginal identity at the Sydney Opera House and was crowned champion of the 2018 Australian Poetry Slam National Final.

Louise Taylor has been appointed Australian Capital Territory’s first Aboriginal magistrate. She is the former Deputy CEO of the Legal Aid Act, has spent 15 years as a lawyer in the ACT, and becomes the eighth permanent magistrate sitting on the Magistrates Court. Taylor said during her speech that the appointment “feels a weighty responsibility, as it should…I won’t ever forget how hard it can be to be an advocate, the courage it can require, and the toll it can take”. She spoke of the importance of visible Indigenous leaders, noting the mantra that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” A Kamilaroi woman, Taylor has chaired the Women’s Legal Centre ACT for over a decade, is an Associate of the University of New South Wales Indigenous Law Centre, and member of the Indigenous Legal Issues Committee of the Law Council of Australia. She is a former specialist family violence prosecutor.

2018 Nobel Prizes

Nadia Murad won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Dr Denis Mukegwe. At 19 she lost her home, her country – Iraq, her culture, her mother to murder; witnessed male members of her family murdered in mass killings; and was kidnapped, sold and endlessly raped by members of ISIS. She now travels the world speaking out on the genocide being inflicted on her Yezidi people and demanding release for the more than 3,000 women still held in bondage. She was recognized for the immense courage she bares advocating for the end of sexual violence as a weapon of war. By sharing her own story and experiences and calling for accountability, Murad works to raise awareness and ignite change in an effort to ensure that no woman or girl endures what she did in the face of imperial, political, sexual violence and genocide. 

Dr Denis Mukwege is a brilliant and compassionate surgeon, the Director of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the President of the Panzi Foundation, a pastor, and an activist. For 20 years, he has worked with the deepest vision and love to heal women’s bodies that have been ravaged by rape and war. He has travelled the world in their name, demanding an end to impunity and for international pressure to end the conflict in the DRC, and making sexual violence in conflict zones an issue that can no longer be denied. Despite having survived an assassination attempt in October 2012, Dr Mukwege risks his life daily, continuing to perform surgeries, teaching comprehensive sexuality education at the City of Joy – the revolutionary centre for women survivors of gender violence in DRC, and advocating for an end to the conflict in Congo. 

Out of 550 Nobel prizes awarded for science over the years, only 16 have been for female laureates including three who were members of the International Federation of University Women, now Graduate Women International: Marie Curie (twice for physics and chemistry – discovering plutonium and radium), her daughter, and Barbara McLintock. This year half of the 2018 Nobel prize for Chemistry was awarded to Frances Arnold. In 1993, she conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, the proteins that catalyse chemical reactions. Since then, she has refined the methods now routinely used to develop new catalysts. The uses of Arnold’s enzymes include more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector.


Australia. Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews has created history appointing three new women and an historic 50% female cabinet. It is a decisive and encouraging move from the Labor party, which just secured another four years in government following a landslide result. The government’s ‘equality agenda’ is an emphatic stand against issues like gender-based violence, the gender pay gap, and women’s social inequality. Funding has been announced to help parents and employers better navigate pregnancy, parental leave, and return to work. The government has advocated, “Putting a dollar figure on unpaid domestic and care work means we can actually value it. When we value unpaid work, it’s more likely we’ll share it”.

It has taken five years and been put off a number of times, but Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard has had her official portrait unveiled in Canberra. Hanging among a long list of portraits depicting men, she wants it to symbolise just how long it took for Australia to get a female PM. The portrait was shared in front of both Labor and Coalition MPs and visitors to witness the new artwork. Gillard said she had a “few mixed emotions” about getting the portrait done, and that her time in Parliament House had always been about “purpose”. Gillard added that it is difficult for portraits to capture a prime minister’s time in the job, especially the “sleepless nights” and overseas trips involved, but pointed to her achievements, including establishing the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Gillard was also in Parliament House to be with 800 survivors of sexual abuse for the national apology. Her last act as prime minister was to order a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. Frank, who kissed Gillard’s feet, was a former student at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat. His abuser was Robert Claffey, now jailed, one of several priests from that place who casually broke the children in his care with vile abuse. “I’m not a Labor person,” he said, “But I always said, if I ever see Julia Gillard, I will drop to my knees and kiss her feet. Our unmarried, deliberately barren, atheist female prime minister has done more to protect the safety and welfare of children into the future than all the other prime ministers combined”.

Independent Professor Kerryn Phelps won the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth, previously held by ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on a campaign of decency, humanity, compassion, integrity and common sense that does matter to many Australian voters. Politicians can ignore this at their peril. It breathes an unexpected wave of hope into Australian politics that perhaps things do not have to be the way they are; that change is perhaps possible; and that perhaps, the moment is ripe for that change to be led by women. Phelps herself captured this in her victory speech when she said: “Any young people, any women, any aspiring Independents out there – if you are thinking of running for parliament or running for public office: yes, it can be tough, yes, the road can be hard, but it is so worthwhile that we have the right people stepping up to represent Australia.”

Dr Neela Janakiramanan and Dr Sara Townend have been working on a grassroots campaign calling to urgently evacuate critically ill children and families from Nauru. Within weeks they collected the signatures of more than 5500 doctors in Australia along with more than 250 organisations, including over a dozen medical colleges and societies representing every major medical specialty. There is a health crisis affecting those held in indefinite offshore detention – the result of a system of punishment that has severe psychological impact. Australian Medical Association President, Tony Bartone has condemned the growing health crisis affecting refugees and asylum seekers in Nauru. Phelps introduced a bill in Parliament to bring children and their families to Australia for medical treatment if two doctors agree they are in danger. Sadly, the government rose for the year before this could pass.

Kelly O’Dwer, Minister for Women has announced that six Commonwealth of Australia portfolios have reached or exceeded the 50% target for women on public service boards and a further four are within only five percentage points of meeting the target. With over 53% of appointments in 2017-18 going to women, compared to only 46% the year before, the overall figures at the end of June this year had men occupying 54% of the seats. This is the closest to the overall goal of gender parity since the government started reporting the statistics. O’Dwer said, “We know that the different perspectives women bring to the decision-making process can have a positive impact on the outcomes delivered.” The Victorian government proudly reported in August that three years after switching from aspirational targets to mandatory quotas, women now occupy 53% of seats on Victorian public sector boards.

The Federal Government has passed Australia’s first Modern Slavery Act showing its commitment to tackling modern slavery and promoting corporate transparency. The law requires companies with a turnover of more than $100 million to report on their efforts to address modern slavery, often affecting women and girls, in their operations and global supply chains. It also holds the Commonwealth Government to account on its modern slavery risks. Professor Rosalind Croucher, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission said, “This landmark legislation is an historic step in addressing modern slavery and I commend the Government on this initiative. We now know that modern slavery is commonly ‘hidden in plain sight’ – this new law will assist in making the invisible visible… Now that the law has been passed through Parliament, the real hard work begins. The Commission looks forward to working with business, civil society and government to ensure the effective implementation of this landmark legislation.”

Nineteenth-century laws preventing women from legally accessing abortions in Queensland have finally been sent to the history books, with the state parliament voting to decriminalise pregnancy terminations with 50 to 41 votes. The reform will see abortion removed from the criminal code, and grant women the ability to request an abortion up to 22 weeks’ gestation. “Ultimately this is a health issue,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Parliament. “Does a woman have the right to talk to a doctor about her health without committing a crime? The answer is Yes.” The new laws will see ‘safe access zones’ provided for 150 metres around termination and fertility clinics and give women the ability to access a termination after the 22-week mark if more than two independent doctors agree.

The ACT Legislative Assembly recently passed laws so that GPs in the ACT can prescribe RU486 medication for medical abortion. Providing medical terminations through GP clinics rather than restricting access to approved facilities will greatly reduce cost and increase options. A law has also been introduced that a doctor or nurse cannot refuse to carry out, or to assist in carrying out, an abortion in an emergency where a woman’s health is in danger, which is important for women’s healthcare and safety. The legislation provides for gender-neutral language in recognition of the fact that some people who do not identify as women are also capable of becoming pregnant and seeking termination procedures. Abortion is still criminalised in NSW and Western Australia.

According to the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy the Joint the number of Australian women violently killed in 2018 is 66 in 49 weeks. A woman was killed in Australia almost every second day in October – ten women murdered in 22 days – and this slaughter is not happening in a far-flung war zone. It is happening in our homes, in our backyards, on our beaches, in suburban shopping centres. It is happening right here, right now. We do not treat domestic violence (DV) and violence against women with the same urgency with which we approach other threats. There is no single simple fix to DV, but laws can be changed, frontline services can be adequately funded, and experts’ wisdom and understanding can be engaged in developing and implementing policies to reduce and manage DV. There is a culture we can shift. One promising step occurred on the last day of the Australian Parliament with legislation passed to make five days unpaid DV leave a workplace right under the Fair Work Act.

In Bangladesh the Supreme Court passed two landmark judgments in favour of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and its co-petitioners in 2018, restructuring the justice system to better tackle sexual assault cases. The first challenged the legality and validity of the ‘two-finger test’ – an inhumane and derogatory medical test that rape victims were required to undergo before their cases could be filed, banning it on rape survivors and setting out directions in relation to medical examination. The second was regarding an incident of rape where there was excessive delay in both the registration of the complaint and in sending the survivor to the Victim Support Centre. Relevant rules with the necessary instructions regarding the filing of complaints of rape and sexual violence and timely medical examinations have now been passed to ensure justice and protection of victims.

Fiji. The new Fiji Parliament includes ten women for the first time, five in the Government and five in the Opposition. Premila Kumar (photo, new Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Local Government, Housing and Community Development), Selai Adimaitoga, Veena Bhatnagar, Mereseini Vuniwaqa and Rosy Akbar make up the 27-member Fiji First led Government while Social Democratic Liberal Party members Lynda Tabuya, Ro Teimumu Kepa, Salote Radrodro, Adi Litia Qionibaravi and National Federation Party member Lenora Qereqeretabua make up the 24-member Opposition. The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement is carrying out a Gender Equality campaign focussing on women in leadership, women in unpaid household work, women in sports, and women in employment. While Fiji has progressed in terms of narrowing the gender gap in education, there is a lot more work to be done in the area of economic participation and opportunity, Health and Survival, and political empowerment. The 2017 Global Gender Gap Index Report ranks Fiji in 125th position out of 144 countries.

Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, representing about 10% of the Egyptian population of about 95 million. The Egyptian leadership’s attitude towards Christians has dramatically changed under the reign of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The first Coptic Christian woman to hold the position of governor of the Nile Delta city of Damietta, Manal Awad, reflects an unprecedented state willingness to empower Christians and appoint them in leading government posts. Awad was deputy governor of Giza in 2015 and worked on community service and environmental development. In that role, she was able to obtain a number of grants from international organizations to develop informal settlements and carry out several projects in the city.

Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has achieved 50% women in his Cabinet, signalling the country’s move toward gender parity in key leadership positions in a bid to “pursue peace and stability in the country and show respect to women for all the contributions they have made”. The new Cabinet also includes two Muslim women who wear headscarfs, which analysts say sends an important message of inclusion, given Ethiopia is one-third Muslim. Aisha Mohammad is Ethiopia’s first female defence minister, Muferiat Kamil the first female speaker of Parliament, and Sahle-Work Zewde the first female President. Human rights lawyer Meaza Ashenafi is the head of Ethiopia’s Supreme Court. Other countries with gender parity cabinets are Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, France, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Seychelles, Spain and Sweden.

New Zealand. Jacinda Ardern, NZ’s prime minister, the third woman and the youngest person to have held the role in 150 years, has firmly established herself as the government’s and her party’s most valuable political asset. An astute and effective political communicator, she regularly uses Facebook Live to inform the nation of the contents of a day in the life of the PM. The formal set pieces that have helped established Ardern as the dominant figure on NZ’s political landscape include her speaking on the lower marae at Waitangi, the spiritual birthplace of the nation; wearing a Māori korowai while meeting NZ’s head of state; and taking a seat in the UN General Assembly with her child Neve Te Aroha and partner Clarke Gayford. They used their own money to fund Gayford’s trip to New York. Arden has said that NZ politicians are “paid enough” when she announced a 12 month pay freeze on the salaries of Parliamentarians as well as a national ban on plastic bags.

Rwanda has broken its current world record of 64% women representation in parliament, now up to 67.5%, occupying 54 seats out of 80, and has also appointed a gender balanced Cabinet where the average age is 47.5 years. While Ethiopia and Rwanda are at the forefront of Africa’s push for gender parity in politics, other African countries are not far behind. Six of the world’s 20 top countries in terms of the share of legislative seats held by women are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This shift is as inspiring as it is historic. By appointing so many young, energetic female leaders – like Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology and Innovation, Kamissa Camara, Mali’s Foreign Affairs Minister, and Bogolo Kenewendo, Botswana’s Trade Minister – African countries are demonstrating that young women can aspire to, and achieve impactful goals.

Sharice Davids

USA. After a record number of women stood for election, over 100 women will be in the House of Representatives for the first time, the vast majority elected being Democrats. At 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress with Abby Finkenauer who is a few months older. At 31, former nurse Lauren Underwood beat six men in the primary. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American Muslim and Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American Muslim, and the first Native American women Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, an openly gay Native American lawyer were elected. The first Hispanic women are Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, with Alyanna Pressley becoming her state’s first black representative in Congress. ABC political commentator Cokie Roberts said: “For most of our lives we just looked down from the gallery and saw a bunch of guys in gray suits. Now it’s people of every imaginable ethnicity and many, many more women.”

Women in Australia.

2018 has seen some remarkable shifts toward gender equality, and now we have one more to celebrate. For the first time, the ACT has an all-female line up contending for Australian of the Year and Young Australian of the Year in 2019. Journalist Virginia Haussegger, disability advocate Rebecca Vassarotti, ecologist Kate Grarock and education reformer Megan Gilmour are all in the running for Australian of the Year. Haussegger, who heads up the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis’ 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, and affiliated publication Broad Agenda, said the nomination was “an incredible honour”, adding that the all-female line-up was “enough of a win for me”.

Karen Quinlan has been appointed Director of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. She has a long and distinguished history of leadership in the visual arts: as an art gallery director, a curator and arts manager, an educator, and a significant contributor to the community in which she lives. She also has long evidenced her commitment to portraiture. For the past 18 years, Quinlan has been Director of the Bendigo Art Gallery, serving as its Curator for three years prior to that. Under her leadership the Bendigo Art Gallery has come to be recognised internationally for the quality its exhibitions, many undertaken with overseas partners, such as the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Young Australians (aged 6-13) have nominated Wonder Woman as their favourite superhero in 2018 with the DC Comics superhero overtaking stablemate Batman in the last two years. Wonder Woman’s popularity more than doubled over the past two years (up by 192,000 to 368,000) following the release of the box office smash hit which brought in $US25 million in 2017 and was the seventh highest grossing movie worldwide. Director Patty Jenkins was praised for creating a ‘masterpiece of subversive feminism’, celebrating a female superhero as a film’s protagonist for the first time since 1984. A heroine with superhuman strength, resilience and empathy as her true power, she is a valuable role model for young girls and boys navigating a modern world.

Astronomer Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith who has been with the CSIRO for the past nine years is Australia’s first Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Ambassador. The appointment comes as women continue to make up just one-fifth of people working in STEM. Harvey-Smith will help raise awareness about government programs aiming to get women into STEM fields. She will also advocate for girls and women in STEM education to help drive awareness of the need for cultural and social change on gender equity. Increasing participation in STEM by girls and women will strengthen Australia’s research, scientific and business capability. Alison Harcourt mathematics pioneer, 89, who is still tutoring at university has been named Victorian Senior Australian of the Year.

Suzy Nicoletti was five months pregnant with her second child when she was appointed Managing Director of Twitter Australia. It is a big job, and also a massive point in her life personally. But combining the two at the same time was an opportunity for both Suzy and for Twitter. “It was incredibly exciting, but also surprising,” she said on being appointed to the role just over a year ago. “It was great that a company would invest and get behind a woman in supporting her and believing in her at such a critical time for the business.” Balance and communication at home with her partner have been key to successfully raising two children under two at home, while pushing to grow the revenue and other opportunities for the local arm of an international tech business work.

Roxanne Kelley is the chief operating officer (COO) in the Department of Human Services. She was once Centrelink’s national manager for call performance and has long been in the social welfare area, most recently as the COO for the federal Department of Social Services (DOSS). Kelley has also held delivery and policy roles at the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and governance, reform, people, strategy, policy and intelligence roles in the Department of Defence. It was the reform work at the Department of Defence that earned her a Public Service Medal in 2017. Margaret McKinnon has replaced Kelley as COO in DOSS. Previous responsibilities have included the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Job Service Australia, and policy and programs dealing with vocational education and training.

Captain Louise Pole has been appointed President of the Australia Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP), marking the first time in the federation’s 80 years that a woman has held the job. Pole will oversee the professional association representing 4700 commercial pilots in Australia. Women make up just 3% of commercial airline pilots at major Australian airlines. Pole has advocated increasing that, especially as convenor of the AFAP’s Women’s Network, which has seen AFAP’s female membership grow 300% since it was created in 2010. She recently said, “this is a very good time for women to choose becoming a pilot as their career.” Both Qantas and Virgin Australia have recently announced initiatives to boost the number of female pilots in their graduate and ‘future pilot’ program

Five years since leaving politics to spend more time with her daughter and start a board career, Nicola Roxon has been appointed independent chair of HESTA, the industry super fund for people in health and community services. She was the Federal Health Minister before becoming Attorney General in 2003. Roxon has served on a number of boards since wrapping up her political career — which included being appointed Australia’s first female Attorney General. She is currently Chair of Bupa Australia and New Zealand, and the Cancer Council Australia, as well as a Non-Executive Director with Dexus and Lifestyle Communities, among other roles.

The Governance Institute of Australia will be led by a female President and CEO team from January 2019 with Rachel Rees named as its next president, alongside its incoming new CEO Megan Motto. The appointments come as the institute prepares for a new chapter in pushing for greater governance and risk management structures from boards and executives. Its recent Ethics Index found that Australians have lost faith in corporate ethics in the wake of the banking scandals. Rees said, “I’m honoured to drive a strategy to educate and support governance professionals to be the best they can be.” Rees is a chartered accountant with extensive strategic leadership experience in multinational and listed corporations. Motto is the former head of Consult Australia and is currently on the boards of Standards Australia and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

The first female CEO of Macquarie Group has taken out the fifth spot on the international version of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list. Fortune notes that since joining Macquarie in 1987 Shemera Wikramanayake has moved from roles in corporate services to heading its prudential function. She has also established infrastructure funds in North America, led the asset management branch, and chaired the group’s philanthropy foundation. From her new, high-profile platform as CEO of the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager, she says she “wants to bring more women into finance and convince girls that it is a compelling career”. 

Fortescue Metals Group CEO, Elizabeth Gaines is the second Australian to appear on the list, in the 35th spot. Gaines was appointed CEO in November 2017 following a profit dive and fall in decline for iron ore from China. She was previously CFO with Fortescue.

Christine McLoughlin has been appointed Chair of Suncorp Group succeeding Dr Ziggy Switkowski. She founded the Minerva network that supports women athletes and is a tireless advocate for communities and inclusion. McLoughlin brings her experience having been a company director with expertise across a range of sectors including financial services, insurance, mining, infrastructure, telecommunications and health. She has an active interest in technology-enabled disruption and the role played by business. 

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has released findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report Everyone’s Business: Fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, confirming that workplace sexual harassment in Australia is widespread, pervasive and has increased significantly in the last six years. Jenkins said, “One in three people surveyed told us they have experienced been sexually harassed at work in the last five years…Almost two in five women and just over one in four men said they have been…These figures are unacceptable…We know from our research that many people are afraid to report their experiences of unwelcome sexual conduct out of fear that they won’t be believed, that it’s not worth it, that they’ll be ostracised, and that it could damage their career,” Jenkins said.

