This year we couldn’t have asked for more.
As we start to approach what is turning out to look like (fingers crossed!) the tail-end of COVID, we never thought we would be able to get 360 people in one room so soon - and alongside our many online guests streaming from around the country, come together to celebrate one truly memorable International Women’s Day.
Australia’s former Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop, actress, producer, and author, Miranda Tapsell and CEO of OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn, shared with us their incredibly powerful stories - and there was something in particular that we learnt from them which made us feel very much inspired:
Take action and go against the grain. Particularly when no one else will.
#ChooseToChallenge the status quo - and change your own life and potentially millions of others in the process.
Ronni Kahn shared her powerful story of how, with OzHarvest, she ‘pirouetted’ (instead of ‘pivoted’ - we love this word) during the volatility of COVID and committed herself to continuing to serve others and making a huge impact even during this difficult time.
Over the course of the pandemic, Ronni lobbied to successfully get 200 million dollars allocated to the food relief sector from the government, during a time when support was incredibly limited.
With OzHarvest, she has also employed another 70 people since the start of the pandemic and prepared 496,000+ meals, plus more than 116,000 essential food boxes, helping many of the 6 million people in Australia who have needed food relief during COVID.
What also stuck with us is her positive ethos for having an impact on others as a lifestyle. She shared with us one of her favourite quotes from Amos Oz, one of Israel’s most acclaimed authors: “Bring a bucket of water and throw it on the fire, and if you don't have a bucket, bring a glass, and if you don't have a glass, use a teaspoon, everyone has a teaspoon.”
She then included her own brilliant addition: “Put your hands together and please look down. In our hands is our metaphorical teaspoon. I want you to take that teaspoon and put it to your heart. And I want you to commit to using your teaspoon every single day through little acts of kindness and gentleness to all those that you come in contact with.”
Miranda Tapsell also lit up the room in telling us of her brave ambition to narrate her own story - when she has often felt frequently misunderstood.
“I had so many stories to tell,” she said. “I wanted it to be on my terms. That’s why I wrote Top End Wedding. I knew that I had a story to tell. I became a storyteller because a lot of people put context around me; they just make their mind up before they even got to know me.”
She also spoke about how she is very grateful for opportunities to speak, particularly around the topic of diversity, but she is only one of many Aboriginal Australians, and that not enough is being done to discover the voices of other indigenous writers and academics: “You really think I’m the only one to speak? My perspective is just one… the community is so multi-faceted so why aren’t you casting the net wider and looking for those perspectives?”
She also spoke on feelings of being gaslit when speaking up as an indigenous Australian: "My community was always told ‘there’s a time and a place for you to speak... to be angry.’ And you just go, ‘Well when is a convenient time for you to listen to us? But also, why don’t you understand why we’re angry? Why can’t you see our mistreatment?’”
In choosing to challenge her fear this year of breaking the silence and telling her story, she has no doubt inspired many women out there, no matter their background.
And this brings us onto the remarkable Hon Julie Bishop.
After becoming Australia’s first female Foreign Minister and having a much-celebrated 20-year political career, Julie shared many of the brilliant lessons she learnt while serving in office.
Firstly, she encouraged more women to take up office, as our world yearns for better leadership, particularly during a global crisis: “What we need is more women in political leadership...We need more women as contenders. More women in parliament. Numbers don’t necessarily change attitudes but it will make it a much more appealing place for women to work. We need to encourage more women to go into public office. It’s a long process but it can be done.”
This is such a monumental point that Hon Julie Bishop made.
Politicians have the duty to represent our people - and most members of Parliament are male, yet 50% of the voters within our population are female.
This means it is far less likely that we as women are able to have our needs met by those in power.
In continuing this theme of the need for more effective leadership, Julie also shared her top 3 questions to consider when making decisions.
Shared from the influential American economist, Thomas Sowell, these are to ask yourself:
- Compared to what?
- At what cost?
- What’s the hard evidence? (and if there is none, you’re taking a risk - be honest about it).
She then added her own:
- What could possibly go wrong?
All in all, we learnt from all three amazing women that when we challenge the stereotypes of how we ‘should’ behave, of the people we ‘should’ be, based on race, gender, or in any other way that society puts us in a box, we can seek freedom and empowerment not only for ourselves, but our wider community too.
So, what will you #ChooseToChallenge?