The sixth edition of Feminist Fridays, presented by the Victorian Women’s Trust, was broadcast on Friday 10 July.
Featuring Marlee Silva (podcaster & author) and Shelley Ware (TV presenter & podcaster) talking about the importance of storytelling, amplifying women’s voices, the black lives matter movement and how you can support Blak business in Australia.
Feminist Fridays is a live stream series featuring two feminists talking about the issues that matter. Each chat is broadcast live on the Trust Facebook page.
Catch up on their conversation now, and read the full transcript below:
Shelley Ware: My name is Shelley Ware, and I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are listening to, watching and sharing our stories today together. We pay our respects to all Elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledge all Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who are watching today.
Welcome everyone to Feminist Friday. Feminist Friday’s are a fortnightly series of conversations between feminists on the issues that matter. Short, sharp and to the point. Watch over lunch or you can catch it up later. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, follow the Victorians Women’s Trust. For those on twitter, remember to use the hashtag #FeministFridays
I’m Shelley Ware, and I’m a proud Yankunyjatjara Wirangu woman from South Australia, living in Victoria. And I have been talking about footy for probably the last 20+ years and I’m a teacher and a proud Mum of my son Taj. And I’m here with Marlee Silva, who is a Gamilaroi and Dunghutti woman who’s a podcaster and up and coming author! How exciting, so tell us all about it Marlee
Marlee Silva: Yeah, well yaama. It’s nice to be with you today and that’s probably the first time I’ve been introduced as an up-and-coming author, which feels very surreal. Honestly if you’d asked 15 year old Marlee what her dream in life was, it was to write a book. And here’s something, I prepared earlier…this is my book!
Shelley Ware: (laughs) love it!
Marlee Silva: It’s called My Tidda, My Sister and it’s just a collection of stories of different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women that I interviewed, and they were so amazing and open and told their stories and it’s really become a message of resilience and sisterhood. So, I’m really proud for the world to see it on September 2nd this year.
Shelley Ware: ooh September 2nd, how exciting, I cannot wait. So what made you decide to do this? What prompted you?
Marlee Silva: So it actually started with an instagram page that I started. So Tiddas 4 Tiddas is a page that I run with my sister. We launched it at the back end of 2018, inspired by the Because of her, we can! NAIDOC theme of that year. And essentially you know, growing up, my sister and I, we grew up in a household where being Aboriginal was the best thing you could be.
Shelley Ware: same.
Marlee Silva: Which we’re so privileged to have. But when I looked back on that time, you know of course we looked up to our Grandmothers, to our Aunties and all the amazing Aboriginal women in our life personally. But when we looked on TV, or when other people were talking about Aboriginal Australia, we felt like the focus was on mostly male sportsmen. And I know obviously you love football, and I love NRL
Shelley Ware: yep
Marlee Silva: so a different code of football. And you know, I used to talk about wanting to be like Johnathan Thurston.
Shelley Ware: ohhh love it.
Marlee Silva: but I wasn’t eager to play rugby league. It was more just about what he represented. And we wanted to put, I mean we knew that there were all these amazing Aboriginal female role models out there, in all the different kinds of industries and realms. And we just wanted to put them in the hands of the next generation. So we started an Instagram page and tell stories every day and now you know we’re a community online of just about 70,000 people. So it’s pretty crazy.
Shelley Ware: Wow, wow. Well I went through your Instagram page and I was just so thrilled, you put a beautiful photo, a collection of photos and then you’ll have your thoughts, but you always share their words.
Marlee Silva: yep.
Shelley Ware: Which I thought was really wonderful. I really loved that you let them speak their truth. So well done to you and now you’ve got a book!
Marlee Silva: (laughs)
Shelley Ware: Very exciting. I have the same passion for sharing people’s stories. Like I said I’ve talked about footy for years. That’s been more of like a stepping stone into being able to share people’s stories of who they really are. I’m not sort of really interested in the outcome of the game, I mean even though that is great, and it’s fun on the night and all of that. I really do love the passion of the stories of the people.