Women in the World.

Susan Fowler Rigetti, who blew the whistle on sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Uber was celebrated by many for exposing the true culture of a tech company that had almost been considered too big and too innovative to call out. Now Fowler has a much bigger platform to explore toxic behaviour in tech, and much more power and influence in sharing a wider range of opinions on the issue. She has been appointed a staff editor at the New York Times, responsible for opinion pieces published in the technology section. The appointment is also significant in that too often the opinion pages of major newspapers can be female-free zones, especially when covering tech.

The lowest number of women since the G20 started holding summits in 2008 were represented in global leadership in 2018. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel (missing from the leaders’ photo), British prime minister Theresa May and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde matched the 2010 figure of three women. Whether May can hold on to the leadership of her party into next year means we could be soon be seeing even fewer women represented. Merkel has a few more years; she is stepping down in 2021. The highest ever number of women pictured in the leaders’ photo is still only five, occurring in 2012 and 2013. There were four women featured in 2017, including Merkel, May, Lagarde and Norwegian PM Erna Solberg. In 2008, May was featured along with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

In the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, almost 200 women leaders and Women Human Rights Defenders gathered to advocate for peace in their communities and gender equality for all. This remarkable gathering coincided with three important international days: International Day of Rural Women, World Food Day and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Each of these international days is an opportunity to focus on the contribution women make every day, but also the constraints they face, and the personal price women pay for the social and economic contribution they make to their families and communities. These days are also an opportunity to draw the links between the situation of women in rural areas, women’s role in food security, and gender inequality and poverty.

Zawadi Karikumutima, 32, is one of many Rwandan women who spend a night on their fishing boats on Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Today, women form an essential part of the national market for Lake Kivu fish. At fishing cooperatives, other women manage drying stations, where the fish are turned into a more compact, shrivelled-up product that’s easier to transport. Women carry the fish across the country, in buckets and sacks, and they also sell the fish in urban markets to landlocked Rwandans all around the country. Zawadi is a member of a fishing cooperative in Kibuye made up of 87 women who use the cooperative to fight poverty. “Here in Rwanda we now have the idea that women and men can do every job…I am very proud to be a part of the cooperative. Now a woman can say: ‘I can build a house by myself. I can look after my family properly. And even if my husband dies, we can live a better life.’”

The new President and CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) is Nicole Taylor, who previously served as vice president of the Arizona State University Foundation, overseeing annual giving, estate and gift planning and foundation relations. She replaces Emmett Carson, who stepped down in June following allegations by current and former employees of harassment at the workplace and poor management. On the day of her appointment Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife physician Priscilla Chan donated $214 million worth of Facebook stock to SVCF.

Robyn Denholm has been named Elon Musk’s replacement as Chair of Tesla and is leaving Telstra in the coming months to take up the position. She was only recently appointed CFO and Head of Strategy at Telstra, a role she took on top of her board position with Tesla, which she has held since 2014. Denham has extensive global experience in both the tech and auto industries, including across Telstra, Toyota, Sun Microsystems and Juniper Networks. She is largely credited with leading a team that drove significant increases in revenue for Juniper Networks.

Captain Tatjana Pletena is at the helm of the Singapore-flagged LNG tanker BW GDF Suez Everett, since being promoted in April 2018. She began her career as a deck cadet with Bergesen, a Norwegian shipping company, in 2001, from the Latvian Maritime Academy. Speaking about the requirements for becoming a captain, Pletena said that aside to a master’s degree, one has to clock many years of sea experience, to complete an enormous number of hours of training and courses, to get good evaluation reports, and to be promoted through the ranks. This includes various tests and feedback from senior colleagues, course instructors and psychologists. “To be one of the first of very few female cadets and officers in the company is challenging, but also an honour. All these challenges just make me stronger. How do I overcome them? I work hard, smile, and don’t give up.”

This year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize in fiction has been won by the Northern Irish author Anna Burns. Her third novel, Milkman, is a tale of a young woman growing up during the Troubles. The prize panel said, “None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance, threaded with mordant humour.”  

Women in Sport  

It has been a big 12 months for women’s sport: from huge crowds across the major leagues – football, rugby, soccer and cricket and soccer – through to individual performances. It was exciting to see Jessica Fox win double gold at the Canoe Slalom World Cup in Slovakia. Momentous headway has been made on gender pay disparities as well as some big appointments including Rugby Australia’s boss Raelene Castle. Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport have announced an initiative aimed at achieving true diversity by addressing and combatting the gross underrepresentation of female sport executives and high-performance coaches. The 12-month program for 16 executives and 16 high-performance coaches will offer emerging female leaders in sport a range of transformational skills. In 2018, women represent 22% of Board Chairs, 13% of CEOs and less than 15% of coaches.

Cricket The 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 was hosted in the West Indies from 9 to 24 November 2018 during the 2018–19 international cricket season. The Australian Women’s Cricket Team won their fourth World title after beating England by eight wickets in a brilliant performance in the final. Australia’s Alyssa Healy was named the player of the tournament. Meg Lanning, captain of the Australian team said that the victory was “the most satisfying win I’ve been involved in” adding that “there will be some big celebrations”. The victorious skipper is hopeful the triumph in the Caribbean will be the start of something special for the Australian women’s team. Meanwhile in Australia, the Australian men’s cricket team is competing against India and as usual, we are listening to superb commentary by Catherine McGregor on the ABC.

Basketball. The Australian Opals came second in the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain. Dr Julia Walsh has been appointed the first woman to coach a national men’s basketball team in Australia, taking up the position with the Australian Boomerangs Men’s team for athletes with intellectual disabilities. She takes on the role 12 months out from the team competing in the International Federation for Intellectual Impairment Sport in Brisbane next year. Based at Deakin University’s Centre for Sport Research and the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Walsh said her appointment offers a great example of the pathways available for women pursuing coaching. “It is transformational for players and others watching as it disrupts common views on who can coach,” she said. “Coaching is the job that keeps on giving and provides great skills for other occupations.”

Football. On a historic night for the women’s game, Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg was honoured as the first female recipient of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award. She was recognised as the world’s best female football player, 62 years after the male version of the prize was first awarded. Just 23, Hegerberg has already been named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year and broke the record this season for the most goals in a Champions League season, scoring 33 goals for her team, Lyon. She came out smiling, proudly held the trophy high, and thanked France Football for the “huge step for women’s football” in introducing the award. Hegerberg gave an inspiring speech sharing her hopes that more girls believe in themselves. “Together we’ll make a difference,” she said. Fifteen women were nominated for the award, including Matilda’s star Sam Kerr who finished in fifth spot. Sam was later named second in the world by The Guardian‘s top 100 list of footballers in 2018.

The Matildas will go into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France full of confidence. They are ranked eighth in the world and showed what a class act they are at the 2018 Tournament of Nations. Defeating two higher-ranked opponents in Brazil and Japan and drawing with hosts and number one ranked USA along the way, the Matildas proved they are one of the best performing and most consistent of Australia’s national sporting teams. The tournament witnessed the international debut of Mary Fowler against Brazil. At only 15 years of age she appears to have the world at her feet. She is just one of the stars of the current batch of storied women’s footballers in Australia.

Netball. Noeleen Dix, a former Australian netball player, President of Netball Australia and General Manager of Masters’ Swimming, has spent her life utterly absorbed in sport and fitness but her passion for sport, and netball in particular extends further than a love of competition. Dix believes wholeheartedly in the power of belonging to a team and sees this as a potent antidote to feelings of despair and hopelessness. She is the inaugural chair of the Confident Girls Foundation, a program designed “to help disadvantaged women and girls achieve their full potential both on and off the court”. The foundation works with the grassroots community to run netball programs for vulnerable Australian girls; subsidising development pathways, supporting local clubs, providing grants to program delivery partners, and supplying free equipment. So far, close to 20,000 girls across Australia have participated in a community program initiated by the Foundation.

Five out of the six African women with albinism climbers from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Senegal did not reach the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, but they are proud they pledged to climb the 5,895-metre mountain to raise funds for their cause. This is just the beginning – now they will work so that more people know that their body parts do not have lucky charms, and having sex with a woman with albinism cannot cure AIDS. Albinism is a rare non-contagious, genetically inherited condition which occurs worldwide regardless of ethnicity or gender. It most commonly results in the lack of melanin pigment in the hair, skin and eyes, causing vulnerability to sun exposure.

Tennis. Fifty years on and things have changed for the better in tennis at Wimbledon. The winners of this year’s singles events – men and women – each received £2.25m. However, achieving equality has been a long and slow process. In the 50 years since she won the third of her six Wimbledon singles titles, Billie Jean King has become a sporting icon. Her win over Bobby Riggs, immortalised in the Battle of the Sexes film released last year, catapulted women’s tennis into the spotlight. At 74 she has lost none of her charisma, her sheer will an inspiration to many, both in sports and in life, where she continues to be a leading advocate of gay rights. She has never been afraid to upset her hosts by discussing difficult subjects, as she proved in Melbourne this year when she said the tournament should remove the name of Margaret Court, Australia’s most successful ever player, from its third-biggest arena, because of her statements about the LGBT community.

Surfing. Stephanie Gilmore has claimed a record-equalling seventh world surfing title in Hawaii, matching the record set by fellow Australian, Layne Beachley, who Gilmore described as an “inspiration” and thanked for setting the standard. “Surfing means everything to me. It has given me everything. It is still my first love…Layne, it’s an honour to sit beside you. You’ve been a huge inspiration my entire career. And for so many female surfers, all over the world…To equal you is amazing, what an honour. Thank you for setting the standard.”

