Meet one of the Victorian Women’s Trust newest Board Members, Dr. Cate Banks, Senior Lawyer at Justice Connect. She joined the VWT Board at the same time as diversity and inclusion expert, Rana Hussein; and Readings books Event Manager, Chris Gordon.
We asked Cate about her feminist values, what she does to wind down, and why she’s been described as a ‘peace whisperer’.
Ally (VWT Comms Manager): You have a very impressive bio — you’ve worked as an intensive care nurse while studying law, a solicitor, mediator, academic researcher and lecturer, the list goes on. What do you like to do in your downtime?
Cate: Firstly, thank you! In short, I am a botany nerd and I love Australian flora. My downtime is filled to the brim with exploration, painting, photography and gentle observation of the life cycles of plants. My family expect my pockets, desk, pencil case and handbag to be full of pods, sticks, leaves, petals and any other interesting plant matter.
I’m also a keen puddle hunter. Any opportunity to spot a good puddle, there I am. Also books. Lots of books.
A lot of your work is focussed on supporting people 55 and over in navigating family conflict and the law. What led you down this path?
I grew up in a home entrenched in conflict and, like many kids with adverse childhood experiences, some parts of me was shaped by trauma. In that sense, I guess conflict has been both my gift and grief.
Many decades ago, an Aboriginal Elder introduced me to her community as a peace whisperer. I feel that description beautifully encapsulate the way I choose to live and work.
In any of my myriad roles, I work through a trauma informed lens. We’re all complex beings with complicated stories. Some of us have insight, some of us may not, some of us may choose to ignore that, some of us may choose to forget. The more we learn about intergenerational trauma, the long-term effects of stress, the power of our mind and the importance of our brain to physical and mental health, the more we need professionals to transform their practice and interactions with clients/patients/consumers in different ways.
In your work with women, have you seen certain legal issues crop up again and again? Or are there new trends emerging?
I’ve had the good fortune to work with all ages in our community throughout my work life, from little babies to centenarians. Sorrowfully, in my experience, by far the most devastating, interwoven, insidious socio-legal issue for women is violence against women. And by that I mean, family violence perpetrated by men against women. That violence may occur in intimate partner and or intergenerational relationships, oppressive, sexist and brutal treatment by men in positions of power e.g. police, doctors, media, lawmakers, misogynistic systems such as governments and their agencies, courts, hospitals, prisons, objectification and/or discrimination in the workplace. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
In my lifetime, I have seen the same trends arising for women as a result of violence perpetrated by this violence, including intervention orders, debt, homelessness, mental health, excessive sanctions and guardianship for starters.
Over the past twenty years I have been focused on working with people who, as a result of adverse childhood experiences, have had chronic health and chronic legal issues that are inextricably linked to one another.
You’ve recently joined the Victorian Women’s Trust Board. What does this new role mean to you?
I can honestly say that being chosen to sit on the Board of the Victorian Women’s Trust is one of the biggest honours of my life. Julia Baird’s recent book incapsulates that inner happiness as phosphorescence, which perfectly describes my experiences and feelings about my appointment.
While I have worked to overcome the deep traumas of my childhood, I have always been so appreciative for all of the strong feminists who have shone a light through dark tunnels and held my hand as I traversed large wide canyons of fear and doubt. In doing so, I have always harnessed and shared my own learning, knowledge and experiences in an honest, open, empathic and loving way.
As the mother of a young feminist and a mentor to many young women, becoming a Board Member of the VWT is a precious privilege that I hold very close to my heart.
Lastly, name a book that’s keeping your spirits up while we are physically isolating due to COVID-19.
I’m a big reader but if I had to choose one book right now it is Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.
There have been amazing podcasts born out of this quarantine period, I am currently enjoying The Way We Live Now with Dani Shapiro.
Music – my family love music and have a wide and disparate taste for music and we all love to see and hear live music. I have to say, we always turn to any Queen album when things get rough. Don’t ask me to choose because anything in Queen discography from 1974-1980 is a safe bet. Although the Night at the Opera album has fond memories for me driving with a tiny baby around. It almost always nudged her to smile or sleep.