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Watch: Brazen Hussies Panel Talk

On November 18, we were thrilled to host a special screening of feature documentary, Brazen Hussies (2020), celebrating the legacy of the bold women of the Women’s Liberation Movement who re-ignited the feminist revolution in Australia.

The special screening was followed by a Zoom panel talk including Brazen Hussies director Catherine DwyerDr. Emma Fulu (executive director, the Equality Institute); and Christina Hobbs (CEO, Verve Super); moderated by Mary Crooks AO (executive director, Victorian Women’s Trust).

Panellists discussed the blockers to gender equality that still exist today, the failure of the Coalition 2020 Budget to address the needs of women and gender diverse people, and what we can all do to keep agitating for social change.

Watch the video and read the transcript below:


TRANSCRIPT

Mary Crooks AO: Okay. Well, welcome everybody to this very special panel discussion following the screening of Brazen Hussies. First of all, I’d like to Acknowledge Country. Now I went to school in western Victoria, I grew up in that part of the state. And in my primary and secondary schooling, I never knew anything at all about the Eumeralla Wars, which were waged in that part of Victoria, Southwest Victoria, for almost 30 years between European colonists and the Gunditjmara peoples. There were some 7000 Aboriginal people killed including women and children who lay asleep. The point is, in my schooling in the 60s, we never knew. We never knew that savage piece of our history. And so I would urge us all that one of our challenges as non indigenous people, is to encourage storytelling in our nation. And to look sharply at our own past and our own understanding of where we’ve come from. And search our souls about the relationship we either haven’t had but must have with indigenous peoples across our country.

Welcome to all of you invisible people out there in zoom land, and to panelists assembled here that I can actually see. We’ve got a wonderful panel of Catherine Dwyer of Emma Fulu of Christina Hobbs, and we have Nicole and Cheryl as our Auslan translators. I’d like to just give you a very brief biography of our panelists. The first one of course the filmmaker Catherine Dwyer. Now this is Catherine’s first time as a director to make this film so special congratulations and what a way to start Catherine. But she had a great pathway into making this film. She worked as associate producer, as production research and assistant in working on the acclaimed Mary Dore’s documentary, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, which came out in 2014 as a story of the United States liberation movement. And that song, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, has picked up an almighty set of awards since and I reckon you might be giving some acceptance speeches in your own right, hopefully over the next year or so Catherine.

We’re also joined by Dr. Emma Fulu. Emma is executive director of the Equality Institute. She’s a feminist activist, social entrepreneur, and a leading expert on violence against women. Emma founded and is executive director of the equality Institute, which is a global feminist agency, working to end violence towards women and girls. She’s also the co-founder of VOICE, which is a nonprofit organisation that partners with women and girls in conflict and disaster settings to amplify their solutions to violence in their own communities.

Christina Hobbs, a third panelist is the CEO of Verve Super. Founding Verve Super a couple of years ago, It’s Australia’s first superannuation fund for women. Christina tells us that she gets out of bed each day with the mission of building the financial power of women. She’s passionate about ethical investment, impact investment, and ensuring that capital is used to help build a better world. Prior to founding Verve, Christina enjoyed 10 years working with the United Nations in complex humanitarian emergencies. And her role with the UN focused on humanitarian organisations and trying to assist the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world to financial services. We have a wonderful filmmaker, and a filmmaker activist. And we have two wonderful activists in their own right in Emma and Christina. Welcome to you.

Now, I don’t want to do a lot of the talking, but I do want to set the scene in terms of Australia, this country around 1970, when this film was really focusing. In our national parliament, there were 60 senators, and guess how many were women? I can count them on one hand, they were two. 58 of our senators were male. In 1970, as far as I can establish in the House of Representatives of about 127 seats, there were none. There were no women. There was one in 1974, and it took about another half dozen or so years to even reach double digits. The marriage bar was just removed by 1970. This was the ban that when women got married, they had to stop paid work. Homosexuality was illegal. There were no women’s refuges for women escaping violence.