One of my favourite things to do, since we’ve been in this lockdown situation. I was a bit of a workaholic I must admit. I want to share stories of people, so I started Ware2now?, which is my own Facebook page, and it’s been wonderful to be able to lift up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and share their stories, where we wouldn’t normally hear them. I love that you have put them into print, that people can carry with them and enjoy a book in a really beautiful place. Because I’m more about the talking, I could talk with my mouth full of marbles as my mum used to say to me….underwater.
Marlee Silva: (laughs)
Shelley Ware: I was the kid, you know when seatbelts weren’t around, that I’d be leaning over the edge of the bench seat and talking, talking, talking, talking, and the only reason they knew that I’d fallen asleep was because I’d stopped talking and there was a thud around the corner.
Marlee Silva: (laughs)
Shelley Ware: So thank goodness for seatbelts is all I can say! But yeah sharing stories is so beautiful. And lifting people who have stories. Because everybody has a story to share. I think that’s what is going to be so beautiful about your book.
So really excited about that for you, it’s exciting. And what I love about Ware2now? is the different people you get to talk to, and the different stories that you get to hear, that you don’t hear on mainstream media.
Marlee Silva: yes.
Shelley Ware: We’re working on that.
Marlee Silva: yep, yep.
Shelley Ware: Making sure there’s more diversity on media and that we’re going to be seeing things. So well done to you!
Marlee Silva: Thank you so much! I think that you know, once we get out of this very crazy year, there’s going to be some stories that are of immense power as well. And I wanted to start with a question for you, in a lot of ways 2020 has been incredibly devastating, and rocked us in so many ways, from the bushfires, into a pandemic, you know and then the surge of the black lives matter movement. Which is kind of this juxtaposition of you know awfulness, but a lot of pride that came with people becoming really active in the space. And I wonder, what has this time been like for you?
Shelley Ware: Well I’m like you, I grew up in a house where being Aboriginal was one of the best things in the world, you know there was a lot of pride with that. But I think like most people, I’ve found this time to be quite reflective. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, what do I actually really want to do in this time?
We’ve seen so much devastation with the bushfires, you know you hear stories about people that are still living in containers, because we haven’t even been able to get to them, to fix what is going on there. And you know because COVID hit, and that’s kept everybody at home, whereas some people don’t have a home to go to. So there’s been a lot of devastation, but at the same time there has been a lot of hope. I feel like with the black lives matter and the time that people are now using in lockdown to reflect on who they are as a person, and who they want to be, and what they want to see in the future, has been, has been vital I think, in us as human beings moving forward.
But the black lives matter, I can feel change. I can feel real change coming. The world, the allies are growing and the allies are fierce. They are not just like “Oh that’s good and and I’ll just swipe past a campaign, or I’ll share something.” They are listening to truth in history, they are listening to truth in our stories and our lived experiences. And I feel like they’re starting to speak louder than us, which is one of the best, best things to come from this. What about yourself?
Marlee Silva: Yeah I would have to agree. I’ve never seen, the kind of, such a drop in ego with a lot of people who are kind of going, “I’m acknowledging that I could’ve been better in the past”.
And I think as human beings that’s really hard to do, to drop that ego and say, “I can be better”. You know, there were definitely some people that I went to high school with, who I was very shocked when I saw them speaking out online.
Shelley Ware: (laughs)
Marlee Silva: Yeah definitely didn’t receive that kind of stuff from when I was at school with them! I’m proud that they are on this journey now, and I think you know, there have been so many things that we’re going to want to quickly forget from this year. This could be something that really does make the difference.
Shelley Ware: Oh absolutely! And those people going on this journey, it’s exactly that, it’s ego. But they didn’t receive the education, you know, that was half the problem. And I think, we’ve said it, and I’m sure you’ve said it a thousand times, maybe a million in my lifetime, that education plays a key in all of this.
