On this page: Dr Jocelynne Scutt; Jane Morgan; Pamela Curr; Sue Healy; Edith Morgan; Eileen Capocchi; Yvonne Smith; Molly Hadfield; Hellen Cooke; Jo Wainer; Dalene Salisbury; Women's Health in the North
Dr Jocelynne Scutt
If you look back to the
1990's when the Kennett Liberal Government came in and Labor was turfed
out, one of the problems I remember was shown when Joan Kirner and Kay
Setches went around to a lot of schools to see what was happening. This
was possibly because Joan Kirner had been an education minister, and because
that was where she got her political 'oomph' from - her struggle and push
for proper conditions for schools.
they went round the schools they found that the mothers and the parents
and the people in the schools didn't know how to lobby. They hadn't had
to do it throughout the whole of the Labor period. Now, there is much
we are critical of: we said "Oh, they are not receptive, they are not
listening" but you could actually go and talk to somebody, and when the
Kennett government came in, you could talk to no-one.
were listening to no-one and no-one could get in and have a voice. Everybody
was like stunned mullets or chooks with their heads chopped off. They
didn't really know how to handle it, because we had been cacooned, in
a way, from that simple barrier "You can't come in here. We don't want
to listen to you, we don't even know you exist".
I grew up as the youngest child in a family of four children with a mum and a dad in the back blocks of Warranwood up the road from Warrandyte, which was then a real hillbilly area with many very poor families trying to make a living on small-holdings.
During this time our family was very poor and I remember my mother not being able to afford new dentures and having only one dress to wear. I remember that dress to this day. It was a slightly shiny fabric with big red and pink roses on it. I remember my mother sitting on the back steps in this very dress singing songs to the many stray dogs my brother and I were constantly bringing home. And the dogs just sitting there, adoring her.
At the same time my father was a travelling salesman and he always had to be dressed well. I recall him leaving the house in a suit and tie with a well-ironed shirt. We would frequently not see him until the following week or more.Even as a small child the inequity of this relationship was very evident to me and at the same time something I could not reconcile.
My brother and I decided to dispense with the 'mum' name at about twelve years of age in recognition of the fact that our mother was an individual in her own right, although we were full of a laugh and called her "passionflower" and other fantastic names for some time before calling her by her real name, Edith. This was the blossoming of my feminist consciousness.
Edith went on to become the very famous Edith Morgan to whom this book is dedicated.
One of the incidences that occurred in our family, which was very important to the development of my beliefs and understanding of the world, occurred when I was about eight years old. The repossession blokes in white shirts and thin black ties came to repossess our car. They were blond, thin and clean cut, mean spirited looking people. There was of course an argument and my father emerged from the house with the shotgun threatening to blow them away. This was hugely exciting for me and in fact blew away any perceptions of mine of living a law abiding and authority respecting life.
Our home was a very political home with a lot of discussion, involvement in the ALP and the emerging Socialist Left. This was also the time of the emergence of feminism, which had a profound effect on many women's lives and the relationships they had with husbands and the view of their role within the family.
Many of the men around us were extremely angry about this threat to their dominance. For the women this was a uniting and empowering time with shared struggles and honesty in the retelling of their stories.
At the end of my sons' primary years I needed to change my life. I knew that the late nights spent working on completing a job was not sustainable with a young boy attending high school. I needed a proper job that would pay regular money and I needed the support of my family in raising an adolescent person. I did get a job at Fitzroy Council in the Women's Support Program. This was a very stimulating time, working with a team of women and providing a feminist service to women and their children living in the high-rise flats. The program we ran was primarily a group program with women learning from one another and changing their lives in very elemental ways.
During this time the union was very strong in local govern- ment and achieved many great things for workers. There was a strong feeling of unity within the union members and lots of fun we did have. It was this involvement in the union at Fitzroy that led to my being so incensed at the brutality of the attack on the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) by Peter Reith and the Liberal Party. When this happened a close friend of mine and I virtually abandoned our work and lent our numbers to the people flocking to the docks in support of the Unionists under attack.
Management at work were not very happy with us, but what could they do but sack us?
This is not, in fact, a very easy thing to do. What happened at the docks was a remarkable and uplifting thing. It really proved that the 'People United Will Never Be Defeated'.