Triathlon. Australia has elected Michelle Cooper as its next Triathlon President, the first woman to take the role since the governing body was formed in 1986, and just one of 19 female presidents of the 173 triathlon associations worldwide. She is an Ironman triathlete, co-owner of a Brisbane-based coaching club, public speaker and has served on the Queensland Sports Ministers Advisory Council developing a recreation engagement strategy. Cooper has also represented Australia at two triathlon World Championships. “Being the first female President and I believe the youngest President appointed in Triathlon Australia’s history, shows that leadership is about experience and attitude, rather than age or gender,” she said.

Sports Media. A campaign led by Yorkshire Olympic sprinter Emily Freeman is being launched to press for more gender equal sports coverage in the media. When she began looking at the gender split of sports photographs in national newspapers last year, she found we are 33 times more likely to see photos of a man playing sport in the papers than a woman. Her research showed that 17% of newspaper photos are of someone playing sport but of these less than 3% are of women. In one month last September, there was just one image of a woman playing sport across the papers examined, compared to 365 of men. Calling for sport in the media to be more gender equal, Freeman said that if women and girls cannot see female role models in sport, it is harder for them to participate in sport themselves.


Dame Beryl Beaurepaire AC, DBE, aged 95, one of my long-standing mentors, died peacefully on 24 October. She worked closely with former Prime Minister Malcom Fraser to create the inclusive National Women’s Advisory Council which she chaired in the 1980s. I had the great privilege of working with her as NWAC’s Executive Secretary. Members of the Council were drawn from all over Australia, from community groups and advocacy organisations. Dame Beryl wanted to get to the heart of the many problems faced by women in Australia. We surveyed, studied and reported on domestic violence, migrants, women with disabilities and Aboriginal women. Within a short period of time NWAC had convinced the government to fund 23 women’s refuges across the country and had sponsored research into women in the home.

Richard Gill AO aged 77 died on 28 October. His contribution to the musical landscape of Australia has been immeasurable. He had energy, passion, wit and an ability to make musicians aware they mattered, what they were doing was important and they were capable of great things. Gill was determined to make music and singing an important and vital part of not only Australia’s education system but also our lives as compassionate, thoughtful, inquisitive and empathetic members of a community. He had an evangelical zeal that was infectious, arguing for music to not be a privileged extra but rather a basic right for all. It is through music and especially singing that we can learn not only about ourselves but also about the world in which we live. I have loved practising Christmas Carols with the Sydney Philharmonic Christmas Choirs but unfortunately missed too many rehearsals with travel away so regrettably had to withdraw from this year’s performances at the Sydney Opera House.

Ruth Gates, British biologist who died on 30 October at the age of 56 dedicated her life to saving the world’s reefs and training the next generation of reef scientists. She was known as much for her laugh as for her science. “She laughed easily, loudly, and infectiously”. When she first snorkelled around Heron Island, in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, she reportedly laughed so loudly that boat drivers could hear her from the surface: “She was so thrilled by the reef that she couldn’t contain her joy.” To lose anyone is tragic, but to lose someone like Gates—an optimist’s optimist, a cornerstone of hope—is especially so. She was a great champion, an outspoken advocate for corals and the people who study them. “She was radiance that we were privileged to gather around, our hands toward the fire.”

Linley Izett, my younger brother Bill Izett’s wife aged 80 died on 23 November after a long struggle with Alzheimers. Lin was a magnificent artist who came from a long line of outstanding family artists but over the last ten years had been unable to paint. She was also a brilliant art teacher at several colleges of advanced education. I travelled to Perth to be with the family for the funeral service to celebrate Lin’s life and then joined the Wake in Bill and Lin’s Waikiki home. This was magnificently catered for by their daughters Veronica Jumeaux and Elizabeth Seah, with help from Steve Izett, my older brother Bob Izett’s son. Only three weeks before I had also been in Perth to celebrate Bob’s 80th birthday. We now have another photo of the three siblings.

Four days later, I travelled to Queensland for Rae Mavor’s funeral service, wife of Rev John Mavor (photo), former President of the Uniting Church of Australia. They were both close friends of Alan and me during our nine years missionary service in the 1960s and 70s with the Methodist and then United Church of PNG and the Solomon Islands. Rae aged 86 died on 3 December, also after a long illness. John and Rae headed the Malmaluan Training Centre when we were leading Gaulim Teachers College on the Gazelle Peninsular, so our families saw a lot of each other for mutual support as well as recreation. Rae was a wonderful colleague and John has pastored us over the years. It was wonderful to meet missionary friends, Nancy Bomford (Anderson) and Joan Sexton, at the celebration in Beenleigh Queensland. In the hour-long journey back to the airport we recalled and caught up to date with the lives of so many of our Gaulim students who had married Australian men, and people we had worked with.

Family News

Doug and Julie became grandparents this year with Julie present at the birth of Joash Douglas Randell on 4 February 2018 in Townsville. Julie returned to Ethiopia in July to help with teaching English for the Raey School summer program. She also undertook her first visit to PNG to assist Nathan and Kaylin with childcare for three months when they had senior roles aboard the YWAM Medical ship. It has also been a year of travel for Doug, visiting Aspen Medical projects from Hobart to Darwin and Perth to Townsville as well as PNG, Vanuatu, and Fiji so they are both looking forward to time together as the year ends. Aspen Medical does great work, including treating Ebola in Africa, opening new trauma hospitals in southern Iraq, medical evacuations for multinational oil and gas companies, and providing health care in remote Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory. Alan and Judy are now in the ‘granny flat’ extension on Doug and Julie’s home. The photo is of four generations of Randells.

Andrew and Vicky have had a busy year with rowing and family responsibilities. Andrew has continued coaching at the national training centre In Canberra. His Mens Eight were placed second at the final World Cup and World Championships in Lucerne and Plovdiv. It was also a busy year for Vicky who is fulltime carer of the girls while Andrew is away. She continued her role as Director of Rowing at Radford College and coached the Senior Women who won a silver medal at the National Championships. Beatrix turns five on 1 January and loves her two days a week at Pre-Kindy classes, her swimming, and regular piano lessons with her Aunty Julie. Matilda recently turned three and certainly lets everyone know how she is feeling at any given time! She loves copying her big sister (can be good but not always!) and enjoys Day Care and dancing. Emilia is case manager for several refugee children from Syria, Myanmar and Yemen and has continued her part time university studies in International Development. Harry is teaching at The King’s School and lives and works in one of the large boarding houses. He coaches senior rugby and rowing teams and will complete his Master of Education (Management and Leadership) degree at Sydney University in mid 2019. Isabella is now a ‘legal drug dealer’ having just graduated from Sydney University in Pharmacy. She will spend the next year working as an intern at a small suburban pharmacy in her local area.  

Ellen continues preparing rowers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at Rowing Australia’s women’s national training centre at Penrith. Their crews also competed overseas for several weeks during the year. Adam looks after the girls while Ellen is away. His information technology business is thriving, and he has taken on more staff this year. Jess has finished year 12 and is waiting on results. She plans to study Global and International Studies next year. Jess recently spent a week touring in New Zealand with a school friend which she loved.  Alicia moves into year 11 in 2019 and like her sister, is doing well academically. She thoroughly enjoys her dancing.

Erica has been developing her yoga teaching and training this year, teaching across a variety of levels and schools in Melbourne and is currently at the Inyange training centre in Pune India. Levi and Inci have both completed another year of their university studies. Inci has won a couple of prizes for coding and will be finishing his degree in 2019. Levi has branched into some anthropological units along with his art and art theory, complemented by an internship unit with the Berndt Museum, which he will continue in a voluntary capacity over the break. Lena, Wren and Mila have recently moved into their newly renovated home which has been a huge project and transformed the property beyond expectations. Paris has completed his law certification and will likely work in the field next year while Chelsea has been keeping her hand in with independent curatorial projects along with her work at the Australian War Memorial.

My activities. I see Erica in Melbourne and Bundanoon, and the Canberra families more regularly as I attend meetings there. In Sydney life is full, spending time with friends in my writing group, the Women’s and Lyceum Clubs, and various not-for-profit professional and development groups with which I am involved. We enjoy functions in the ‘Strangers Room’ at NSW Parliament House organized for the National Council of Women Australia Day Awards, Jessie Street Library, The Ernies and White Ribbon. 

This month I was in Parliament House Canberra as a representative of the National Foundation of Australian Women at the presentation ceremony for the National History Challenge. This is a wonderful competition for school children across Australia. Over 6,500 participants competed for the 2018 school, state, national and special category awards. The Challenge encourages Australian students to take on a research task that explores some aspect of history.

I still keep active with regular travel interstate as well as a week overseas in the US where I had a great time with good friends. Rev Walter Burgess and Eileen Menton in Baltimore organised a wonderful evening with their friends and gave me the opportunity to talk about the Shirley Randell Scholarship for a student undertaking the Master of Gender and Development at the Centre of Gender Studies of the University of Rwanda. The second awardee Prisca Iraguha has just graduated after completing an evaluation thesis of Club Rafiki’s program for modern dance and reproductive health. We are seeking funds for a third scholarship student in 2019. Club Rafiki is a project in a partnership with indigo foundation, one of the not-for-profit boards I serve on that funds small community development partnerships in Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia, Afghanistan, India and Indonesia.  As usual, I spent two wonderful days with Paul Kervin and Professor Elaine Sarao in Washington. They keep me up to date on US politics and Rwanda news. Elaine had arranged for me to be interviewed on Voice of America radio about developments in Rwanda. She also organised dinner with representatives of the Rwandan and Monaco embassies in Washington. I then stayed for two days with Professor Sharon Meagher, Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Marymount Manhattan who had organised for me to prepare a presentation to students about Rwandan women.

Having not visited Tasmania for a couple of decades I was pleased to be there twice recently. I attended the Women Chiefs of Enterprise Annual Conference in Hobart and spoke on their theme ‘Women on top – getting there and staying there!’. Not long after, I travelled to Launceston to open a magnificent art exhibition by my friend Lyn Connellan in the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. It was lovely to have some days in Wynyard with Lyn who had been one of my art students 30 years ago at Ballarat University College. I gave other speeches on Rwandan women to AGMs of Zonta International Sydney Breakfast Club and the Older Women’s Network of New South Wales, and two speeches on human rights for the Independent Scholars of Australia Association’s Annual Conference in Canberra and the ninth International Human Rights Conference (IHRC) convened by Dr Sev Ozdowski at Western University Paramatta.

