Judith Wright   (1915 – 2000)

(Apologies for the need for another dash of poetic licence).

Judith was raised on a country property though went to boarding school following her mother’s death. She attended Sydney University studying Philosophy, English, Psychology and History at Sydney University returning to her father’s station at the beginning of World War 2 to help because of labour shortages.

Wright’s first book of poetry, The Moving Image, was published in 1946 and as with following publications focuses on “the Australian environment….. dealing with the relationship between settlers, Indigenous Australians and the bush, among other themes.” It is said that her love of nature and the Outback helped change the traditions of Australian writing. 

Whilst working at the University of Queensland as a research officer Wright
began working on the literary magazine Meanjin, the first edition of which was published in late 1947. In 1966 she published The Nature of Love, her first collection of short stories, set mainly in Queensland.

Her distress at the devastation of that landscape by white Australians, led her to help form the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. She fought to conserve the Great Barrier Reef, when its ecology was threatened by oil drilling, and campaigned against sand mining on Fraser Island. Along with her deep awareness of environmental issues, Judith became an ardent supporter of the Aboriginal land rights movement.

In the mid 1970’s, Judith and politician Nugget Coombs helped form the Aboriginal Treaty Committee, an organisation dedicated to helping spread the word about the need for land rights and a treaty among white Australians. She was still a social activist at 85 years of age, attending a march in Canberra for reconciliation between non-indigenous Australians and the Aboriginals.

Awards
1976 – Christopher Brennan Award
1991 – Queens Gold Medal for Poetry
 1994 – Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
 1998 – Australian National Living Treasure Award
2009 –  announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for her role as an “Influential Artist”.




Magpies by Judith Wright

Along the road the magpies walk
with hands in pockets, left and right.
They tilt their heads, and stroll and talk.
In their well-fitted black and white.

They look like certain gentlemen 
who seem most nonchalant and wise
until their meal is served – and then
what clashing beaks, what greedy eyes!

But not one man that I have heard 
throws back his head in such a song
of grace and praise – no man nor bird. 
Their greed is brief; their joy is long.
For each is born with such a throat 
as thanks his God with every note.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
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Indigenous Book Club -Known as Blackfulla Bookclub

A little poetic licence with this one, okay………


Individually, Teela Reid and Merinda (Min) Dutton are successful and passionate women in their chosen careers. Together, these driven young women are powerful change makers. Let’s meet them both :


Teela grew up in Gilgandra, NSW, a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman. It was after training as a school teacher that Teela was selected as Australia’s Female Indigenous Youth Delegate to the United Nations Permanent Forum in New York which inspired her journey to become a lawyer. At UNSW Law, Teela was named on the UNSW Law Deans women of excellence list, and was the first Aboriginal person to be elected on the UNSW Law Society as Vice-President (Social Justice) where she was the founding director of the UNSW Law First Peoples Moot. She was also the inaugural recipient of the NSW Indigenous Barristers Trust Award and the Law Spirit Award.

An activist and storyteller Teela won the 2020 Daisy Utemorrah award for her powerful work of junior fiction, Our Matriarchs Matter. She currently works as a criminal defence lawyer based in Sydney and is a strong advocate for abolishing systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

Merinda , known as Min, is a proud Gumbaynggirr and Barkindji woman from Grafton, NSW. Her father is a Stolen Generation survivor which ignited her interest in social justice  leading to her Bachelor of Jurisprudence/Bachelor of Laws double degree. In 2019 she was awarded the National Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year. Merinda is a senior lawyer at Legal Aid NSW, driving improvements to justice outcomes for Australia’s First Nations peoples with a particular interest in Indigenous women in custody and rural and remote communities.

Both these women are avid readers and with the advent of COVID they got together in a Zoom Bookclub. Together they then co-founded the Blackfulla Bookclub  ( instagram handle: @blackfulla_bookclub ) which started with 1,000 followers, and which has since grown to 40,000.