Rape in marriage was still not criminalised. It was only criminalised from 1976 to 1994 across Australia. Women by 1970 had just become able to serve on juries. Because for this 100 years or so up until then, they were considered too emotional and too irrational to be trusted in doing jury service. There was no Sex Discrimination Act, so sexual discrimination in workplaces was not outlawed. And that only came onto the scene in 1983. A thanks to the efforts of Susan Ryan, who we lost as a feminist advocate not so long ago. Equal pay was not enshrined until in fact 1972. There was no child care legislation anywhere in the country until 1972. And of course as you see in Brazen Hussies, the women’s electoral lobby wasn’t formed until 1972. It was a pretty bleak old country, actually it was pretty oppressive, not just oppressive for white women, but awfully oppressive for people who were experiencing much greater poverty and disadvantage.

But let’s start with reflections on the film. Now, a favourite quote of mine by Spanish American philosopher and essayist George Santayana. He says, If you can’t remember the past you’re condemned to repeat it. Brazen Hussies is making sure that we remember this part of our past, let alone the warrior women who preceded all the women in the 1970s. Starting with I think perhaps Emma, can we start with you, you’ve seen the film? What would you take away as some of the thrilling observations that you would make?

Dr. Emma Fulu: Thanks Mary. I actually just watched the film so it’s very fresh in my mind. And it was very inspiring I think in many ways, and I think I finished it feeling grateful for those who have come before us. And I feel in many ways that I have benefited from that. I’m a single mom so it’s interesting seeing that footage and that history obviously, I’ve been able to build a career that I wouldn’t have been able to perhaps in the past. I work on preventing violence against women and so that as an issue has obviously grown out of that movement in many ways. Many things felt familiar, and felt like they’re very directly related to my life. But on the other hand I did also feel resonance with some sense of not seeing myself, which was raised I think by a number of the groups throughout the film.

And I remember I studied feminist theory at university a couple of decades ago and even then, I couldn’t see myself in what was being taught, it a very white kind of Western feminist narrative and I come from a very kind of mixed background; Muslim heritage, obviously a woman of color. And so even now I think, it’s interesting to see that history and that evolution, and then my time in university, and today these are still tensions that we’re grappling with. I felt both of those things.

Mary Crooks AO: And Emma before I switch to the others, it’s interesting too because even though the film has wonderful footage of Aboriginal women speaking, at the same time, and it was just the 1970s where three years after the yes vote was prosecuted for Aboriginal citizenship, and one of the leaders of that year’s movement was Ruggiero Knakal. And so, it is quite interesting that that kind of huge achievement on the part of that constitutional change probably wasn’t on the radar of a lot of the white women who were starting to find themselves in a more liberated space. The issue you talk about, I’d love to come back to that later. But feeling grateful and feeling inspired is not a bad start. Christina, your response when you’ve watched Brazen Hussies?

Christina Hobbs: Yeah, I think rational is probably the word and I actually watched it on the weekend, but I have to re watch it before it’s 12 because I remember when I finished I had all these overwhelming emotions. And so I needed to get myself back into that head space. And I think generally a lot of that for me was that feeling of inspiration and just feeling the energy of the women at that time it really came through. And it was really interesting, because I watched the film with my partner, and the strong emotion that came through to him was a reaction to what he saw as really extreme violence against women that was shown in the film. There were all these competing emotions, but I think it just came together just absolutely brilliantly and I think everybody will find something that really hits them.

And then I think the point that you alluded to earlier about if we don’t remember our history, we’re condemned for the future. And obviously, managing a superannuation fund tailored for women, where we’re in a situation of having women over the age of 55 being the fastest growing cohort of homeless people. We have male politicians at the moment not feeling that all women deserve a home, forgetting our history that not that long ago, it was the same women that were condemned to stay in their homes, and the only place for them was in their homes, and that so many of these women are in the situation because they weren’t allowed to work. And the state has now sort of washed their hands off them. I think it’s a really important part of our history to remember. And then I just think it was this overwhelming tension in the film between why haven’t we come so far, vs oh my gosh, we’re still in the same spot.

And I remember, there was this amazing line by a woman in one of the consciousness raising meetings where she sort of has this awakening and says she was sort of punched in the stomach and realise that she’d been conned into accepting this image of herself. And I certainly remember being a young woman and suddenly having that realisation one day that I’d also been conned. And I think that most people watching probably have their own reflections of when they started realising that they’d been conned. And I think there’s this other just wonderful lighting there and I think it was Suzanne Bellamy, where she’s talking about left wing men. And she says, look they’re great comrades and they’re good activists, but many of them just don’t realise that they’re assholes.