For the two weeks or so of the shut down a new community was structured on the road leading to the wharf. There were thousands of people coming and going. Other hundreds just staying and not going home till Reith and his tools were defeated.
To sustain this number of people was a mammoth task and it happened through people as individuals and a community uniting to defeat a common enemy. There was: - the group of young people ('ferals' I think they were termed at this time) who set up a kitchen and provided free and very cheap meals to whoever showed up;
- the musicians who provided their services free to see us through the long and cold nights;
- the workers with welding gear joining together iron girders as barricades against the police;
- a whole union movement united to provide things like toilets and coordination to ensure no entry was left unmanned at any time and no protester was left hungry or unappreciated or unprepared;
- Edith and Molly who stopped the train and sent that poor train driver probably off for years of trauma counselling;
- the night of standing all night long in solid formation being buzzed constantly by police helicopters and the police arriving the next day in huge numbers to break the picket and having to turn tail knowing they didn't stand a chance.
We were in a war zone, but a happy war zone in many respects, because we were united.
Civil rights, human rights, workers' rights and the peace movement. They are the four areas I work in. But you can't do everything. Annie once said to me
"you have to focus on where you will be most effective".
But when you are an activist, you just see so much. It is as if a lens is lifted from your eyes so you actually see the injustice. You see things happening that are going to lead to injustice and you want to engage with it.
I am trying to stay within clear paramaters, but of course, I sometimes get a call from somebody about something and I may have something useful in my toolbag.
I see activists as having a bag of tools. We all have different bags of tools - this is why it is good to work together. I think it has been very encouraging to see, over the past few years, that people are working together more, putting their political differences to one side to focus on the concerns they share and to work together.
That has worked very well in the Victorian Peace Network. There may be forty or fifty of us sitting around the table. There are people from churches, from left-wing groups, from student groups, from ethnic groups, from other community groups and from the unions - all sitting together trying to work out a way to oppose a government decision to take us to a war that we knew was unjust.
This also happened in the Fairwear campaign. You could go to a protest and find, say, a Christian brother holding the banner at one end and someone from a far-left political group holding the banner at the other end.
I think we need to see more of that.
"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.": John F. Kennedy
... At the moment I am working with the Victorian Peace Network. I am also the national spokesperson for the Greens for refugees, but even if I weren't, I see myself as one of the many refugee activists.Some of us are aligned to groups and some of us are not. We are all in communication through email. This is a campaign that has been connected through email.
Recently I went to the Rural Australians for Refugees conference in Albury. There I met people Ihad been talking to for the last two and a half to three years by email and on the telephone. I met them face to face. It was fantastic. There are a lot of us who have become friends but never met each other, because of our concern for the refugees.
We often talk about what activists do for causes and for groups, but I think we sometimes forget what they do for us. The asylum seekers, in coming to this country, have allowed us to see another way - another view of life.They have also allowed us to see at first hand the incredible strength that people have to struggle and fight back. They give us an example of how we must struggle.
For many Australians life has been fairly easy. We come up against these people who have faced a death struggle. They really can inspire us and show us ways to endure - because that is what we have to do.So I think we need to remember, as activists involved in struggles and fights for others, what these people are giving back to us. It is more than a 50-50 exchange.
Also, I would say there are more women than men working as activists in the refugee movement. That may come about because women have a tendency to see the humanity in people first and the politics and other things second. We are not only doing this for the asylum seekers. We are also doing it for ourselves, because if we allow a political situation to exist in this country where one vulnerable group is picked off, we then are allowing the next vulnerable group to be picked off too - and so on.
I became a librarian, and when I had a job in the university library I had the idea that libraries shouldn't be just safe places for educated people. I thought they ought to be in the mainstream of things. I developed this idea of what I called a "social librarian".
There was a review of libraries at this time and I wrote to them suggesting they could provide resources for people who worked in society to change society who needed resources. I was looking at resourcing community organizations to be better at advocating etc. It turned out that the Principal Librarian of the State Library of Victoria, Marjorie Ramsay, had a similar idea. She called me for an interview and we argued vociferously, with me saying "I don't think it should be located in the State Library, I don't think that is appropriate". She was saying "Well, that is where it is going to be", but we were on a good wavelength and I got the job. The problem was that no-one knew what I was meant to do.