Min has stated that the bookclub “celebrates Aboriginal stories and Aboriginal voices…….in the way that Aboriginal people tell stories … we tell them in different ways that don’t necessarily comply with the white man’s rules about what is right and who is a good writer.” Teela follows up with ” it is a platform that remembers our ancestors are the original storytellers and that First Nations languages matter.” There is a Blackfulla  Bookclub Facebook page as well.

The Blackfulla Bookclub also promotes the writing of the indigenous peoples all around the world.


You go, girls!
Teela
Min

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Catherine Hamlin  ( 1924 – 2020)   – Obstetrician-Gynaecologist

One of six children Catherine graduated from the University of Sydney with a medical degree in 1946. This led to her position as resident in obstetrics at Crown Street Women’s Hospital, where she met and married Dr Reginald Hamlin, Crown Street’s medical superintendent.

Responding to an advertisement by the Ethiopian government in a medical journal to establish a midwifery school, the Hamlins arrived in Addis Ababa in 1959 where they were overwhelmed by the number of women suffering from obstetric fistula.

Obstetric fistula is a medical condition in which a tear develops in the birth canal as a result of childbirth often resulting in major leakages. Complications may include depression, infertility and social isolation.

In the first year, fistula repairs were carried out on 32 women. By the third year 300 women had been healed. Having perfected the surgical procedure a dedicated Fistula hospital at Addis Ababa was established and later a further five Fistula hospitals in regional areas. Over the years 40,000 plus women have been attended too.

To help the women for whom surgery does not provide a solution the Hamlin’s Team built a village on 60 acres of land donated by the Ethiopian government through a Foundation built on donations.

Reg Hamlin remained a key figure on the hospital board until his death in 1993. Catherine lived in her cottage on the grounds of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and remained very active in the day-to-day work of the hospital and patient care up until her death in 2020.

Despite the passing of Catherine and Reg the The Hamlin Fistula International Foundation continues to raise funds for:

  • The treatment of females with this condition
  • Prevention by way of educating midwives who are then sent to regional hospitals
  • Education and awareness amongst Ethiopian women and their continued care.

You can read more here : https://hamlin.org.au/about-us/

AWARDS

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Julia Gillard (1961- )

Julia Gillard is a former politician who served as the 27th Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013. She is the first and only female Prime Minister of the nation, and is also the first never to have been married.


“I was not going to stand before the nation as prime minister and cry for myself. I was not going to let anyone conclude that a woman could not take it. I was not going to give any bastard the satisfaction. I was going to be resilient one more time.”

Nurture your sense of self, who you are in your own eyes, not as seen through the eyes of others.”

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Margaret Fulton ( 1924 – 2019)

Margaret was Australia’s first celebrity chef and a popular cookbook author.

The Margaret Fulton Cookbook was first published in 1968 with huge success and was rereleased in 2018. Her recipes included herbs and spices from many different countries and she is credited for shifting the Australian palate away from “meat and three veg”. Her 800 page Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery remains one of the foundational texts of Australian cooking.

Born in Scotland, Margaret’s family emigrated to Australia when she was three and she started cooking over a campfire as a Girl Guide. Her working life saw her start as a cooking teacher, followed by a role in sales demonstrating the use of pressure cookers when they initially arrived in Australia.

Despite her years of television appearances, leading group tours on food focused travels, and writing about food for women’s magazines, Fulton’s love was always writing cook books and creating new recipes for “busy women” using fresh ingredients.Fulton was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 1983 Queen’s Birthday Honours “In recognition of service to the media as a journalist and writer in the field of cookery”.

In 1998, she was added to the list of 100 Australian Living Treasures by the National Trust of Australia.

In 2006, The Bulletin named Fulton in their list of “The 100 most influential Australians”.In the citation they described her as someone who “changed the way Australians ate at home. Australia’s original domestic goddess. No cookery writer since can claim her blanket influence … Fulton turned us into foodies.”

In 2014 she appeared on an Australian postage stamp as part of the ‘Australia Post Legends Awards’.

