I think there is a new emergence of determination in the feminist movement.
I’m so pleased to be involved.
I grew up on a farm with politically aware parents that worked for the government. I guess that is where my idea of social justice came from.
When I first left university with a degree in Drama and English, I worked as a youth worker running young women’s groups in the Shire of Bulla. After that I was taken up by a fairly amazing woman, Kate Gilmore, who used to run the community health program at the Royal Women’s Hospital. She now works for Amnesty International; as one of the directors. She took me under her wing and gave me a job at the hospital.
POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND EDUCATIONAL NEEDS OF WOMEN
I ran the health promotion program there, the very first, called Absolutely Women’s Health. We concentrated on the political, economic and educational needs of women. It was really with Kate’s direction - someone who had such a broad understanding of social justice and women’s rights - that I came into my own.
I worked there for many years then I went on to manage the young women’s programs at the Young Women’s Christian Association with Jenni Mitchell.
I had worked in women’s health for so long I felt I needed a break. This happens to many women working in health, there comes a point where you can take no more. In the late nineties the feminist movement in Melbourne had gone down a bit of a gurgler for a while. I am not sure what happened but appears to me we went into a decade of silence. Perhaps we were exhausted (or perhaps I was).
I decided that all I wanted to do was to work in a bookshop. I approached Mark Rubbo, owner at Readings Books and he hired me. I have been there ever since.
‘A REAL FEMINIST’
But if you a feminist, if you are a real feminist in the sense that it is something that is so inescapable from you, that you really can’t imagine a time when you are not saying ‘hang on, that doesn’t seem quite right to me’, or if you are not promoting a woman who is younger than you, then you are not quite at home.
It took no time at all for the Readings Bookshop to start celebrating International Women’s Day and promoting the works of Melbourne feminists.
I can’t remember who it was who said this, but she said that you have to keep re-inventing yourself, you have to keep finding areas that you can work in.
Every ten years or so there is a call to arms, in a way. There is something occurring that is so vital that you have to get behind it, there is something so wrong with the way we are living and thinking that you have to get on board, and you have no choice.
For me, feminism has been like that. From my teenage years I have felt I have no choice. It is about social justice.
THE STELLA PRIZE
This ‘will be an annual literary prize for Australian women’s writing – it is named after Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin …’ http://thestellaprize.com.au/
The reason I became involved is that eighteen months ago we had a panel discussion on International Women’s Day at Readings. Readings does this every year and this time the topic was on why women were not getting published as often as men. Later the speakers and members of the audience went to the pub and it became very clear that if we, women in the book industry, were actually going to change something in the world like men being published more than women then we needed to work together.
And so the Stella prize, started with the need for women to start talking about this topic of equitable representation, then arose the need to make a statement, and after the concept of a prize came up. Like many good things around the feminist movement, they all seem to happen around cheap wine or in somebody’s kitchen with so many cups of tea you are pissing all night.
You are always so grateful that you have come across likeminded souls and you can see yourself working with these people. I think that is how everything ever starts, really.
I have been really lucky to have people like my mother, Kate Gilmore and Jenni Mitchell, and all those extraordinary people in my life who have encouraged me to read and look a little bit outside my circle.
Now I often hold faith in community. We have had such terrific support and good will around establishing the Stella Prize that my faith is back in the feminist movement. I hear my wonderful daughter interacting with her friends and my faith feels even stronger.
I think there is a new emergence of determination in the feminist movement. I’m so pleased to be involved.