And for us that will be about re-looking into history and making sure that we don’t tell the story, the stories that are being shared at the moment. But we look at the truth that is in history, and what actually really happened and add that to our history. You know, it’s not about taking away anything, it’s about adding. And I think we’re going to add a whole lot more, and it will make people better people. And more empathetic and understanding of where we are as Aboriginal people in this situation.
But I’m struck by the connection in our work of storytelling. Listening to people, especially women. Why is it important to you? And what has driven you to this type of work?
Marlee Silva: I honestly have been telling stories my whole life. A little bit, I think my Mum would say similar things about me never shutting up.
Shelley Ware: (laughs)
Marlee Silva: She quite often tells the story, how she stopped reading my sister and I bedtime stories, because I started making them up around 5 years old.
Shelley Ware: Oh, yeah.
Marlee Silva: I think you know as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that it is actually an extension of what we’ve always done. We’ve been doing it for over 60,000 years. It’s how we’ve always connected.
Shelley Ware: exactly
Marlee Silva: And that’s the thing that brings me the most joy. Is the way that in sharing some of my own story and receiving some back from whoever it is that you are talking to. That’s how you build really genuine, beautiful connections. And I think that there’s so much empathy that comes when you are exchanging stories, and learning and growing together. And I just think it’s absolutely so vital, you know especially talking about that stuff that we are talking about now. Because that’s essentially the mechanism by which we can really grow and be better.
Shelley Ware: Oh yeah
Marlee Silva: What about you, what’s your relationship to storytelling?
Shelley Ware: It’s the same. I think it’s in our DNA isn’t it, like it’s who we are as people. I remember getting a dictaphone for a birthday and that was literally my life.
Marlee Silva: (laughs)
Shelley Ware: I hosted radio shows and all sorts of things, I was talking to E.T. and Michael J Fox. You might have been talking to someone completely different, I’m a tad older!
But you know, storytelling is one of my biggest passions. Education, as a teacher drives me and storytelling is my second drive. I love hearing people’s stories because you’re right – that connection is so important. It builds knowledge within who you are as a person and builds – we get to share parts of their character, they share parts of their character with us that builds our character as a person. I absolutely just love it. I think it’s just the best thing to listen to someone else’s story.
And I saw the other day that there are human libraries around the world at the moment where you can actually go to a library and loan a human and listen to their story. And I thought oh! I just wish we had that here in Australia because I would go to that library and I would want to hear those stories. And I guess essentially what we’re doing here today between the two of us. But to go into a library, into a quiet space, and hear someone else’s journey you know, that’s power and that’s powerful. So yeah, love that.
Marlee Silva: One of my… well my main isolation project was actually launching my own podcast. It’s called Always Was Always Will Be Our Stories I think you’ll have to come on as a guest sometime soon!
Shelley Ware: I think so!
Marlee Silva: And that’s the… people often ask me like why do you like podcasting and that’s exactly it.
For me I think, and again this is part of who we are as Blackfullas it feels like just sitting over a cup of tea and having a yarn but this microphone’s in front of our faces and just hearing people talk about, you know… it starts off in one place them growing up or whatever and then it’s about why they’re so passionate about what it is that they do now and you just come out of it feeling so warm and that’s the most beautiful thing.
Shelley Ware: I’m on a podcast with ten other women. It’s called The Outer Sanctum podcast and there’s this segment called The Fifth Quarter and we talk about what we’ve been listening to. I’m going to listen to your podcast and share it on there for sure.
Marlee Silva: Oh cool thank you! So you’re in Victoria and you’re about to go into lockdown again which is pretty scary. I’m in Sydney so I feel a little bit you know, I feel really sorry for you guys but hopefully we don’t end up in the same place. And thinking about the restrictions and everything that we’ve seen you know, there’s an intersection between restrictions of the pandemic and activism here in Australia. And I think particularly we look at the 9 tower blocks which were locked down first and that kind of thing in Victoria. I mean, how are you seeing that play out in Australia and globally as well?
