Being a Woman of the World is just WOW.

My friend also volunteered at WOW! Her post reminded me of my initial inspiration for re-capping my WOW experience.

Initially, I was going to call it ‘The Day Kathy Lette Touched My Face’. I had the privilege and honour of being the Time Keeper and usher for Ask Kathy Anything. While Kathy was in-between sessions, I asked if there was anything I could help with, and she asked me for a cup of tea and a salad, while putting her hand to my face and calling me ‘lovely’. Once I obliged her demure request, I hurriedly messaged my Mum and bragged about having upon the face of God Herself! The main message Kathy left us all with is that women should be each other’s WonderBras by supporting each other!

And, I wasn’t trying to play it cool in the Green Room. I was tired and then I was made aware of additional tasks I needed to undertake. i was so overwhelmed by the day, I didn’t get to gush with woman-love for Jane Caro to her face. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD. WITH ROCKET PROPELLED GRENADES.

WOW Brisbane panel with Kathy Lette and Jane Turner. WOW Brisbane panel with Kathy Lette and Jane Turner.

Last week, I was privileged to be a part of the Women of the World (WOW) Festival in Brisbane as a member of the festival volunteer crew. The WOW Festival was a three day epic that truly opened my eyes to the incredible diversity of the women in our world. This post will cover my personal reflections and experience of the festival because there simply wasn’t enough time to sample every one of the panels, workshops, speakers, speed-mentoring sessions, and activities on offer. But as we were told at volunteer induction, this was a festival. You’re supposed to leave a festival feeling like there was so much more you wanted to see and do! It all kicked off on Friday with an ABC Radio broadcast with speakers including The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, the first female Governor General…

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I had a WOW of a time.


Some of the volunteers at the induction in Old Government House
Some of the volunteers at the induction in Old Government House
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Me, not giving a fuck about hetro- normative expectations

Over the weekend, I volunteered at WOW, and I had a WOW of a time! When I signed up for volunteering, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I knew I wanted to go, and volunteering would be a cheep way to see all the fantastic talks, but I didn’t expect to gain skills or enjoy it as much as I did. I really enjoyed helping the speakers and participants find their way around and making sure people were looked after. Maybe I should look further into an events management career?

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Inside Old Government House, in-between the Drawing Room and the Dining Room.

The themes which bubbled out of the conference really surprised me. I expected to talk about work and children, but surprisingly and refreshingly, this wasn’t the core of the event. The biggest surprise was Stir the Soul, where women of numerous faiths spoke about how they practice their religion and what it means to do this as women. Everyone in the room wanted time to run slower so we could all keep discussing keeping the faith while railing against stereotypes.

By the end of the weekend, we were talking not only about how poorly women are treated in our culture, but I could actually, I could see the attendees, all having lightbulb moments and thinking about all the constructive activities they could engage in once they got home. I could almost see the attendees writing letters to their MPs, asking them to address the pay gap, which is currently up 19%, and making sure we do something about domestic violence, since 43% of police call outs are related to domestic violence.

For me, the weekend fell on the winter solstice, or the longest night of the year. I try to observe it by lighting a fire and eating a meal with loved ones. I was too busy to really celebrate it as a festival or holy-day, however on the last day of WOW, I dropped my friend home and we arrived at her place just as the sun was setting, which meant it was time to break fast for Ramadan. It was my first time participating in such a ritual, and I felt privileged to be able to break fast with my friend and her family. Since I couldn’t celebrate the solstice like I normally would, this was the next best thing.

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Let’s go Firebirds, let’s go! Sadly, I missed the GRAND FINAL, but I was glued to Twitter and I managed to see the final moments.

I’ve got my fingers, toes and eyes crossed, hoping that WOW will be back to BNE in the very near future.

WOW! I’m off to WOW

A few weeks back, when I was bashing away at the keyboard and working on my Confirmation paper, my good friend reminded me that WOW was coming up and they were looking for volunteers. I came across the conference several weeks prior to this reminder, but stupidly, I looked at the price and told myself that putting fuel in my car was more important. It didn’t even cross my mind to volunteer and get in through the side door!

So my friend and I put our names down on the list, crossed our fingers, eyes and toes that we could volunteer, which would mean we could both assist the conference and see a session or two. Luckily for us, we were both selected!  In no particular order I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, Dame Quentin Bryce, Minister Shannon Fentiman, Kathy Lette, Joan Sheldon, Dale Spender, Jane Turner & Larissa Waters.

You might have noticed a theme of politics and culture in my long list of women whom I’m hoping to ‘bump into’ and that’s because I’m a bit of a political nerd at heart. Did you know Joan Sheldon was the first female Treasurer in Queensland? Or that The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO was the second women to hold the role of Governor for Queensland (Leneen Forde, the current Chancellor of Griffith University, was the first woman in the role.) and Dame Quentin was the first woman to hold the role of Governor General for Australia? This also makes her the first woman to hold the position at state and federal level.

Dale Spender and Elizabeth Broderick are two women whom I admire on a professional level. I look at their careers and achievements and think, wow! Maybe one day I can be that smart! If you’re looking to strengthen your feminist methodology, because who isn’t writing a thesis these days, them familiarise yourself with Ms. Dale Spender. Her work is fantastic and I’m always referring to her work in my references. You can also listen to Commissioner Broderick talk about her programme Champions of Change. Gender equality cannot solely rely on placarding or awareness raising. We need a plan which engages everyone, including men and works from the top down, as well as bottom up.