I talked to Marjorie about it and I found out there was this thing called "Community Information". It was the information you provide for people who are in difficulties, or whatever, and where you set up services through which you can discuss the problem. You don't provide answers but you can give the person options. These services don't only provide individual assistance and ways out of their dreadful situations but they provided the material for telling the government what needed to be done.
If people were asking for services that weren't there, you could go to Government and say, for example, "We have had 500 people asking for emergency housing but there is only enough room for 10 places".
We started off with a database of services. It was about service delivery but it was also about bringing back people's power. We aimed at empowerment through information. This had results. People were put in touch with each other. For example, the State Library had this anti-uranium banner which was carefully and beautifully appliqued. The problem was that it was very heavy, in spite of the air holes. The other problem with it was that every woman who carried it got pregnant! In the end we couldn't find anyone to carry it. So we had to give up our banner, but we continued to work hard in the group.
From 1980 to 1988 I was working very much with Citizens Advice Bureaus and parts of the state government to develop information services. Government information was at that time just a directory of departmental names put out by the Premier's Department. It wasn't very helpful.
A friend and I encouraged the government to create a usable directory. For several years he and I did the index for it. This, too, was part of making sure that people knew what existed and where they could go. Towards the late eighties I began to realize that the glory days had gone - the money that had been available for people to do useful social things was drying up. Earlier, you could get money fairly easily to do pilot projects, to develop initiatives etc.
... When I retired, I found the Older Persons Action Centre (OPAC) and went to see Margaret O'Callagan. She started talking about the group and I realized I could help there. After about eighteen months they asked me to be the Chairperson. I always felt that I was there just to manage the organization, as there were many strong people there with lot of ideas, who had too many things to do. So I didn't lead it - I managed it. For example, Margaret was concerned about what would happen to case management when the Kennett Government changed the hospital system. She drew together a whole range of people to discuss the needs of older people who were being treated as bed blockers and who were not wanted in hospitals because they needed to stay longer.
There was also Edith (Morgan) who was very active in aged care in the national system and running the Australian Pensioners and Superannuates Federation. We had campaigns about the way banks were treating older people, we took on the needs of older people regarding transport and we did a paper called "I Can't Come on Sundays", which detailed the difficulties of older people in getting around, particularly at weekends.
The next project we did was on care in the home. We then did a paper on volunteering. Margaret, in particular, was unhappy about volunteers being used as workhorses and having no input or say. That has been a fairly strong element of what we have done at OPAC.
OPAC has maintained the words 'older people' as they are the only non pejorative words we managed to keep in the English language and we are called 'Action Centre' being the direction and place where people could be.
But it is getting more difficult. The older we are, the less we are able to bring in younger people to be part of it. We see them as going in different directions.
The old 'war horses' are slowly declining.
- The twins were born in 1932. They were depression kids. But I never saw that we were depression kids like some of the families, who were renting and couldn't pay the rent.
My dad, when he had the grocer's shop, would take food around to people who were struggling and drop a parcel on the verandah. One of the women in the Union of Australian Women says "if it hadn't been for your dad, we would have starved". He would just drop food in the middle of the night. He had lots of great things about him but he wasn't very forceful about how the children would be brought up in the sense that I always was envious of my three brothers - we only had three boys and five girls - who got all these advantages in life.
- ...I was always bitter about the fact that the girls in my family could not go on. All of them were intelligent people. The girls had a special place in the family. I just think that issue of "but you don't need education, you will only get married" was common. Very few girls in my time even went to high school. I think this has dropped out of the conversation now, hopefully. That is not how our society is going.
I left school when I was not quite fourteen and I know a teacher from the high school came to mum to say "look, this is terrible that she is not going on". But the situation economically was, at that time, unless you had a scholarship your parents had to pay for you, and my parents couldn't afford it.
The other issue against me - I was never told this - but my mother was pregnant again. In a sense, I was to be that sacrificed daughter who would leave school and look after mum and the babies. I was the oldest girl. I always had a child on my hip. I became the sacrificial lamb; that's how I see it! I felt very trapped.
It was entrapment. You were cut out from the world you lived in, the school world, and now you were just living at home; looking after the house, mum and the two babies. There was no opportunity to socialize and no money either. I remember - when I was about fifteen or sixteen and getting a bit 'boy' conscious - taking the twins in the pusher to the park, hoping I would meet someone. As if they would be interested in me with two babies! When I think about it now, it is quite amusing.