Shelley Ware: So I think what we’re seeing is an inequity in our health system. I spoke yesterday, I was actually on a VicHealth podcast or a stream? I get confused
Marlee Silva: (laughs)
Shelley Ware: so i hosted it with Vic Health and it was about inequity in health and this is exactly what we’re talking about here. So if you’re looking for that head to the VicHealth website and make sure you watch it. It was brilliant, like it should be on mainstream tv. There were experts that talked about how we can do better. But that’s what we’re seeing, that’s what we’re seeing in these towers.
They shouldn’t still be living in those towers. We should have done something about them years ago and the coronavirus is really shining a light on this. And then what we’re also seeing in the black lives matter it’s also shining a light on that. These people are there because of systemic racism. That shouldn’t be something. These people aren’t reaching out for health services or reaching out for domestic violence you know or drug and alcohol. Whatever’s going on. I’m not just talking about the towers I’m talking about across the board in our inequities and health because of the systemic racism that stops them from reaching out. We’ve got to do better as a society to make sure that we hear these people’s stories and we put policy in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Because it’s not good enough, is it?
Marlee Silva: No, absolutely not. I think one thing that does give me a bit of strength and more hope as the continent of Australia is you know… when we look at a country like the United States where people are protesting because they want to get a haircut and things like that. But then there are those parallels… I’ve already heard stories of when, just before Victoria went into lockdown, people were rushing to their second holiday house or something you know. Whereas the towers are kind of locked down.
I think that we need to be really honest about the class division that still exists in this country and that any time that something happens, you’re on the backfoot if you come from a minority and you are impacted more extremely by anything. It’s just so crazy.
Shelley Ware: It’s crazy. And I think it has been shown by coronavirus and we know we have to do something about it. The politicians are scrambling. We’ll give them a break for a little minute because they’re under a lot of pressure but what it’s done is it’s made them know that this isn’t good enough and when we do make it through this you’ve still got a lot of work to be done. And there will be a lot of voices that will still be speaking to make sure that they haven’t missed the point and that they get something done for the people who are in this situation. And the systemic racism.
For a long time when we talked about the racism that was in our face… Now we’ve got a word in front of it that gives a clear explanation of the problem within Australia that causes these things. I’m really happy about that. I’m sad that it’s part of our life, that it impacts our life daily and I wish it didn’t. I’m working hard so that your generation doesn’t have to have it and you’re working hard so that my son’s generation doesn’t have to. So I thank you for taking that on and being part of making that change as well. I’m glad we’ve got strong beautiful leaders like yourself.
Marlee Silva: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah it’s kind of crazy and I think there’s so much that we can learn from this moment. I think a big statement that has been said quite a bit is “we’re all in this together” and I think that although there’s that equity versus equality thing when we aren’t really all in the same boat. That’s what we can learn from this moment. Is that you know we can start again and and really try and make it as if we are all in the same boat given the same opportunities and we’ve had to be so flexible and you know able to move quickly on our feet and come up with quick solutions and why can’t we do that with systemic problems like we were saying?
Shelley Ware: Absolutely. I’ve always thought for such a long time that when we had that terrible massacre in Tasmania, Australia instantly the next day everyone was handing in their guns. And it changed the landscape of Australia like, instantly. So if we want to do things, we know it’s possible because they’ve shown us in government that it’s possible.
So, they need to prioritise the wellbeing of people of colour and Indigenous people in Australia and make sure that we, you know, come together as you said and we make a stronger Australia. ‘Cause that’s all that’s going to happen. We’re going to lift people who deserve to be lifted and are worthy of being lifted. So it’s going to be good.