I spoke IHRC on ‘Challenges of the Implementation of Human Rights Education in Africa, and the Case of a Common Core Course at Laikipia University, Kenya’. Unfortunately, we were unable to secure funding for my colleague Dr Babera Chacha, Director Linkages at Laikipia to come to Australia so we could not present together as first planned.  IHRC opened with a Sydney Harbour Cruise on the Tribal Warrior where we enjoyed hearing stories of the Gadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal people of the harbour and learning the Aboriginal names and meaning of significant Sydney landmarks. 

We then went ashore on Be-lang-le-wool (Clark Island National Park) – warm memories here because this is the place where Ellen and Adam married more than two decades ago. We viewed early coastal lifestyle and an Aboriginal cultural performance. Conference participants were from all over the world and I made new friends, including from Africa and Borneo. It was a special delight to meet again with Xanana Gusmao, inaugural President of Timor Leste, and hear his stirring human rights messages.

I was greatly honoured to receive the Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML) inaugural Sir John Storey Lifetime Leadership Achievement Award. This award is presented in honour of the Institute of Management’s first President, the Australian industrialist, Sir John Storey. His contribution to the Australian management and leadership industry and to the Institute is best illustrated in his inaugural address tribute in 1949. He stated that the Institute’s “main goal is to raise the standard of management and to see these standards accepted nationally”. These words continue to resonate powerfully inside IML and are echoed in its vision of ‘creating better managers and leaders for a better society’. Sir John’s grandson John Storey presented me with the medal. I was so happy to have 17 of my family and friends celebrating the day with me, including my daughter Ellen representing my children and Emilia representing my grandchildren, all of whom, with many others, have contributed to my leadership journey.

With the fantastic voluntary service of my librarian friend Diana Richards and administrative assistant Mary Hacio we are putting into some order all my paper and photo records that have been stored under the children’s houses for many years. We hope to send the first dozen boxes on my education and employment history to the National Library of Australia (NLA) early in 2019 but still have a long way to go. Consultancies, boards, associations, travel and family etc mean we still have more months of tolerating NLA boxes populating my small one-bedroom apartment.  I am so fortunate to have such marvellous professional assistance with the collection.

I also acknowledge the expertise of my colleague and friend Michael (Thatch) Thatcher of Pretentia in Melbourne who has given me a public presence on social media and takes such care over these newsletters.

I hope you have a joyful Christmas with your family and friends and wish for you all a very peaceful year ahead.

Shirley Randell
Sydney Australia

the moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Margaret Atwood

Newsletter – Canada June 2018

Dear friends

Over the last three weeks, I have had a fantastic working holiday in London, Rwanda and Kenya. I attended the first FairBreak Global Women’s International Cricket Match at the Wormsley Cricket Ground to see our first international XI, that included six national cricket captains, narrowly lose to a carefully selected UK team.

This was followed by ten days in Rwanda and four in Kenya. After living for nine years in Rwanda I consider it my second home and was so warmly welcomed by friends and colleagues. One offered me accommodation in her apartment, another organised my visit and another loaned me her car and driver – warm and generous hospitality. Club Rafiki, which is supported by the indigo foundation board, entertained me to a wonderful day. I visited their library, IT centre, and enjoying hiphop dancing and modelling before I addressed students, staff and parents on ‘Inspirational Girls’.

This presentation was the basis of another talk later on in the week to the 2018 Student Guild Cabinet at the Akilah Institute for Women, where I serve on their Advisory Committee. I discussed with three Universities possible partnerships with the University of Newcastle and presented the Shirley Randell Award for the best students in the fifth and sixth cohorts of the University of Rwanda’s Centre for Gender Studies’ Master of Gender and Development Program.

In Kenya I travelled north to the Laikipia University to give a lecture and met with friends there and later at the Kenya Public Service Commission.

I begin this newsletter celebrating this visit before my usual round-up of women’s progress around the world.

Travel Abroad

United Kingdom. I began my journey in the UK travelling by train to Plymouth to spend a weekend with cousins in Plymouth – Jacqui Moore McGuire and James Glanville and meet my new baby cousin Luca. In London I stayed with a dear friend Pauline Bottrill from my Bangladesh days – such a beautiful home and English garden. The main purpose of my UK visit was to attend the FairBreak Global Day of Equality at the magnificent Wormsley Cricket Ground accompanied by my Zontian friend and retired Australian champion cricketer Dawn Newman and UK champion Chris Watmough. The highlight was participating in an excellent Roundtable on Gender Equality along with watching the Fair Break Global International Cricket XI compete against a carefully selected UK Sir Paul Getty’s Women’s XI. My visit happily coincided with a conference on ‘Rwandan Perspectives on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Sustainable Peace: Enhancing Research, Influencing Policy’ at King’s College, where 19 Rwandan researchers presented their work. Professor Phil Clarke facilitated my attendance on the last day of the conference. I was excited to learn more about the work of these PhD graduates and post-doc scholars, some long-standing friends and colleagues, now writing and publishing research on Rwanda.


The FairBreak Global Cricket XI consisted of players from nine different countries: Hong Kong, India, Oman, Singapore, Vanuatu, West Indies, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA. It included NZ skipper Suzie Bates and retired Australia player Alex Blackwell. Sadly, the Rwandan representative Diane Bimenyimana could not attend because of the late arrival of her UK visa. Bates had played both cricket and basketball for NZ, competing in the first of her 208 internationals for cricket’s White Ferns and becoming an Olympian with the Tall Ferns basketballers in 2008 in Beijing. She now captains the White Ferns and makes a living playing 10 months a year and starring in T20 leagues in Australia and England. She was recently named by a panel of experts in The Guardian as the world’s second-best woman cricketer, behind Australia’s double football and cricket international Ellyse Perry. The 34-year-old Alex Blackwell recently became the first woman after 159 years to be elected to the illustrious NSW Cricket board. She has also taken on her first coaching role for this year’s England women’s T20 Super League since retiring from international cricket. Blackwell was in two World Cup victories, three World T20 titles and was a key figure of the Australia side that won the Women’s Ashes earlier in the summer, a series in which she played her 250th international match.

Rwanda. Unsurprisingly, there continues to be spectacular changes in infrastructure and social and economic development in Kigali since my last visit to Rwanda. President Paul Kagame is still showing extraordinary leadership and independence. One example of this was his hard line on United States imports of cast-off clothes donated in container loads mostly to Sub-Saharan Africa in what has become a billion-dollar industry. African governments have become increasingly concerned about what many in the West think of as a gesture of generosity, but that hinders governments in building their own apparel industries. In March 2016, four East African countries decided to raise tariffs on used clothing, in some cases to as much as 20 times the previous rate. The US used-clothing lobby sounded the alarm, and last year, the Trump administration began investigating whether the four nations were violating an 18-year-old trade agreement with the US. Under pressure, three of the East African governments lowered their tariffs to previous rates, but not Rwanda. The deadlock between the world’s economic giant and one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies does not exactly qualify as a trade war, but it reflects the difficulties that even a low-wage country like Rwanda can have developing a clothing industry in an intensely competitive global market. I was delighted to visit Marie Aimée Umugeni, President of the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre, that is making and selling beautiful clothes – a huge development since we began this venture a decade ago.  

As usual, I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome and generosity of my long-standing Rwandan friends. The wonderful Sylvie Rwiyereka and I held a Skype meeting with Helene Baribeau in Canada to work on an update of the Rwanda Association of University Women’s records and we later attended a RAUW Council meeting. Council members were, as ever, enthusiastic and talented. I am hoping there will be a revival of the association’s work in the next months and thank them for their time and precious gifts. It was wonderful to spend an afternoon and later an evening with Club Rafiki staff, seeing and hearing about steady progress, and once again receiving gifts.

As an ambassador of the Christian University of Rwanda (photo with Hon Dr Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, founder of CHUR) I was keen to explore whether academics of CHUR and three other universities in Rwanda could potentially collaborate with academics of the University of Newcastle.

Another highlight was a visit to the new Rwanda Cricket Ground to see the Rwanda Women’s XI defeat the more experienced Uganda XI. Kenya also played in this tournament. I canvassed with the Rwanda Cricket Association the possibility of a FairBreak initiative for African women cricketers to be held in Kigali at some time before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Rwanda in 2020. Receiving visitors, visiting many women’s organisations and friends homes, and some face-to-face mentoring filled my busy program. I spoke with friends on the phone when we ran out of time. I am pleased to report the appointment of Marie Odette Ndahiro Kansanga to take over the role of country director of my company SRI and Associates. This followed a thank you dinner hosted by retiring Shamsi Kazimbaza who now spends two of every four weeks in Haiti and countries in West Africa with her work as Senior Program Officer with Promundo.

I so enjoyed being back at the Centre for Gender Studies of the University of Rwanda during the award ceremony. The two prize-winning theses highlighted the value of Rwandans doing research: Collette Nyinawumuntu was the top student of the fifth cohort with a thesis on The Role of Gender Mainstreaming Strategy on Labour Division and Resource Management in Agriculture at Household Level’. Nyinawumuntu had given birth to two girls during her course, one at the beginning and one when she was completing her thesis. This mirrored the extraordinary commitment of these students managing post-graduate study, holding down responsible jobs and maintaining family duties. Her husband proudly accompanied her with their children to see her receive the award. Patrick Ufashingabo in the sixth cohort researched Being a Father at a Young Age: Assessment of Challenges Faced by Young Fathers Living in Kigali City’. I am thrilled to report that foundation staff are undertaking a special publication about the establishment and journey of the Centre. This collaboration will document the early development of the Centre and include photographs and updated interviews I undertook with the first cohort of students. It is wonderful to see the productive work being done by so many Centre graduates, not only with government, private and non-government organisations (NGOs) in Rwanda but also on the African continent and further abroad.    