Mary Crooks AO: I love that line.

Christina Hobbs: Because that’s the way that I feel still today. In many ways, our wonderful progressive men, but also still don’t realise the ways in which they’re being assholes. And so I think the film sets this wonderful tension between how far have we come and how similar are we in situation today.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah, I chuckled when I saw the use of that poster with a very pregnant Henry Bolt, premier of Victoria, that if men became pregnant abortion would have been legalized centuries ago. I can remember that, I can remember that as a young woman. Thinking yeah, that’s exactly how it is. Let’s come to you Catherine, as director of the film, and drawing on the comparisons with the US. What do you think are some of the similarities between the two movements around the US and here, and then maybe what do you think as something that’s strikingly different from the movement here in Australia?

Catherine Dwyer: Thank you, Christina and Emma for your feedback on the film as well. I really appreciate it. Working on She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry I got to learn all about the American women’s liberation movement. And what struck me immediately about the Australian movement that was quite different was that whereas Nixon was the president in America, we had Whitlam being elected in 72 or sort of at the height of the women’s movement gaining traction. Nixon vetoed a childcare bill saying he didn’t want American women to be like Russian women, whereas we had Whitlam and the amazing work of the women’s electoral lobby, and the adoption or the willingness of the Whitlam government to take on what women were demanding and the reforms that were being demanded. We got the single mothers pension, so many reforms came through at that period. The creation of the role of a woman’s advisor to the Whitlam government was the first in the world ever that had ever been done. Australia looked like a feminist utopia for a little while there.

Mary Crooks AO: Okay. What you’re saying is that a lot of the issues were in common. A lot of the issues that framed the agenda were in common, but with Nixon in power and with Whitlam in power here, that was a qualitative difference in the movements.

Catherine Dwyer: Yeah, I think so. Obviously, Australia is a much smaller country as well. I think it’s easier to get certain reforms through as like with gun control in the 90s. Yeah, it was a really unique time and I suppose there was, of course, the plight at the end of the film with the government of SAP, so maybe it was too much, too fast. I’m not sure but yeah, just an incredible amount of reforming at the term femocrat as well, feminist bureaucrat is 10 point in Australian theocracy.

Mary Crooks AO: I must say from watching the film, I was also struck with watching all that wonderful footage that you rescued from the archives. But most of the interrogation of women, such as Elizabeth Reid was being done by men in the media, and the treatment, what I hadn’t realised until I saw your film, was the treatment that Elizabeth Reid was subjected to across the media. We were just speaking so honestly, and disarmingly about the issues facing women and that she was being clobbered in the media back then. And I was grimly struck actually by the similarity between the media treatment of Elizabeth Reid and the media treatment of Julia Gillard, it had me thinking bleakly that things haven’t changed a lot in that regard.

Catherine Dwyer: Yeah, absolutely. There is definitely a lot of similarity there. And I know that when Sara Dowse stepped into a similar role on the Fraser, she didn’t have such a public face because it was so demanding. And for Elizabeth, I think like she said, she went off to the world of Canada and she didn’t return to Australia for quite a while.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah, that affected me that part of the film, because I just had not realised that kind of impact. Emma, can we just move along now, in terms of indicating what you think are the kinds of wins or achievements from that period. We have come so far, we have come so far but we’ve got a long way to go. I think we all acknowledge that. What do you reckon from seeing that film sharpened your understanding of yeah what can we say have been significant achievements?

Dr. Emma Fulu: Certainly in the field that I’m working very closely around violence against women, I could see very significant gains. And it’s hard to say that because it’s obviously still such an all consuming issue, and COVID has only highlighted that all the more so in recent months. But looking back at even at that time where rape within marriage wasn’t a crime, there were no shelters for women who had experienced violence. It was still considered a family and private issue. Those things have fundamentally changed and I think some of that has even happened really within the last five years where it’s on the national agenda in ways that it hasn’t been before.

And Australia was the first in the world to have a Violence Prevention Framework. An evidence based kind of focus on trying to stop violence happening in the first place not just responding to the cases. I think that’s a massive change. At the policy level, I think we see significant changes around the advancement of gender equality more broadly. And particularly in Victoria we’ve just had the gender equality bill passed, we now have a commissioner, Government departments have to look at their agenda to impact all of their policies. There’s lots of kind of, I guess, success that I see in those particular areas.