- ... I joined the Union of Australian Women (UAW) in Melbourne. I didn't take out Communist party membership here because I was very disillusioned over their stand over Hungary and Czekoslovakia. I thought it was pretty terrible, what was done in those situations. I just let my membership lapse. It was when I met a UAW member outside Coles in Ringwood that I joined again. We had meetings in women's houses and that was when I hooked into something again. I also became very involved in the education of the kids. I was chairperson of the parents' committee and all that sort of stuff.
I went back to school and did matriculation. I did a social work degree at Melbourne University on scholarship. I then worked at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
- ... Women who are out there campaigning are unique, in a sense. So many women are still passive, even though they may privately voice disagreement with what is happening. To get them to that political act of declaring allegiance is another matter. We know that by the fact that so many are silent. The Vietnam moratorium was fantastic in the sense of bringing likeminded people together.
... - The biggest thing when the Second World War was over was the question of schools and the question of hospitals and medical services - the things that still involve us.
Building homes for people was also an issue. There was a push to get all those things on the ground quickly. The whole infrastructure had gone to billyo. Nothing had been done for six years - nothing! Living conditions and the protection of families were the main issues at that time. It was interesting to be involved in these and I certainly was involved in the whole question of national identity, because that was a very strong factor amongst those groups.
- ... It was a conservative degree I did at Melbourne University, aimed at controlling the population, but aren't all those things aimed at controlling the population? Whether we call it community development or whatever it is, you are trying to turn a population a certain way. I disagreed with this. I wanted to work for change. At the university someone said
"oh, Edith thinks she is not a social worker but she is".
I have a strong belief that unless you look politically at what you are doing, and understand the power structures, you are not going to get anywhere, really. Otherwise I think you are kidding yourself if you think there is something special about what you can achieve. Because the reality is, it is looking at the power situation that will give some sort of clear view of where you are going. You have to know what the power structures are that are going to stop you, as they tried to do at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, imposing "you can't go out, you have to stay" on us.
I was ready to escape from the hospital. You really didn't have a say in anything. The head of the department made the decisions and it was an atmosphere of control. As soon as my two years bondage was up, I was off.
- ... I suppose I have always had it in me, but it was only after I got married that I learned to come out a bit. I was a very shy, introverted person, I have to say. I never found it easy to speak out at a meeting, but I have got better at it over time. As to work I have done, such as being on the Guardianship and Administration Board, National President of the Australian Pensioners & Superannuants Association, I found them a challenge but very interesting to be there.
Also, how you tackle the press - because they are tackling you all the time and trying to divert you - so you have got to be that far ahead of them to get back to the issue that you feel is the important one. You see it all the time; they trivialize very important issues by picking on one aspect. During the election it was quite obvious.
I think we need more women who become known so they can become spokespersons.
I think that it is very important that people have some view of what is going on in the world, and in their own communities, so they are able to articulate injustices and where we should be going.
- Then some friends came and shared a house with us. That was a great time! There were 7 of us in a little 6 square house. It was after the war when returned servicemen were given an opportunity to do a rehabilitation course and they were offered 4 pound 5 shillings a week, which wasn't enough to pay rent for a couple with a baby.
We had practically no furniture. You walked straight into the lounge where they lived. We shared everything and it was the best time of my life. We had company, we had built in childcare with the studying friend. We women bought a weekly train ticket to the city-so we had a social and political life. We even shared clothes. We had a rule that whoever was minding the kids that day was the boss. We had a food kitty, we shared meals and we would go to the Victorian market from Montmorency every week. I remember returning one week all loaded up, and the station assistant commented "gee, Mrs Reed, you are doing a horse out of a job". I suppose I was.
WOMEN'S LIBERATION & EQUAL ACCESS TO PUBS CAMPAIGN
We became involved in consciousness raising, we set up a big public meeting in Cheltenham at which Zelda D'Aprano and Myra Roper spoke. We campaigned for women to be able to drink in the bar at hotels - we were only allowed in the lounge where the drinks were much more expensive and usually political conversation did not occur.
We had the support of the local paper and we went down there, all dressed up. The owner said he couldn't have us there because there was only one toilet -we asked him what the barmaids did. He said he couldn't have us there because of the men's swearing would offend our sensibilities - we asked him again about the barmaids and their sensibilities.
Eventually it was successful. I wonder if the women today realize what energy and work went into this small campaign.