I’m also pretty darn stoked to see Jane Turner in the flesh. You might remember her from Kath and Kim, Fast Forward or Big Girls Blouse. Jane Turner, is usually in cahoots with Gina Riley and Magda Szubanski and they are three talented and funny ladies who forged a path in Australian comedy. Their humour is timeless and while it talks of place, the running narratives of class and gender create a sense of universal experience which anyone can relate to. Do yourself a favour and get familiar with these ladies if you’re not already onto of it all.

So I hope to see all of these talented, intelligent and funny women at WOW, and if you see me there, say hello!

Pay No Heed To Tory Lies

So, by now you would have heard The Honourable Joe Hockey’s advice about cracking into the real estate market. On a first glance, it makes sense really. Think about it people. Get a good, well paying job, buy a house, buy another house, invest, get a bigger house, buy a boat, take that well deserved holiday to Europe, upgrade the flat screen, pay the school fees.

But the problem with this simple, off-the-cuff advice, is that it does’t actually take into account the reality of the wider Australian  community. Using myself as an example, I’ll show how this is unrealistic.

I’m 29 (for a few more weeks) and I am several thousands of dollars in debt, because I am obtaining an education. If one wants a good job, one must have a good education. I keep meaning to check how much I owe, but due to the bureaucracy involved, checking is easier said than done. This table indicates a degree will cost between 6-10 grand per year. If you want a degree that will set you up in a career which pays well, then you can expect to have a HECS debt on the larger scale.

So, I’m 29 and approximately 15 grand in the red. Once I finish uni, I’ll get a good job, pay back the government then I’m ready to take on the real estate market. Except, the first time I graduated from uni, I couldn’t find a job. I was a fresh graduate, just itching to pay off my HECS debt and the Liberal National Gov’t of Queensland sacked a large portion of the public service, flooding the job market with people who were educated and experienced. Not to mention, the public service is where I was hoping to work considering my education. So no job equals no house.

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And then, there’s this illusion of merit. My research looks at women in the workforce and if people were hired and fired based solely on their abilities I wouldn’t have a thesis, nor would there be entire academic departments across the world devoted to the concept of merit based appointments. In Marian Simms’s 1981 work, she outlined how women are concentrated in the pink collar ghetto and earn 22 per cent less than men. Recent work from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency indicates very little has changed and women are still in over-represented in low paid, feminized occupations and earn 19.9 per cent less than men. My point: getting a ‘good job’ is easier said than done. My research looks at women in the workforce and is an example of how women are under-represented in the workforce. My research also takes into account the implications of class and ethnicity. Using Mr. Hockey’s workplace as an example, it doesn’t take a genius to see the pattern of middle-aged, upper-middle class, white, able-bodied men who run the show.

What does all this edumatction and HECS stuff mean? It means, that getting a good job, isn’t just about knuckling down for a few years at the beginning, and then spending the rest of you life on a linear career trajectory. Once you start carving up the stats and peeling back the layers a very different story appears, and it is clear that house ownership or a stable career is not as easy as Mr. Hockey indicates. This one-liner reeks of privilege and is one privileged myth of many. Somehow, Mr. Hockey has forgotten that he received a free education from the Gov’t and the job market is ever-changing.

Bottom line. This one-liner sums up the danger of the Liberal message. That anything is achievable if you work hard enough. However this philosophy doesn’t account for the ingrained cultural practices or systematic hierarchical structures which keep the poor people poor and the rich people rich. Privilege is alive and well in Australia.

Dirty Thirty

On Saturday, I went to a tavern. On Saturday night, I went to a tavern on the Gold Coast to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. On Saturday night, I went to a tavern on the Gold Coast, got drunk and celebrated 30 glorious years on earth with my bestest buddy. It doesn’t sound like much, but for me, I have this inner voice, growing louder as the days and weeks turn by, reminding me that I too will turn 30 and this is grinding on my nerves.

This is the same voice that goaded me through my dark days of my undergraduate years, and my even darker days of post high-school failure. Back then, when I was 17, I told myself, failure was ok, so long as I did something with my life. As long as I had an adventure and ended up successful, one failure was ok. So long as I had my life together by the time I was 30. I bargained with myself and I told myself it was ok to fail, I had time up my sleeve. I was young. I had time to travel to Europe, and one day, before I turned 30, I would have a degree and be living on Grey Street South Bank. All of this was possible because I had this voice reminding me that I had goals, plans and ambition.

So now, as I am less than a month away from my Golden Birthday, this voice won’t shut up. The quiet reminder of what I wanted to achieve has turned into this obnoxious drunkard who won’t see reason with compromise. The voice won’t accept backpacking in New Zealand instead of Europe, nor a mortgage on a “renovators dream” in Northern NSW, instead of a light-filled studio apartment on Grey Street with my cat and lover, and the voice definitely doesn’t care for still being at uni.

With grace and poise while re-applying lippy, in-between cake and speeches my bestie from high school told me she had been meditating on growing older and wasn’t that bothered by it. I know it’s a privilege stolen from many, but I can’t shake that damn voice, telling me to do better.