Girls didn’t want to be cooks. Girls wanted to find a Yank who could give them silk stockings, their mother chocolates and their father cigarettes. I could’ve been out having fun, but there I was, testing recipes“.

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Ada Evans (1872 – 1947)


Ada Evans was born in England and migrated to Australia with her family at 11 years of age.

After completing her secondary schooling she graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Unfortunately, a bout of illness put paid to her dream of starting a school in Sydney and so once back on her feet she re-enrolled to study Law. It is believed she would not have been accepted to study at Sydney Law School had it not been that the Dean was on sabbatical at the time.

The rules of practice in force in NSW at the time did not comprehend female lawyers and there was no precedent of women becoming lawyers. This means that when Evans attempted to register as a student-at-law with the Supreme Court of NSW her application was rejected.

Despite these setbacks, Evans persisted with her studies, and in late 1902 graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree, the first woman in Australia to do so.

Evans then applied for admission to the NSW Bar as a Barrister but her application was again rejected because of her sex. At that time there was no precedent for a women, either in Australia or England, to be admitted to the Bar. To be admitted she had to be a “person” and this definition did not include women. Don’t you just love this!

It was not until 1918 that the Legal Status of Women Act was proclaimed. Evans persisted with her studies and in 1921 she became the first woman to be admitted to the NSW Bar.

However, she never went on to practice Law citing the passage of time, family commitments, and ill health. Despite being unable to persevere with her legal studies her reward would be ‘the glory of the pioneer’.

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Hannah Diviney – Writer, Disability Advocate, and Editor in Chief at Missing Perspective

At just 12 weeks of age Hannah was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a disease that can affect gross and fine motor skills at various levels, and means that this 23 year old vibrant woman navigates life in a wheelchair.

This does not slow her down any as she is currently a full time student in her last year of University studying a Bachelor of Arts and International Studies, is a freelance writer, and Editor-in-Chief of Missing Perspectives, a platform that was founded with one mission: to address the marginalisation of young women in both news coverage and decision-making around the world.

Hannah is the co-founder of the Krazy Kosci Klimb – the first event of its kind in the world, which sees people with disabilities walking the summit track from Charlotte Pass to the top of Mount Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia.

She is a passionate disability advocate and has stated, “disabled people deserve rich and full lives, where they are seen as individuals with passions/desires/needs/hobbies. Representation matters. We are not one-dimensional; we cannot be reduced to just our disabilities“.

In 2021 Hannah organised a petition on a global scale requesting that Disney creates a disabled princess because a “disabled Disney princess would give so many people around the world (children and adults alike) the chance to see themselves be the hero of their own story.”

Hannah was recognised as a future female trailblazer as a finalist in the Women of the Future Awards in 2021. Run by Women’s Weekly, these awards recognise Australian women aged 18-34 with a charity, innovation idea or business that aims to bring positive change to the lives of others. She was also nominated for Young Australian of the Year for 2022.


“I’m not a burden. My life is not some endless black hole of despair. It is rich and full, and all the things a life should be – just done differently”.

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Kay Cottee ( 1954 – )

Kay was born in Sans Souci, NSW, where the closeness to Botany Bay well catered to a family who loved boating. Her father built yachts and her interest in that field led to her commencement of ocean racing at 11 years of age. It was a natural progression for Kay to become a proficient boat builder and manage a yacht charter business after finishing school.

Kay built First Lady, the 11-metre yacht on which she would sail around the world from west to east. In 1987, at the age of 34, she set off on her 189 days, 22,000 nautical miles journey to sail solo and non-stop.

On this voyage Kay became the holder of the following records:

  • the first woman to circumnavigate the world
  • the longest time at sea by a woman
  • the longest non-stop distance sailed by a woman
  • the fastest time and speed for solo navigation by a woman
First Lady

The voyage was completed without touching land, and without any form of outside aid apart from radio contact. She had no fresh food so for six months had to survive on dried food. She had to wake up every hour to check her course and watch for ships that may have been heading towards her.