We had a marvellous demonstration one Christmas highlighting the commercialisation of Christmas and the way women had to work so hard, with the shopping and cooking and everything. We borrowed a cardboard till. I was working on the catering where they were filming Don Quixote and we got some polystyrene from there and made it into a cross, conveying the message that women were martyrs. We were dressed in black and had bells ringing and slogans on placards.
The migrant women really related to it. I can still see them standing there, nodding their heads and smiling. Some of the others looked a bit turned their noses up a bit.
- Since the Grand Prix forced itself on Albert Park some years ago, and cracks appeared in the wall of our house, I have had some hectic moments in opposition to the construction of the track and ongoing races. I still do a regular stint at the Vigil tent, which operates six days a week opposite the Grand Prix office in Albert Road.
This wonderful body of people, through superb organisation and an outstanding information campaign have changed the face of protest. Eventually I believe we will overcome!
... GAS LEVY CAMPAIGN
I started writing letters to the papers about the gas levy, we had a deputation to the local gas and fuel corporation manager. We got in touch with our local politician but he was quite cross with me. A Labor man, Shepherd was his name. He wasn't a bad chap I suppose but just didn't like activists (probably women especially) telling him what should be done. He was quite hostile about it.
I had a few words with him and he challenged me about why I had presented a petition. I replied that I thought that was what we were supposed to do, and he backed down! He eventually did do something and we had the levy removed, but he never acknowledged the work we did. That was my initiation into political activity, basically.
.. - There were campaigns like the one Zelda and Bonny did on the trams. We rode on the trams and refused to pay the full ticket price, saying that as women did not have equal pay, then they shouldn't have to pay the full fare.
- When Bill and I married I resigned from work. I needed rest, adjustment time and to be able to devote more energy to care of the children, who had not had an easy time. I again became active with the UAW in Sunshine.
We had many local campaigns around local and international issues:
: support for land rights with Aboriginal women speakers;
: health issues with large public meetings with experts to explain e.g. Salk vaccination, Pap smear tests for women;
: deputations to the local council on the cost of living;
: peace art competitions for local schools;
: speakers on equal pay;
: organising equal pay speakers at local factories;
: letter writing, and selling our UAW magazine 'Our Women' on a regular basis at the post office on child endowment day, where we also had goods and cake stalls to raise money.
- I became secretary to the assistant secretary of the union, Bill O'Brien, who was a lovely man and a very active supporter of peace and the antiapartheid struggles in South Africa.
There was a woman named Helen Joseph, a white women – this was before the black movement really started to surge – who had been held under house arrest for years. Bill used to go around the unions picking up cards and letters of support for her and other activists. The UAW was also involved in support for antiapartheid activists in South Africa.
- It was 1960 when we moved to Chelsea. That was a whole new life again. There was no sewerage, unmade roads, no footpaths - we were a mile from the station. But there were wonderful people living there, like the man who moved us. At that time, no one who had a car would pass you on the road. We sometimes nursed each other, we were so jammed in.
Then I had to look for work. It was hard to get work, even then. Fred was a builder's' labourer, out of work from December until the next February, so they didn't have to pay him over the holidays. I had an enormous worry getting the kid's books and clothes for school.
-... It does worry me. My grandchildren believe they will never be able to afford to buy a house. They are in their thirties and they don't feel secure in their jobs or in their housing. If they feel this way, I am sure they are not alone.
What is happening now is not new. What must it have been like in the 1930's? It is no wonder so many people were ill. There have always been struggles, but there is a nasty sort of struggle developing. People are more and more encouraged to become just individuals and their problems just personal ones. They say globalisation is bringing people together, but in what form? A very greedy one, it seems. Big corporations with the power - is it going back to fascism?
When I think of the second world war and the suffering it caused, it brings back too many memories. I saw those men and what fascism and war had done to them! I thought we were never to have it again, but I woke up this morning to hear the Americans were bombing women and kids in the snow in Afghanistan.
... For example, we have to be looking at education. We have to learn to think and if you don't start reading and writing early, and are supported then, you lose a lot. That has always been my biggest drawback. Education is the number one thing you need to start your life, that is why I support it from playgroups to childcare to kindergarten to schools and on. Money has been taken away and put into private schools.