Kenya. Dr Babera Chacha Director of Human Rights and External Linkages at the Laikipia University (LU) met me in Nairobi and accompanied me on my journey north. We called on the way to speak with HE Alison Chartres, High Commissioner for Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Somalia to discuss opportunities for collaboration between Australia, Kenya and Rwanda. It was a joy to pass through forests with herds of playful zebra, wandering camels and occasional antelopes and baboons along the way. I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit my friend Professor Wanjiku Chiuri, acting Vice-Chancellor of LU and gave a lecture to students and staff on ‘Could Kenyan men and women learn from Rwandan Women’s Activism in Rwanda?’ We had worked together in 2011 at the Centre for Gender in Rwanda on the supervision of Masters students’ theses.

I was also pleased to have time in Nairobi to meet with the Kenyan Public Service Commissioners and Directors who had been Australian Award Fellows at the University of Newcastle in March, and hear how they were putting into practice the mentoring principles we had worked on together during their training. After giving a lecture to graduating senior students of The Kenya School of Government, the Commission’s CEO, Alice Atieno Otwala entertained me generously in her home with her family on my last night in East Africa.


Women in Politics.

Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister of New Zealand has given birth to a baby girl, Neve Te Aroha. She announced the arrival with her partner Clarke Gayford and the words, “Welcome to the village wee one”. Gayford is committed to being a stay-at-home father after Ardern finishes her six weeks parental leave, offering another much-needed high-profile reminder that men can take on this role. These are examples that will help other couples planning a family to start new conversations about how they will manage, and they send powerful message to both girls and boys regarding the sorts of roles and responsibilities they can take on in the future. Ardern did what women do all over the world while pregnant: get on with their work, whether that is paid or unpaid, in the home or elsewhere. But she has done it while in a highly visible leadership position, reminding girls and women everywhere that it is possible to pursue and continue our ambitions while having a family. She has legislated and negotiated with world leaders while pregnant, debated and fought off attacks in parliament, and delivered a powerful, meaningful budget.  

Spain’s King Felipe VI has sworn in a new Socialist government with a record number of 11 women in 17 cabinet posts. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his new team “shared the same vision of a progressive society that was both modernising and pro-European”. As a minority government, it will rely on other parties to enact legislation. Including the prime minister, the 18-strong government is 61.1% female – the highest proportion in the country’s history. Only a handful of countries currently have governments where at least 50% of ministers are women. They include France, Sweden and Canada. Women have been given some of the biggest jobs in the new Spanish cabinet, including the defence, economy, finance, and education portfolios.  Sanchez says he is a feminist and that his government will mark a watershed moment in Spanish society as a faithful reflection of a change in Spain that emerged through the feminist movement. An estimated five million women across the country staged a ‘feminist strike’ against wage inequality and gender violence on 8 March this year.

The Romanian parliament has approved Viorica Dancila as the country’s first female premier. She steps into the post as the government is passing laws that many critics say could hinder the fight against corruption. The left-wing government she will lead is currently facing criticism from the European Union over legislation it says will make it hard to prosecute high-level corruption. Dancila supports the proposals that have triggered massive protests at home and tarnished Romania’s name abroad.

Eight years after the country’s first female Prime Minister was elected, Trinidad and Tobago witnessed the swearing-in ceremony of the country’s first female President, Paula-Mae Weekes. President Weekes said that citizens have to make the choice to fight the ‘darkness’ threatening the nation. “Our destinies are inextricably linked. Many experts beset us with dismal stories, they tell us Trinidad and Tobago is perilously close to the point of no return…that we will soon be a failed state…so what are we to do?…As I see it, we have two choices; we can lament, blame, criticise and allow a miasma of despair to overwhelm us, or we can consciously choose the alternative…not dream about it but mobilise our resources to step out boldly and make Trinidad and Tobago a better place for us and our children…all the while understanding that although faith is a necessity, without action it is useless.” She urged citizens to create doable short-term plans to help assist their communities. 

Despite being the minority as a Christian Chinese woman in Malaysia, Hannah Yeoh became the country’s first and youngest female Speaker at the age of 34 in a state parliament in 2013. Yeoh has had a decade in politics, first as a representative for the town of Subang Jaya, and then five years as the Speaker of Selangor State Legislative Assembly. She won the Subang Jaya seat with a majority vote of 71 percent in 2008 when she was 29. Yeoh was re-elected in 2013 and also sworn in as Speaker—out of the 56 state members in the state assembly—to preside over the proceedings of the House that year. She believes God has given her a larger platform to fight for honesty and integrity in Malaysia in her party’s battle against corruption and race-based policies. In the last five years, Hannah has pushed for more checks and balances in the political system by strengthening the role of the opposition in her state, even though her party is the governing party there. In Malaysia, race, religion and politics are often intertwined. 

Supreme Court justices voted 8-6 to nullify the appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno, an outspoken critic of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. Duterte last month called Sereno his “enemy,” and pledged to oust the judge who has spoken out against his deadly drug war and decision to put the southern parts of the Philippines under military rule. Sereno’s removal makes the Supreme Court more vulnerable to pressure from other branches of government. According to Professor Dante Gatmaytan of the University of the Philippines College of Law: “Every time the Supreme Court plays politics, it sacrifices its integrity and its status is diminished.” Sereno, the first woman to hold the role, said after her ouster that Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, legitimately appointed her in 2012. With her term supposed to end in 2030, Sereno said the Constitution states that Congress can only unseat her through impeachment: “A majority in the Supreme Court violated their oath to protect the Constitution, and destroyed the judiciary.”

Women in Australia.

Australian women sit at No. 1 of all the OECD countries in terms of educational attainment, but Australia ranks 42nd for economic participation and opportunities for women, 60th for pay equity and in politics women are also shamefully behind. Hon. Kelly O’Dwer, Minister for Women has established the Dame Enid Lyons Fighting Fund for women in the Liberal Party to encourage those women who are currently sitting members in marginal seats by supporting them financially in their campaigns. For those women who are standing in winnable seats. there will also be a fighting fund that will encourage and support them. “I’m really pleased that so many of my colleagues have joined me in being able to make that commitment. My federal electorate conference has committed $50,000 to the fund. I think that stands us in very good stead in a very practical way to encourage and to support women”. 

Yvette Coppersmith was rebuffed when she asked to paint New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern‘s portrait, so she settled on a self-portrait instead. It has won this year’s Archibald Prize. She is only the tenth female artist to win the Prize since it was established almost 100 years ago. Her work, Self-portrait, after George Lambert is the fifth painting Coppersmith has had in the nation’s most prestigious portraiture prize. Lambert was a winner of the Archibald Prize himself in 1927. “Ardern wasn’t available but I thought I might channel something of her in my self-portrait,” Coppersmith said. Shortly after collecting the $100,000 prize, the artist took a call from Ardern while being interviewed on Sky News Australia. “I just wanted to call you and congratulate you,” Ardern said. “What an incredible piece. Your work is absolutely phenomenal.” An ‘overwhelmed’ Coppersmith told her: “You were the initial inspiration and when you were unavailable I thought I’ll do one as you.” The Archibald Prize is the Art Gallery of NSW’s most popular annual exhibition.

Tickets will be on sale for the raffle of another amazing artwork by prominent Australian artist the late Robert Dickinson AO. Valued at $14,000 it will be the first prize in a huge Christmas raffle to be launched at the annual fundraiser for Dignity Ltd, a charity established by Suzanne Hopman for providing temporary accommodation for homeless people in New South Wales. From its humble beginnings with one home in the Southern Highlands, Dignity now operates 20 homes throughout the state. I am an Ambassador for this wonderful organisation that is holding a celebration for its third birthday at 6pm on 11 August at the Carrington Room in the Mittagong RSL. A feature auction for two young soft and cuddly live alpacas donated by a Shoalhaven donor supporter will be held, and entertainment will be provided by country music sensation Jason Lee and twin purpose soloist Emily Broady. Tickets for the birthday party are available on

This year Eureka Street partnered with Indigenous X to offer the 2018 Margaret Dooley Emerging Indigenous Writers Fellowship to an emerging Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The recipient, Amy Thunig, is a Kamilaroi woman and researcher at the University of Newcastle. Undertaking a PhD in education, while juggling parenting and partnering, her interests and writing centre around family life, Indigenous rights, social justice, academia, and education. The fellowship will provide a unique opportunity for Thunig to work with the editors of Eureka Street and IndigenousX, to produce 12 columns (six per platform), paid upon publication at $200 per article. At the end of the fellowship, there will be opportunities to contribute to Eureka Street and IndigenousX on an ongoing basis.

This year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List showed a record increase (15%) in female recipients compared to January’s Australia Day Honours List. The highest honour – Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) –saw women outnumber men by 10%. Australia needs to do more to ensure that our lists of honourees look like the Australia that exists, where a wide range of people of both sexes excel as citizens and deserve our recognition. Australian football legend Julie Dolan and swimming legend Dawn Fraser were among 18 former athletes or women in sport to have been honoured. Dolan, the Matilda’s inaugural captain, was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM). She is an FFA Hall of Fame inductee and currently the football technical director at the International Football School on the Central Coast. Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser AO was appointed an AC. She won eight Olympic medals including freestyle gold medals at three successive Olympic Games: 1956, 1960 and 1964. Fraser is 81 and a patron of 50 organisations.

Law Partner Promotions. In 2018 several law firms are sharing lists of promotion announcements that are majority female. It is a significant shift for an industry that has long been dominated by women at the graduate level, but also seen women drop out before reaching the partner ranks of major law firms. Herbert Smith Freehills has appointed eight new female partners. Global firm, Ashurst Australia, has appointed 24 new partners internationally, including ten in Australia, seven being women, two of whom are working part time: Catherine Pedler in Perth and Kathy Srdanovic in Sydney. Fourteen of the 24 partners appointed globally are women, making the promotions round 58% female. There is clearly still work to do, but a 4% shift from 24% to 28% of partners in 12 months in Ashurst’s Australian offices is significant. In 2014, the firm set a global target of seeing 40% women of all new partner promotions and this progress shows that publicising targets helps.