Mary Crooks AO: And the only state I think, to have gender parity at cabinet level. So far,

Dr. Emma Fulu: Yes, yes.

Mary Crooks AO: Christina, what would you add to Emma in terms of lines in the sand where we can say, yes we’ve crossed that we’ve achieved something there.

Christina Hobbs: Perhaps looking at economic equality I think that’s obviously the space I spend most of my time working in. I think there’s been some really improvement shifts. Particularly amongst public sentiment. Not necessarily always a monster sentiment of all politicians, but in general the Australian public feel that women have the right to work, that we have the right to equal pay, that men and women can equally contribute to our economy. I think there’s a huge sort of changes, that we’ve had at a public perception level. And then of course, we’ve also seen some of those really significant laws that have to some extent in trying making things right. We’ve seen the right to equal pay, we’ve seen that women are allowed to keep their jobs now after they get married and after they have children. Some of those big sort of legislative hurdles, we did see childcare coming.

And of course I think the tension now is more around how do we make these things actually happen in real life, but we have to acknowledge that we have had a really big progress in terms of perception around the role of women in work. And I think particularly if we look at the private sector in Australia, the big companies in Australia, not only say that women have a right to work, but they do truly see women as equal employees. And I think if you look at the actions of the large companies in Australia, they’re often leading the way and often further ahead of government policy in terms of how they support women in the workforce because most big, large organisations in Australia do truly see female talent as being equal to male talent.

Mary Crooks AO: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, we just have to start making sure that our national parliament is seen as a workplace subject to the same sorts of standards and laws around harassment and accountability and so on. What do you think, Catherine in directing the film, what do you think are the instances of grounds one, where women across this country have actually benefited from that very diverse movement to affect changes? What do you think?

Catherine Dwyer: Well, I definitely did want to leave it on a very empowering note and to say, look at how much has changed. Women not just the very active being able to drink at a public bar but the symbolic change that made women a part of the public. That’s a huge thing for young women today, to just take that for granted and never question that they’re a part of the public and have just as much a right to be an Australian citizen is amazing, but on the other hand, we don’t have as much participation in who runs the country. That’s something that we still need to work at. And it’s we’re not used to women in power I think still, we’re still uncomfortable with that and I’d say women and men, but we’re getting better.

And yes like you pointed out with Julia Gillard, that really showed how uncomfortable we as a country are with women in powerful positions, and we have to keep pushing through and not trying to be discouraged by that. And I think young people today, just their attitude towards themselves young, that they’re not inferior I think is amazing. But I do think things change once women have children, and if things can go back to revert to the old ways very quickly where women do more of the unpaid domestic labor. And it’s great that both men and women work but I don’t think the women’s movement was just about the right to work, and I think I saw a video and you were talking about people saying how you’re made to admit that you were Superwoman if you’re having this amazing job and having kids and, that’s still a problem that women do too much and have a lot of guilt.

Mary Crooks AO: I think the question of the lack of recognition and material recognition of women’s unpaid work is still one of the last great barriers,

Catherine Dwyer: Yeah.

Mary Crooks AO: In useful participation. Margot Nash thinks in that film, I loved it when she reflected that feminism gave us an understanding of where we set within the power structure. And I thought that was a neat line in terms of do we still have an adequate understanding of how women sit in the power structure? I think the COVID experience this year, across the country, has exposed the deep seams of gendered inequality around women’s economic participation, and their representation on the policy responses. And I think the federal budget to show no initiative that recognised the lived experience of women during the COVID crisis.

Could I ask our panelists now, you’re recognizing that there’s been considerable achievement, but also, the tensions. The tensions that flourish in that documentary, and they haven’t gone away. Some of them may have been smoothed over, but there are sharper tensions than possibly were even then. Emma could I start with you, what do you think, I understand that a film about women’s liberation movement in Australia, was all in terms of footage and assembling the evidence and pictorial or whatever, is by and large going to be a story about white women leaders, about the emerging feminist movement in this phase and they were some very vocal and very insightful comments by Aboriginal women in that film. I don’t think that issue has gone away from us. And I wonder if you’d like to pick up on why the feminist movement needs to look very, very carefully at its journey, and its embrace of women, or its lack of embrace of women of color, or other differences. So let’s have your take on what you think simmering tensions were in that film?