What is to happen to the poor kids? Education helps you to have health, it helps you to think, and it helps you in to do many things. Look what has happened. Our school and community hall at Aspendale were just taken from us with more money put into private schools. I am sure that happened in many other communities. We need free, public and secular education with many different types to suit different people. Then we need housing. Out of that will come health and work. If more money is put in to support people with disabilities you are making good jobs as well as creating community. How different people will feel then!
... One night, when I was coming home from work, talking to a woman on the train, she invited me to a Progress Association meeting. I went along and joined. There was a wonderful group there. They were struggling for - well, the first thing I was worried about was the kids walking a mile to the station in all weathers to get to school. At times, they would start the day wet through. They needed a bus. I went around doorknocking and everyone agreed, so I got in touch with the bus driver and organised a bus service for the children. Unfortunately, only three kids got on. The driver came knocking at my door saying he would cancel the bus.
Anyway, at work the next day, people said that he couldn't do that, so I rang the Transport Board, I think it was. They agreed with me and said they would come and monitor the service. He had to keep the service on. Of course, in no time, the kids started using it. Then the adults started using it too. Then it became overcrowded. I asked the driver to tell the kids to move back so more could get on. He refused, he hated me. He told me to stop complaining and if I didn't like it, to get off. Well I didn't. I hung on and when I got to Frankston I went to the same people as before.
What I have found is that there are some wonderful women. These women were so supportive, even though they weren't in that position themselves. So we got another bus on that route, but the driver never forgave me. He used to deliberately go slowly as we reached the station so we would miss the train, or he would leave the station just before I got on. I heard he used to say that he did it deliberately to annoy 'those old hags'.
- ... Being involved in the Older Person's Action Centre, the Consumer Forum for the aged, and Housing for the Aged Action Group was a wonderful experience for me, like it had been in the women's movement. The aged care movement was coming forward. You were learning and could put it back into your community. It had been the same with the feminist movement. Maybe the same thing will happen now with social justice to help people in these current conditions of no housing, unemployment and public education cuts.
I think it will.
After the United Nations International Year of Peace all sorts of grants were taken away. People wandered away and took up other issues and tasks. It was as if they said "we have done that, now we will do this". I was still an acolyte, or student, of being an activist and I was puzzled. I ended up being in the hot seat where, I felt, I had no right to be. And I still had trouble with acronyms. Looking back at the Canberra Program for Peace I realize what wonderful people they were - extraordinary people.
There was a small amount of money available from the Government for the International Year of Peace and the Non Government Organizations came together to decide how to use it. At these meetings I found out that people who come together for peace are not necessarily peaceful. In fact, some young men wanted to take the word "peace" out of the International Year for Peace.
We weathered a few meetings by sticking to the agenda and these young men got bored with us and left. But then the head of the Returned Soldiers' League came in. He, again, seemed hell-bent on removing the word "peace". A friend of mine, an ex headmistress, had enough of this - she spoke up and said "Will you be quiet?" He was.
Stella Cornelius (a member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) came in. She was an absolutely unflappable woman. The RSL man said she must not criticize the men involved in the war games we were having at that time. He called these men "the brave boys who would fight the wars". She just said "Yes, I really want to help the brave boys. I don't believe their lives should be risked wantonly, so I propose that before we have war games we should have peace games - serious peace games". She won me over. I still correspond with her.
I continued to work at the ABC and Bert continued to challenge the abortion laws (he did get to do his test cases) and to force the Victorian Government to hold an inquiry in to the relationship between police corruption and abortion, the Kaye Inquiry. It blue the lid off abortion in Victoria. For the first time ever the media started using the word, and for eighteen months abortion was on the front page pretty well every day. No longer could Melbourne, and Victoria, pretend that this didn't happen. It was very confronting: Melbourne sees itself as such as respectable place, but for the first time ever women told their stories and that, basically, changed the climate.
It was pretty hairy for us, we were disturbing a very lucrative industry. People were sent to kill us and we lived a cloak and dagger existence. Eventually Bert was bankrupted. The Tax Department bankrupted him for $1,300 he had forgotten to pay in taxes. They took his land, they took his car and the goods out of his surgery. His landlady was Catholic and her Bishop rang her and told her she had to throw him out. He had nowhere to live and was staying with his sister. Her house was fire-bombed and half burnt down.