But what are some of the amazing things that you seem through this time that are there to support women? I’ve noticed that you’re wearing one my friend’s… Maddy… she’s come up with this design on your jumper. Your Yarli Creative jumper. Love it. Show everyone, it’s beautiful.
Marlee Silva: Yep it is really beautiful and you know I am so proud to be connected to so many amazing women who are just hustling and you know she’s got two little ones herself and started this business and that’s a really a lot of people and I imagine you get the same question “how we support Aboriginal communities?”
Buying from Blak businesses is a great practical way to do that and really going out and educating yourself… there’s so many amazing resources and so many different books and films and TV shows and things that you can just absorb and absorb. Especially going into 6 weeks of isolation!
Shelley Ware: Yeah!
Marlee Silva: And you know I think just in your everyday conversations with your family or whoever it is that you live with, around the dinner table, talk about this stuff. And when you hear something that’s not right – call it out!
Shelley Ware: Yes.
Marlee Silva: I think people get afraid like what can I do as an individual can I make an impact – calling stuff out and making it really not okay, does.
Shelley Ware: It really really does. I can vouch for that. I’ve seen changes in my own life for people that have called things out and I’m really grateful. But I just wanted to touch on some of my favourite things that I’ve seen through this time.
I’ve been a massive fan of Clothing the Gap for a really long time.
Marlee Silva: Oh big time!
Shelley Ware: I have a lot of their clothes.
Marlee Silva: (laughs)
Shelley Ware: I’m also excited by the virtual connection that they’re having. This weekend actually starting today and running right over the weekend is the virtual march or run that you can get a fantastic medal. I got a medal from the Corona Rona walk…
Marlee Silva: So did I!
Shelley Ware: You did? Good! Are you getting the NAIDOC march medal?
Marlee Silva: I think I’m going to have to aren’t I!
Shelley Ware: You’re going to have to now, you’re going to have to. So head to Clothing the Gap. They have beautiful conversation starters they like to call them, in t-shirts. Laura is a brilliant Aboriginal woman who is not only driving this for herself and her own family but employing other Aboriginal people to be a part of this as well. And non-Aboriginal people as well.
And Koorie Circle earrings! They are my favourite earrings in the whole entire world. I just love them. But there are so many you’re so right! And Jarin St their yoga mats. They are just stunning but she sells out as soon as they come in so you have to be quick.
What I wanted to touch on was yesterday on The Outer Sanctum podcast, one of the girls came on, Julia, and she was talking about a bot called Hello Cass, because as beautiful as a lot of this time can be, sharing and buying things, sometimes things don’t go quite right for women and this is a… you can go to their Instagram page called Hello Cass but you can also contact… it’s a bot so if you type in a question or you’re worried about something you’ll get answers about you know what it might be like if you pressed charges. What it might be like if you needed to go to a service or what it might be like in court or what kind of questions would the police ask me so that you can get a grounding of something if something is not right with you at the moment when you are in lockdown.
Reach out to this bot the phone number is 0417 369 744 and so type in what you need to know and Hello bot will get you. They are an amazing organisation and it’s a good way to text if you’re not safe and find out how you can become safe. Yeah, there’s a lot out there. Hope is definitely the biggest thing that I have found is out there.
Marlee Silva: Yeah, one hundred percent. And thank you for sharing that really vital resource I think a lot of people do need to be aware of that. And I’m hopeful that once we get on the other side of this, hopefully it comes without too much, you know, too much damage and I think that’s a really good place for us to end with those options. And, yeah.
Thank you for everyone who is tuned in and, Feminist Fridays, what an initiative. Brought to you by the Victorian Women’s Trust. If you’d like to support these events and their work towards gender equality you can make a tax deductible donation at vwt.org.au/donate. Thank you so much Shelley it’s so lovely to meet you virtually. I’ve heard so much about you and I’m really glad we got to have that chat.
Shelley Ware: Absolutely, thanks Marlee and good luck with that book I can’t wait to read it!
Marlee Silva: Thank you so much!