Dr. Emma Fulu: Yes. I do think that’s probably one of the biggest areas where I think we haven’t seen enough change. If you look at a lot of the issues that we talk about today, we talk about the pay gap, if we talk about representation, we tend to do that through the lens of a white woman. We said, the measure of the pay gap that we look at actually is the pay gap between white women and men. It’s not between other women who actually tend to have there’s mostly even greater disparity between them.

Similarly, when we think about representation, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been organisations and certainly a lot of people contacting us to say, oh, all of a sudden now we’ve actually got to think about not just gender equality within the workforce, but finally being called out to say, No actually you have to think about diversity and belonging and equity in a much broader sense than that, and that includes considering not just race, but women with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ communities, and how do we create a movement and create a society that is genuinely inclusive and feels that we can all feel a sense of belonging. I don’t think we’re there yet, by any stretch of the imagination, unfortunately. And I think that’s a big area of work that we need to continue on.

The other big tension that is trying to kind of unpack a bit is that there is this progress, but at the same time there’s also significant backlash that we’re feeling in the movement I think, at the moment. We see that sort of kind of vitriolic language towards some women in the film then and in the media, and now you see what’s going on online with trolling, and it’s that times a million. And that kind of the backlash against progress is still there. And on the surface we might see definitely significant progress and men generally agreeing with the overall idea of equality, but you get down to some of the details when, and you still have rape victims being blamed. And you still have this idea that feminists are just complaining. And so I still think there’s still those things that I could see in the movie that they may have moved into different spaces, but they’re still bubbling underneath the surface and things will have to continually, I guess work to overcome.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah. And I was struck watching closely, all of the women who were interviewed, who were critical witnesses and players in the movement in the 70s. I was struck by their courage. The courage they had to take the kinds of steps that they did, let alone the hard work that they did. But I was also struck by the courage of women like Petra Shane, who was able to reflect back and say, well, there’s a lot of unconscious racism.

Dr. Emma Fulu: Exactly.

Mary Crooks AO: We can all be working really, really hard, but if we want to be really inclusive and advocate as deeply as possible for the elimination of injustices, then we have to look inside ourselves. And we have to get rid of the unconscious racism,

Dr. Emma Fulu: Exactly.

Mary Crooks AO: And embrace the diversity in the full. Christina just reflecting on what you saw as some of the simmering tensions within the so-called movement back then.

Christina Hobbs: I think picking up again from I think the issue of women of color, particularly Aboriginal women, and I think in line with what Emma was saying, I think that’s still present today. And I remember after the most recent budget was delivered, although I felt that budget really did not provide the support we would have expected to have say for women, following women being quite heavily hit by COVID. I do really think that it was a strong step forward that so many journalists and so many people speaking in the media, we’re talking about what a big opportunity missed it was that free childcare wasn’t included. And that was something we were campaigning on. And I felt that that was a good step forward because it was this acknowledgment that we don’t just need policies, we need these other more supportive policies to make certain that we don’t just have equal rights, we actually have the support.

But at the same time, what I didn’t see at all in any of the coverage when it came to women was I didn’t see any discussion around continuation of the cashless welfare card. I didn’t see any discussion about there being a complete lack of support for Aboriginal parents when we still see Aboriginal children now being taken away at increasing rates now, 10 times more likely than other children to be removed from their parents. And I think, particularly when you’re talking about women’s economic equality, I think they’ll probably still today, a lot of Aboriginal women sitting there thinking, well, I can’t really identify with these feminist push for paid childcare, when our children are being removed, often because of situations of poverty, and I can’t really identify when we’re still having to fight for basic cultural rights. And so I think that there’s still this big bridge.

And I think the other thing that I really reflected on from the film, and I think in terms of attentions that are still here today with us is a wonderful comment in one of the conscious raising meetings around, who are you angry at? And they have to go around the circle and say who they are angry at, and they’ll try to work it out. And I feel like this is this tension that we have even more so now where we have these supposed policies that allow equality, and we have male partners now who supposedly not only accept but really want equality. And yet we’re somehow still completely overworked, completely overpaid and exhausted. And a lot of us don’t really know how to channel that exhaustion and don’t know who to be angry at.