He was bankrupt and had had his first coronary, so we bolted to Queensland to recover. We settled in Caloundra, which was then a sleepy little village of 5,000 people - it is now a megalopolis. He became a country doctor and we joined the Children by Choice Association there, the lobby working to change abortion laws in Queensland.
They were a very fiery and innovative group of women. They didn't have any chance in Bjelke Peterson's time to change the law so they organized a referral service for women, so women could get abortions. They had it so systemized they would buy bulk seats in the aircraft to fly women to Sydney and Melbourne at discount prices. They would funnel the referrals to whichever doctor was behaving the best in terms of prices and competency. They employed doctors and set a shopfront and clinic a to assess the women. They did a wonderful job.
Bert applied to be the medical superintendent of the hospital in Caloundra. The hospital had been built as part of an election promise. It had never been opened as they couldn't find a doctor to run it. Bert's experience in the army was that he ran the military hospital in Brisbane and he also ran the field army hospital - he was certainly over-qualified to run a fifteen bed country hospital.
I remember very clearly the Minister for Health and the Minister for Police having a public fight over who had the right to refuse Bert this job! So he set up a private practice.
In the year 2000 I had the opportunity to attend a Community Development Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I was in my last year at Deakin University when I chose to complete my Fieldwork Placement subject by going to this conference. It was a great experience to meet and network with like-minded community development students and workers.
By chance I met two very important women and as a result I became involved with Children & Love Association (CLA). These two women, Saman Buth the founder & co-ordinator of CLA and Barbara Jackson (an Australian) who worked as a Community Development Advisor in Vietnam made me aware of the poverty of the families and children in the Prey Veng Province, Cambodia.
From this chance meeting an Australian organisation was formed. It is called Community Links with Cambodia, Australia (CLC). The main aim is to make people in Australia aware of the plight of Cambodians in the Prey Veng Province and to provide assistance by fundraising for them.
CLC Australia has been fundraising for the last three years to assist with the 'Well Project'. My person journey was to find out about how these families survived, so when I had the opportunity the travel to the Prey Veng Province - Mesang District, I jumped at the chance.
In travelling to Mesang District I experienced the wonderful work that Saman Buth and her co-workers have achieved. Children & Love Association (CLA) commenced in the Mesang district Prey Veng Province in 1999.
It has a holistic approach to Child Rights, with a strong emphasis on providing families with training agricultural techniques to improve their ability to grow enough food to eat thereby earning sufficient income to overcome the need to leave the district looking for work.
Prior to their participation in the CLA project, family production was mainly concerned with growing wet season rice, maintaining and repairing their house and equipment and perhaps producing rice wine. With CLA's support, productivity has increased dramatically through growing vegetables and raising livestock. Since 1999 CLA's main funding body has been from Save the Children (UK), which is used for educating children regarding HIV/AIDS, child trafficking and the alcohol/drug problems. Saman and her community workers use role-play to demonstrate these problems. Our CLC Australian fundraising goes towards the 'Well Project', which is run on community development principles.
If anyone is interested in contacting our Australian CLC organisation, my email address is: email@example.com
WOMEN'S HEALTH IN THE NORTH
- The demands placed on the individual in contemporary society are so great that real social change can only be instigated with the support of others. It is difficult and time consuming to become active. Even on a small scale, it takes time and organisation to source organic food products, to recycle, to become locally active.What gets me is the onus on the individual, said another woman, if you are smart enough and have enough contacts and the energy, you'll be OK.
Community support, then, becomes crucial. Creating a cooperative environment, providing information, forums and organised action are essential supports.We could work at the community level on simple strategies such as what to buy, how to subvert, which are the good supermarkets. The neighbourhood houses could produce a newsletter.
What you are talking about, responded another woman, is the culture of resistance.
There was a discussion surrounding institutions that promote a cooperative, community based approach to living, Steiner schools, community banks, food cooperatives and action groups, such as the Defenders of Native Title. Although whole sections of the community, such as older people, are marginalised, there is still lobbying potential. I think grey power is untapped … where is the mass outrage? If it weren't for the voluntary work of older people our whole society would collapse.
However, people need an awareness of injustice before taking action. I think this is evolutionary, said one woman, because it takes a long time for people to feel compelled to change the system … for change to occur we must get rid of the concept that the current system is good for the world and it must be possible for the ordinary person to take action. We can look at to a history of social change for cues. Women's Health in the North
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