Women on Boards. The 30% milestone for women on boards in Australia has been reached across the ASX 100, while the number of women on boards across the full ASX 200 is also at an all-time high, up from 25.4% this time last year to 27.7%. Then there were 13 ASX 200 boards with no female representation; now that is down to five. Some companies are doing the heavy lifting on helping the full list edge closer to the 30% female target, given there are still 60 boards on the ASX 200 that have only one female board director. Medibank Private and Fortescue Metals Group, also led by two women Elizabeth Gaines and Julie Shuttleworth, and  are the only two companies to have majority female boards, both being 56% female. Another ten are exactly 50% female. However, hitting anything close to gender parity on other boards is still slow, with the rate of female appointments to boards dropping to below 50% for the first time since January, largely thanks to a drop of such appointments in May. This was a month in which there was significant commentary regarding whether women lack the qualifications to fill such positions.

In New South Wales a bill to legalise safe access zones for abortion clinics was passed as an amendment to the Public Health Act to establish 150-metre ‘safe access zones’ around abortion clinics. It will now be illegal to barricade and berate women accessing clinics or record them without their consent. A controversial provision has also been adopted to make illegal ‘a communication that relates to abortions, by any means’, or that could cause ‘distress or anxiety’ to a person accessing or leaving a clinic. The legislation is aimed specifically at ‘side-walk counsellors’– pro-life advocates who are known to stand outside abortion clinics in protest. Breaching these laws carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail for a first offence and 12 months in jail for subsequent offences. The bill’s passage was preceded by a lengthy debate where more than 40 MPs spoke on the issue. Greens MLC, Mehreen Faruqi said, “We still have unfinished business in this Parliament. We need to decriminalise abortion, which is the crux of the issue of lack of access for women and people who are seeking abortion services…We need to remove that stigma and criminality.”

Women Around the World.

This year people of Ireland were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have their say on women’s reproductive rights and the people were clear. In nearly every age group, men and women, across social classes voted to change the Constitution, overwhelmingly in favour of overturning some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. In this historic revolution, 66.4% of voters opted to repeal the 8th Amendment that effectively bans abortion in almost every instance, even in cases of incest, rape, and fatal foetal abnormality, unless women’s lives are at risk. The vote amounts to a landslide on a sensitive and divisive subject in a deeply Catholic country. Ireland was once viewed as among the most conservative nations in the world with good cause: it only legalised divorce in 1995. But it seems the people of Ireland are no longer so wedded to tradition and are instead inclined towards change. In May 2015 they voted to legalise same-sex marriage, the first time a popular vote delivered this change. Now the Irish Government plans to legislate change in the abortion laws by the end of the year which will mean, for the first time in history, the women of Ireland will not have to travel to access abortions. They will no longer need to import abortion pills illegally, without access to medical care or support. The Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, “The people have spoken. They have said we need a modern constitution for a modern country [and we] trust and respect women to make the right choices and decisions about their own healthcare.”

The UN General Assembly on Tuesday elected Ecuadorean Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés to be President of its upcoming 73rd session. She is an experienced diplomat and politician, only the fourth woman to hold that position in the history of the world body, and the first since 2006. In her acceptance speech, Espinosa also noted that she was the first woman ever from Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over the Assembly. She said she would maintain an open-door policy during her presidency and “act as an impartial, objective and open facilitator…As you know, I am also a poet as well as a politician. As such, I am fully aware that no view is useful if we do not see, and no word has value if we do not listen. I will be ready to listen to you all and work for, and with you.”  As a writer and poet, Espinosa has published more than 30 academic articles on the Amazon River, culture, heritage, development, climate change, intellectual property, foreign policy, integration, defence, and security.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Ăsa Regnér of Sweden as Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships, UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).  She will succeed Lakshmi Puri of India who served in this role during the past eight years. Since 2014 Regnér has been Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality in Sweden. Her focus has been on concrete results in the implementation of Swedish gender equality policies as well as a shift towards prevention of violence against women and the involvement of men and boys in gender equality work. She has had extensive experience in the area of women’s empowerment, having held various leadership positions in government, NGOs and the UN. 

Professor Rhoda Reddock, an eminent scholar and activist over several decades, has been elected a Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) for the period 2019-2022. This is the first time since becoming a party to CEDAW Convention in 1990 that Trinidad and Tobago has presented a candidate. Reddock was one of 16 candidates competing for the 12 vacancies on the Committee, securing 158 out of 185 votes – the highest number of votes received. Twenty-two independent experts monitor the progress made by States Parties in the implementation of the Convention. The UN Committee represents one of the foremost mechanisms worldwide for the promotion of human rights and fair treatment of women as it assists States Parties to improve their human rights record and to provide women and girls with equal access to opportunities for growth and development.

As the newly appointed chief operating officer of Airbnb, Belinda Johnson is managing the growth of the US$31 billion travel platform with a view for the long haul. According to Forbes magazine, she is one of the world’s most powerful women in tech. She joined Airbnb as general counsel in 2011, after a stint as deputy general counsel at Yahoo. Johnson, who is also on the board of directors of PayPal, oversees Airbnb’s operating systems, business-enabling functions and legal, policy and communications teams. Johnson said, “As we have this goal to deliver an end-to-end trip platform for every type of traveller, we need to make sure that our operations scale for the growth of the business…When I started in 2011, we had 120,000 listings, and now four and a half million in over 80,000 cities, so there’s been massive, massive growth. People still see us as an alternative accommodation [option], and that hasn’t changed until Airbnb’s recent significant expansion into premium home listings, luxury travel, and custom-designed ‘trips of a lifetime’.”

Dinah Musindarwezo, recently retired Chief Executive of the African Women’s Communication and Development Network (FEMNET) in Kenya has been named by Apolitical as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy in 2018 alongside some of the most incredible women and men in gender policy from around the world. Drawing on nominations from dozens of gender equality experts and leading organisations in the field, Apolitical aims to celebrate the people making our societies fairer and better to live in. It is a free global network for public servants in 120 countries that believes that public servants deserve recognition, and that celebrating the best encourages the spread of good ideas.

Diversity. The latest report from McKinsey & Co examines the financial performance of 1000 companies in 12 countries and follows up on its 2015 Why Diversity Matters study. It found that those companies in the top quartile for diversity at the executive level are 21% more likely to be more profitable than their industry peers in the bottom diversity quartile.  Ethnic diversity improves performance even more, with companies once again in the highest quartile on ethnic diversity being 33% more likely to be more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. Diversity is not just an opportunity; a lack of diversity could also be a risk. McKinsey found that companies in the bottom quartiles for both ethnicity and gender were 29% less likely to outperform on profitability. The report hypothesises that the levers driving the link between diversity and profitability may include diverse companies being able to better attract top talent, as well as diverse teams improving their customer orientation, employee satisfaction and overall decision-making. Robert Half’s latest CEO research finds that 94% of ASX 200 CEOs in Australia are men, and 47% are based in Sydney. Australia could really use a shake-up at the top, given that not one Australian company made it into Boston Consulting Group’s latest list of the world’s 50 most innovative companies.

Celebration of blackness. The wedding of the Queen’s grandson in Windsor Castle, the oldest inhabited castle in the world was full of ancient British tradition: heraldry, knights of the garter, a choir that has been in continuous existence since the 13th century. But that is not what this royal wedding will be remembered for. Oprah Winfrey’s attendance was a reminder that, between her and Meghan Markle, the bride whose wedding she had come to watch, perhaps the two most famous women in the world today are of African heritage. Also present were Serena Williams, who was there with her husband Alexis Ohanian, and other black royalty, including Idris Elba, with his fiancée Sabrina Dhowre, and Gina Torres, Markle’s fellow actor in the TV series Suits. At this royal wedding, talented black people were more than adornment. The sermon, delivered by the Episcopalian church leader the Rev Michael Curry, began with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr before enlightening the congregation on the wisdom of spirituals – traditional African American music rooted in the experience of slavery – and casting Jesus as a revolutionary. If there had been any doubts about what cultural experience Curry would bring to the service, they were swiftly and decisively answered. The wedding was a most memorable occasion.

Women in Sport

Football. There are people who do not think a black woman should be leading FIFA – but Fatma Samoura, 55, is doing just that as the first female secretary general of football’s world governing body in 112 years and arguably the most powerful woman in international sport. She says the “glass ceiling has been broken” with her appointment. Samoura, who previously worked for the UN for 21 years, says that racism is something “we are fighting on a daily basis on the pitch – I don’t want any racist person around me…Nobody asks a man when he takes a position if he’s competent to do the job. They just assume that he can do it. For a woman to make her way up to the top – you need to prove every single day that you are the best fit for that position.” Along with overseeing the reform of football’s governing body, Samoura has been tasked with improving conditions for migrant workers constructing facilities for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup. “Over the past six months we haven’t heard anything negative about workers’ conditions in Qatar,” she said. “It is a strong sign that football can help change cultural behaviour, even in the more conservative society.”

Tennis. Serena Williams left the tennis circuit ranked number one to have her first child, only to return unseeded at the French Open and ranked 451 in the world. Her maternity ‘transition’ certainly has not been easy, despite her considerable fortune. She has suffered a range of health issues, and has had to deal with the indignity of being told that the literal first ranking she had the day she left tennis competition to have a baby was mostly meaningless on her return. 

During the successful first round of the French Open, Williams looked like a superhero in the suit she wore to help prevent bloodclots and stated she felt like one too. She dedicated the outfit and her return to all the mothers who have felt physically and mentally exhausted: “It feels like this suit represents all the women that have been through a lot mentally, physically with their body, to come back and have confidence and believe in themselves.” It is great to see women like Williams doing their work publicly on the world stage and proving that women should not have to be ‘unseeded’ or dropped or forgotten at work during a transition into motherhood.