At one stage Kay was flung into the sea off the African coast when First Lady was capsized by huge winds. Fortunately, the waves righted the vessel and Cottee seized control back on board.

WOW!

Cottee and her major sponsor Blackmores Limited used the voyage to raise over 1 million dollars for the Rev. Ted Noffs’ Life Education Program. Cottee also undertook an 18-month national schools tour, speaking to over 40,000 senior high school students, imparting the message that “you can achieve your dreams if you work steadily towards them“.

WOW Again.

Cottee is the author of two books. Her first book, First Lady, published in 1989. Her second book, All at Sea on Land, in 1998, about her life in the ten years since the voyage.

AWARDS

  • In 1988, Cottee received the Australian of the Year Award.
  • In January 1989, Cottee was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.
  • Cottee is also the first Australian recipient of the Cutty Sark Medal presented by the Duke of Edinburgh
  • Cottee was also made a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary and an International Honorary Zontion by Zonta International
  • Inaugural inductee of the Australian Sailing Hall of Fame in 2017

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Rosemary “Ros” Batty  (1962 – )


Without rehashing all the details of her personal circumstances Ros’ ex partner murdered their son at a sports field in outer Melbourne after weekend cricket practice. Anderson isolated the 11 year old boy in the cricket nets, hitting Luke on the head and stabbing him to death. Anderson resisted arrest and threatened ambulance workers with his knife. He later died in hospital from police gunshots and self-inflicted stab wounds.

Ros refused to allow the grief to swallow her and instead became a Domestic Violence Activist speaking publicly about her experiences as a survivor of domestic violence in order to raise public awareness and advocate for social changes. She is considered to have had a significant influence on national public attitudes, philanthropy, government initiatives and funding, support services and police and legal procedures related to domestic violence in Australia.

Her work led to Ros being named the 2015 Australian of the Year as well as being awarded the Pride of Australia’s National Courage Medal in 2014, an honorary doctorate by the University of the Sunshine Coast and was ranked number 33 in the list of the World’s Greatest Leaders 2016 by Fortune magazine.

In October 2018 Batty was named in the social enterprise and not-for-profit category of The Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence awards, and in 2019 was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

This is a woman who rose above her personal tragedy yet continued to educate and inspire by leading a Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council for the Victorian Government for three years. Although she still has a hand-in Ros has stepped back over the last few years to recover from the psychological battering of Luke’s murder and her own experiences within a volatile relationship and is pursuing other interests.


“Violence happens to anybody, no matter how nice your house is, no matter how intelligent you are.” – Ros Batty


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Tilly Aston  ( 1873 – 1947)

Matilda Ann Aston was the youngest of eight children in a family that lived in Carisbrook, in the Victorian goldfields. She was born with a vision impairment and lost all sight at the age of 7 in an era when blind people were isolated ( as in often locked away from society). This did not sit well with young Tilly who insisted that she was ” going to get out there and do something with my life.”

A chance meeting with a blind itinerant missionary meant that Tilly learnt Braille, and a little later, a visit to Carisbrook by the choir of the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind, where she was encouraged by the Principal to enrol in the school as a boarder, were both interactions which changed Tilly’s life.

Her achievements include:

  • Being the first blind person to matriculate in Australia.
  • Being the first blind person in Australia to attend University (which she did not complete due to a lack of Braille text books).
  • Established the Advancement of Writers in 1894 which later became the Victorian Braille Library.
  • Founded the Association for the Advancement of the Blind in 1895 which is now known as Vision Australia.
  • Fighting for and winning voting rights for the blind and free postage for all Braille material.
  • The publication of numerous books of both verse and fiction.

Tilly Aston was awarded the King’s Medal for distinguished citizen service – twice! 

 

    “Poor eyes limit your sight. Poor vision limits your deeds.” 

                                        – Tilly Aston

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.

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