And I think it’s hard for women today to admit to themselves that their partners are letting them down, and that they are basically doing double the amount of work and that their partners’ free time and ability to go off and do anything is at their cost. And I think seemly without government, and I remember talking to a friend who was a strong feminist about paid childcare and her reaction was, well, can we afford that in the wake of COVID? And it was really like, No, we have to be angry that we don’t have it, it’s a great economic policy for our country. It’s a great policy to support equality, why don’t we have it? And so I think often we’re in a situation now where it can be hard to really identify, who should we be angry at, what do we need changing and so I think there’s still that underlying tensions issue as much as there’s already change as there was then.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah, Catherine coming to you, you now must have a much sharpened idea before you set out as to the kind of tensions that were rippling through the movement. And, not just between groups and parts of the movement, but I was struck by one woman who talked about the way she’d absorb rage and anger and frustration through her life, and so it wasn’t until she started to step forward that she found out a whole lot of awareness of how much rage she was carrying and I suspect that that’s with an awful lot of people, women who fight for equality, that beneath the surface, there’s an anger and frustration and a rage that’s lurking in there because of the perpetuation of injustice. But your view on the kinds of simmering tensions that were evident in the movement.

Catherine Dwyer: Obviously, the gay rights movement was emerging at the same time as gay liberation and it was at the 67 referendum, Aboriginal rights movement was gaining a lot of traction. And so these liberation movements were all sort of happening at the same time, and definitely a lot of the white women in the movement were anti racist and believed very strongly in that kind of what Suzanne Bellamy says, they couldn’t see that they were possibly assholes and Lilla Watson talked about going to an anti apartheid meeting with anti Springbok meeting in the early 70s. And realising that these white people around her were protesting against South African racism, and had no idea what was going on in Australia in their backyards, and she was just shocked and angry. And, I think that happened again with George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, suddenly people were pointing out, this happens here in Australia too and it’s still a huge problem.

Mary Crooks AO: Catherine, I’m really conscious of the time I’m getting signals. We got about seven minutes to go sadly. And I thought I might get in a few winding up comments in a few minutes, but can I ask the three of you, starting with you perhaps Christina. Watching the film like Brazen Hussies, and even the joy of reclaiming or claiming a word like Hussy and celebrating it, by watching that film, how’s it going to affect your activism from tomorrow onwards?

Christina Hobbs: I think it serves really a bit of a fire I think, and something that I’m really still reflecting on is what happened. What happened between this time where there was so much fun, so much energy and there was so much momentum and today. And I think that’s something I’m going to reflect on and how to rebuild back up again. But it certainly reiterates the fire so I really have to thank Catherine for that.

Mary Crooks AO: Fantastic. Emma. I just think you’ll practice starting from tomorrow.

Dr. Emma Fulu: Yes. Well, I think it sort of reaffirms I think some ideas and directions I’ve felt the need to go in and a big one of that is actually around creating some learning opportunities and mentorship around feminist leadership for the next generation particularly women of color, and those who have historically been more marginalised, so that we can create I guess, models of leadership that don’t have to book because for me it’s not necessarily about entering into the leadership space in the same way as it was before. I think it’s trying to create new pathways and new ways of leading so that we can lead with compassion and empathy and be inclusive and it’s not exhausting and I can drop the Superwoman title and we can do it in a way that is nurturing and caring. That’s a big part of my next mission, I think is to create that.

Mary Crooks AO:  All of which ties in I think Emma, with some recent research findings that the strongest action on climate change around the world, currently is being taken up by countries where women are leading.

Dr. Emma Fulu: Exactly.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah. Catherine, you’ve been busy. You’ve spent five years of your life putting this film together, but how’s it going to affect your own civic activism as a filmmaker and a citizen from tomorrow onwards?

Catherine Dwyer: Well, I’m really gratified by the feedback that we’re getting that people say a lot, I didn’t know this story, and that they learned a lot. And I think it’s so important to share stories especially of marginalised lives because obviously, people with most privilege often get to share their stories and it’s so important that we understand that some people have different experiences and it’s by allowing those people to tell their stories, and if you do have privilege to provide a way to share them, it’s so important. I’m going to try and do that going forward with continuing to tell more of these stories. And on that note, there are migrant women missing from the film, for the most part, so I would like to recommend a sister film called Women of Steel that has come out just now. And it’s a story of migrant and Australian women fighting for the right to work at BHP steel mill.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah.