Forbes 2017 list of the 100 highest paid athletes in the world came from 22 countries, competing in 11 sports and earning a cumulative $3.8 billion, with 23% of that coming from endorsements. For the first time, no women were included. Previously tennis champion Serena Williams had been flying the female flag and was the only woman included in the 2016 list. Despite having almost one year away from competitive tennis on account of having her daughter, the 23-time grand-slam champion still earned an estimated $18 million in sponsorship last year,  but this was not enough for the 2017 list. It is a reminder of the chasm between men and women’s earnings in sport.

Netball. Netball Australia wants its top-flight league to be the benchmark for women’s world sport after announcing a new pay deal. Players from the eight Super Netball clubs will earn a minimum of $30,000, up from $27,375, from next season. Each club will now have a base total of $515,000 to spend on their 10 players, along with access to an extra $150,000 for employment, education and ambassador roles. Netball Australia’s landmark five-year broadcast deal with the Nine Network and Telstra has increased the profile and earnings of the sport. Ratings were so impressive in 2017 that the two broadcast games a round have been moved from GEM to Nine’s main channel this year. This helped boost Netball Australia’s latest financial report, which saw revenue increase by almost 70% to $26.8 million, while sponsorship income has more than tripled to $12.3 million. Netball Australia boss Marne Fechner says she is eager for the league to set the standard for women’s sport. “We are driven to set new benchmarks and make Suncorp Super Netball the number one women’s league globally,” Fechner said. “It’s fantastic that young girls now have a genuine career pathway in netball, and more broadly, in women’s sport.”

Rugby. In another landmark decision, this year Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) will host the very first Premiership competition for Women’s Rugby League starting in September. The Brisbane Broncos, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors will compete in the inaugural competition. NRL’s Chief Executive Todd Greenburg declared, “For the first time, our best female players will have the opportunity to play in an NRL competition – on the game’s biggest stage…It’s a big year ahead – and a really exciting year ahead – for our female rugby league players, as well as fans of our women’s game.” For fans of the game, especially women, this new chapter is momentous.

Cricket. Australian women’s cricket continues to outshine the men. In the tri-series T20 International between Australia, India and England bowler Megan Schutt became the first Australian woman to claim an international T20 hat trick in the Australia-India match. In the final against England, Meg Lanning and Elyse Villani powered Australia to the highest-ever total in a women’s T20 International in their 4 for 209 partnership.


Track and Field. Allyson Felix, a USA sprinter, has won an astonishing 25 Olympic and world championship medals, including 17 golds, more than any athlete in history. It puts her ahead of Merlene Ottey on 23 and Usain Bolt on 21. Yet crashing into the mainstream has proved a tougher challenge. Perhaps times are changing. In March, ESPN magazine lauded her as one of the 20 most dominant athletes of the century. Felix intends to carry on using her status to empower women through sport. “I am really trying to change traditional perceptions,” she says. “We need girls to know that strong is beautiful and to get them participating and doing their best, whatever they do. I hope we are moving in the right direction. But there is definitely a way to go.” She is particularly proud to be an ambassador for the global humanitarian organisation Right To Play, which has led to her travelling to countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, and Palestine, and clearly making a deep impact.I remember going into a refugee camp in Lebanon, for instance, and speaking to a young girl who had been helped to set up a soccer league. Just seeing the confidence that she had was amazing.”


Rowing. Kendall Brodie has written a new chapter in sporting history this weekend as the first female coxswain of an Australian men’s eight crew at the rowing World Cup regatta in Austria. Taking charge of a men’s crew is nothing new for Brodie, pictured with Sydney rowers, who says she has spent more of her near 15-year rowing career on a male boat than alongside female rowers. Rowing Australia have allowed women to cox in male events for the past 20 years but the sport’s international body, FISA, only last year decreed the role of coxswain to be gender neutral. Physical size and strength does not matter when coxing a boat. Their chief role is to make sure the boat is steering in a straight line, but they also act as a coach, a mentor and a motivator while on the water and are responsible for the crew’s tactics. “I played the cello at school and I was in the orchestra… it is definitely like trying to be the conductor,” Brodie said. “I think of coxswains as the ultimate multitaskers. While we’re constantly steering we’re also feeling the rhythm of the boat, feeling the timing and we have to have a lot of technical knowledge…If something’s not right I’ve got to be able to identify that and know in what way to respond to get the crew back together or to get the most out of them.”

Canberra is a leader in women’s semi-professional sport in Australia, having the highest female participation rates in sport in the country, with an estimated 79.5 per cent of women aged over 15 involved in sport two times per week. Women have paved the way for basketball and soccer to thrive in the WNBL and W-League competitions and the ACT Brumbies introduced a women’s team this year to play in the inaugural Super W competition. The government has a vision for Canberra to become the women’s sport capital of Australia. Women’s cricket will play a large role in that, with the government deciding to invest in hosting women’s T20 World Cup in 2020 rather than trying to secure men’s fixtures between minnow nations. But there is a major gap for community-level sports, grounds and players as female participation numbers increase.

Canberra’s female athletes have to get changed in full view of spectators before games and use public toilets because of inadequate facilities at the capital’s sporting venues as ageing venues struggle to cope with the women’s sport boom. The availability of change rooms is largely dependent on sharing with men’s grades or if the venue has enough rooms to cater for different teams at different times. Canberra rugby union veteran and four-time Wallaroos World Cup representative Louise Burrows said she had become ‘accustomed’ with the lack of facilities. “Just having women’s change rooms would be a step in the right direction,” Burrows said. The ACT government has invested in various sporting venues already, with more expected to follow. The Federal Government has committed $29 million to community sporting infrastructure as part of the 2018-19 budget. The Australian Sports Commission is set to implement the program, with inclusive sporting environments, including change rooms for female athletes, high on the priority list.


Celia Brackenridge, international sportswoman, campaigner, academic and authority on child protection in sport, died in the UK aged 67 on 23 May from leukaemia. She carried out pioneering work on the sexual abuse and harassment of young athletes and footballers by their coaches in the 1980s and 90s. Her research led her to examine the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of all athletes, but her findings were met with total denial by the then sports establishment. In 2001, she began working with the Football Association (FA) to assess the state of child protection at clubs, and to monitor a new FA strategy to protect junior players, but what was intended to be a £1m, five-year project was curtailed because of internal disputes in FA and objections to the project. As she said in the 90s: “People thought I was a troublemaker and trampling on paradise. It was the same in the church – people could not bear to believe this could happen because these were places of sanctuary.” Her reputation grew in Britain and internationally as she worked in collaboration with UNICEF, the International Olympic Committee and the Paralympic movement. She was a founder and first chair of the Women’s Sports Foundation UK.

Freda Whitlam, sister of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, died in Sydney on 30 May aged 97. Although not nearly as famous as her brother, Ms Whitlam played a significant role in education, and the Uniting Church in Australia. From a famously intellectual family that moved to Canberra when father Fred Whitlam was appointed Crown Solicitor, Ms Whitlam attended Canberra Girls Grammar and later became a French teacher there. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study a degree in education and economics at Yale in 1954, and later became principal at Presbyterian Ladies College in Sydney’s inner west. She did not marry or have children but devoted her life to the church, and was involved in the union of Presbyterians and Methodists that became the Uniting Church of Australia.

Emeritus Professor Hal Kendig, a great contributor to society and a most generous spirit, died on 3 June 2018. Hal was a Life Member of the Australian Association of Gerontology in recognition of his long and powerful influence in shaping a national discourse on ageing, in advocating for the needs and rights of older people, and for a life-course approach to ageing well. He was a passionate researcher, and a highly respected trans-disciplinary scholar. Kendig’s most powerful and enduring influence is in the people he inspired. His international work included multiple research collaborations, and key roles as an expert and advisor.

Tributes flowed for Kate Spade, after the fashion designer was found dead in her Manhattan apartment on 5 June. Spade was known for her bright accessories line and her distinct playing card symbol, as well as for designing clothes, jewellery, shoes and other items. In 1993, she co-founded Kate Spade Handbags with her husband Andy Spade, opening a store in New York in 1996 and going on to create 300 branches across the world. One of Spade’s missions was to empower women in Rwanda by allowing them to craft their own fashion line. She brought 150 women together at Masoro to handcraft the company’s products in the brand’s newest line of accessories, On Purpose, paying them a monthly salary that enables them to support their families and send their children to school.

Talented comedian, 22-year old Eurydice Dixon, was raped and murdered in a Melbourne park on 13 June, metres from her home, causing the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews to increase debate about the safety of women in Melbourne and their need to protect themselves at night. “Our message to Victorian women is this,” Mr Andrews wrote. “Stay home. Or don’t. Go out with friends at night. Or don’t. Go about your day exactly as you intend, on your terms. Because women don’t need to change their behaviour. Men do.” Murder, rape and violence do not just occur by strangers in parks late at night. More often someone who knows the victims carries them out. It is why “being careful” is an unrealistic safeguard that takes the onus off perpetrators. Thousands of people gathered in tribute to Dixon at the Melbourne field where her body was discovered, while hundreds of others across the nation joined in solidarity. At a vigil in Sydney, the names of 30 women killed in the past year were read out over a microphone, with 30 seconds of silence for each of them. In Canberra, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten stood side by side at a vigil at Parliament House.


I write this on the plane to another adventure, my last substantial travel for this year when I will be in Canada and Alaska. Ellen and Andrew are currently at the World Cup 2 Rowing Regatta in Linz-Ottenscheim Austria where their Olympic athletes are competing while Adam and Vicky hold the fort at home. The third World Cup regatta will be held in Lucerne on about 16 July. Doug will be a visiting doctor at Ngukurrr, the remote Indigenous community on the banks of the Roper River in southern Arnhem Land, Northern Territory while Julie and granddaughter Emilia are volunteering again at the Raey Community School in Ethiopia. 

Five-month old great grandson Joash will have his first overseas adventure with his mum Kaylin in July as they visit their US grandparents and family. Erica has acquired a beautiful champagne Siamese cat Kiki that we love dearly.  

I send my greetings of peace to you all from the Rotary Peacekeeping Summit in Toronto Canada.

From today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
Napo Masheane

Shirley Randell
Toronto, Canada

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.


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