Lismore Women’s FestivalLeft – (l-r) Samantha Stewart, Carole Bull, Michelle Wrigley & Petra Duncan-Czizek

“The Lismore Women’s Festival is a joyful, inclusive event showcasing local women by connecting and empowering them to share and celebrate their stories, businesses, activities, lives, dreams, passions, wisdom and learning...”  Sandra Handley (YWCA NSW, Senior Manager Northern Rivers Region) brought the model for this festival back from her hometown of Whanganui (with permission from Whanganui Women’s Network, and their month-long ‘La Fiesta’) so let the enlightenment begin!

The Lismore Women’s Festival, a week-long festival, kicked off on Sunday with the inaugural Regional High Tea, a collaborative effort from NORPA’s Big Think program and the Lismore Chamber of Commerce and I was lucky enough to attend. The moment I walked into the Lismore Workers Club auditorium, all sparkling, white covered chairs, antique teapots on tables festooned with sample bags (love sample bags!) and smiling people everywhere, I realised how much Lismore has grown around me, whilst I was focused on ‘growing’ myself. Nothing stands still. Welcome to country, with Rhoda Roberts (producer, film and stage actor, television and radio host and Head of Indigenous Programming at the Sydney Opera House) brought a tear to my eye: first ‘strong woman’ to address us at this event, an event that showcased so many strong women from a myriad of lifestyles and choices. 

Through a live feed from All About Women at the Sydney Opera House, actor Geena Davis addressed the topic of Women and Media, gender stereotyping and the effect this still has on young children growing up in this modern era of fantasy where anything is possible (if you are a male, that is!). Even in fantasy, it appears that women are still misrepresented – and if we can’t get a ‘look-in’ even in fiction and storytelling, then what chances are there in real-life? Apparently, worldwide, participation by women hovers at around 20% or lower: women are groomed to expect less and put up with more. Geena Davis, champion for gender equality, talked about how women are perceived in media; she kept the audience wrapt with her charm, wit, knowledge, humour and her own personal stories, of which there are so many, I could listen to her forever. Geena presented the idea that if we change the balance to 50-50 (after all, women are more than half of the population) just in media representation, across the board, we could fast-track and possibly reach parity, rather than the opposite, ‘symbolic annihilation’ and stop teaching women and girls that we are not as important as men and boys. Geena outlined that the more television/movies that girls watch, the more their self-esteem goes down, yet the more boys watch, their esteem soars: this “indoctrinated bias feeds a serious imbalance”.

After the live feed, we were also ‘live fed’ with some of the most scrumptious taste-treats served on a high platter. What a treat. I felt very special indeed, being amongst this wonderful crowd of thriving women: Pam Brook (co-founder of Brookfarm, 2017 Telstra Business of the Year); Lois Randall (Screen Producer and Arts Manager, Advisory Committee and board member of Screenworks); Donna Kildea (CEO Summerland Credit Union); Sarah Karam (co-founder Belle General and Belle Central Cafe’s) and Kristy Jones (COBA ‘Emerging Leader Award’ recipient and marketing manager Southern Cross Credit Union) joined Rhoda Roberts in a panel discussion, about their rise and rise, inspiring every woman in the room (and many of the men, too!) 

The Northern Rivers is a burgeoning area, as diverse as it is creative, and with so many ‘Big Thinkers’ out there, giving their time, experience, enthusiasm, talent, stories and so much more, we can look forward to more involvement in our own future, and surely this begins with recognising/delivering gender equality on all levels and across all playing fields? The Lismore Women’s Festival, and all who sail with her, is a leap in the right direction, so get along to any of the events and check out www.lismorewomensfestival.org to secure your next inspirational session. 


The Lismore Chamber of Commerce & Industry in collaboration with NORPA Big Think presents the inaugural
Regional High Tea 
Sunday 5 March
featuring Geena Davis in a live stream from Sydney Opera House All About Women Festival.

Part of the Lismore Women’s Festival, running 5 – 12 March 2017. Visit www.lismorewomensfestival.org

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