Catherine Dwyer: It was a big court battle. It’s an amazing story, like a David Goliath story of what women can achieve when they get together and organise. People do have the power, and it’s important to remember that.

Mary Crooks AO: Yep. Thanks Catherine. Well, I for one, I think I might pick up on Margot Nash’s point about understanding where we are in the power structure. I think what it’s impelling me to do, is to do more work on much more revealing de-layering of the white Anglo Celtic male power structure that still heavily dominates our lives. And until we change that, until we have parliaments that actually look like the Australian community, and in fact behave as well as the Australian community behaves, that would be a great start. I’m going to do a bit more work on revealing the power structure from afar. It would be lovely to keep on talking, but we need to wind up. I’d like first of all in closing to acknowledge the women, Catherine, who did give voice to you on film. All of the women that took part I think, as I said before, it was courageous. They did such hard yards, as did the women who came before them, but I think it takes a bit of guts to put yourself out there in the way those women did for the public record, and to inspire the next generations of women coming along.

Catherine Dwyer: I’d just acknowledge that there were also so many other women as well, obviously, it was a grassroots movement all over and I’m sure there’s women in the audience now, who were part of that movement. 

Mary Crooks AO: Oh, absolutely, and we work on the basis that for every heroine that’s mentioned, there will be 1000 others. Now I’d like to congratulate you Catherine, and the other people behind the film, Sue Maslin, Philippa Campey, Andrea Foxworthy, Diana Fisk. From our point of view at the Women’s Trust, it’s been an absolute delight having the opportunity to talk to you over the last five years seeing how we can help and just having discussions around the whole making of it. It’s been a great tribute to your tenacity, and your endurance, and to actually get such a great story up about the women’s movement in this country as a first, and it’s taken you five years and it’s taken you such struggle to get it resourced. Strength to your arms and thank you.

I’d like to thank our Auslan interpreters, Cheryl and Nicole, for doing a wonderful job tonight. Must be tough I think, dealing with a pedal and zoom and they’ve done it beautifully. I’d like to thank the great little Victorian Women’s Trust crew of staff and volunteers for putting this event on. We’ve had a massive year under the COVID circumstances and it’s because of their aperture and capacity to bring events of this quality to a wider audience. I’d like to encourage everyone who’s watching. I’d like to encourage you all, to now go and make sure that your family members, all of your family members, your extended family, your nieces, your nephews, your work colleagues, your friends, make sure that they watch Brazen Hussies over the next several weeks and over the summer. Get around and have discussions about it the way you have tonight.

I’d like to make a special thank you to the people who press that donation button in registering to help us cover the costs of bringing the event to you. I’m delighted to say that enough people donated so that we not only covered the costs, but there’s actually a little bit more that can go into our very brand sub Fund, which is in honor of the Union of Australian Women, the Victorian branch. We’ve been fundraising for that, and there’s a mighty group of women, who also dovetailed into the movement in the 70s. And this Sub-Fund they’ve negotiated with us is going to be the sort of Sub-Fund where only Aboriginal community organisations can apply for funds which support the leadership opportunities for indigenous girls into the future.

Thank you, Union of Australian Women, and thank you to the people who made donations to help us cover our costs and some of the excess money to go into that new sub fund. Thank you to our panelists, Emma, been delightful to meet you on zoom, I look forward to meeting you in person. Christina, lovely to meet with you again. Catherine lovely to meet with you again after all of this, and thank you for taking the time and effort to be part of the panel. And thanks to all of you at home or wherever you are, hopefully not watching from a crowded non COVID safe bar. Stay safe, stay well and enjoy the ongoing conversations around how do we achieve significantly more and more and more gender equality in this country of house. Thank you.

Catherine Dwyer: Thank you.

Dr. Emma Fulu: Congratulations Catherine.

Catherine Dwyer: Thank you so much.

Dr. Emma Fulu: Amazing. Bye.


Thank you to the makers of Brazen Hussies for making their film accessible to the Victorian Women’s Trust community.

Find a screening of Brazen Hussies near you. 

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