Balance for Better: Hawkesbury Women come together for International Women's Day.
All week, the Hawkesbury has buzzed with events dedicated to International Women's Day, and yesterday it all culminated in song, visual art, powerful stories and fun workshops at Windsor Central Library.
A highlight of the day was singer-songwriter Alannah Russack (above), leading WomanSong - a local inclusive women's choir - in a spine-tingling performance of a song she composed on a feminist theme.
In the true spirit of the event, Women's Cottage manager Maria Losurdo hosted while flanked by her four year-old granddaughter. The event was a collaboration between multiple local organisations.
Maria spoke candidly of motherhood and grandmotherhood, and explored her own theme of "the head, the heart and the hands". Powerful speakers and the soaring sounds of Suze Pratten's WomanSong group easily transcended political lines, as the CWA's homemade slices, biscuits and meringues made the rounds. Present in the audience were Labor MP Susan Templeman and Liberal candidates Cr Robyn Preston and Cr Sarah Richards. Also in attendance was Greens State candidate and Hawkesbury councillor, Cr Danielle Wheeler, who spoke along with other special guests.
Cr Wheeler wasted no time in celebrating the crucial work Hawkesbury women do in multiple capacities and in all areas of everyday life, but also spoke about the reality of how we score on the gender balance. She also discussed the disparity between the way men and women are treated; particularly on social media.
"For two years from September 2016, we had a female mayor. And I think, as a female-led council, we made different decisions. We gave the Women's Cottage a peppercorn rent, so that their money could go into services. We prioritised parks and public spaces, and family-friendly events. We've run D.V., mental health and well-being forums. We've started real action on climate change, homelessness, heritage protection, and modernising the animal shelter. And we made really tough decisions like raising rates so that we can be financially-sustainable and fix our infrastructure backlog."
Following the introduction of a new rates system dependent on property values, Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett was the target of online abuse of an intensely-misogynistic nature which eventually spilled over into "in-person" and even criminal acts. Cr Wheeler points out that the reactions of many residents to the hard and unpopular decisions during Deputy Mayor Lyons-Buckett's mayorship were the most telling.
"The attacks were immediate, and personal. The Mayor was abused, defamed and targeted repeatedly, online and in person. Threats, comments about her hair, weight, clothing, children, husband. We were baled up and yelled at, at community functions; fingers poked in our faces, standing over us to intimidate. And our male colleagues? Nowhere to be seen. We were on our own. And yet as soon a man sat in the big chair, all those abusers went to ground. The rates are the same, the issues are the same, but the treatment of the leader is radically different. So, we still have plenty of work to do."
All speakers present celebrated the priceless contributions of women in the Hawkesbury community and pointed to the urgent issues facing equality for women, such as current statistics on family violence, and representation in the media, government, and the workplace.
This was all overseen by a quiet but powerful display of artworks upon the Windsor Central Library walls. The new exhibition, "Shout-Out to the Girls" was introduced by Hajer Al-awsi, Program Associate at Westwords. Hajer shared her personal story of growing up as a young woman of colour in Western Sydney, and explained in detail her thoughts on identity and personal development as a woman wishing to make an impact on the community surrounding her; particularly in regard to the importance of role models.
Finally, Suze Pratten explained the background of WomanSong and led the choir in a powerfully-interactive performance.
Suze said, "WomanSong was incredibly proud to sing at International Women's Day in the Hawkesbury. We are a local singing group which works hard to ensure all women have access to the joy and power of group singing, and it felt really good to raise our voices in solidarity with women everywhere."
You can find out more about WomanSong here.
"Shout Out to the Girls" is a free exhibition and will be on display at Windsor Central Library until 28 March.