Monday, May 17, 2010

Some wonderful feedback from the Hon. (and wonderful) Penny Sharpe

NSW Legislative Assembly
12 May 2010
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE (Parliamentary Secretary) [11.43 p.m.]:

Over the weekend of 10 and 11 April I was fortunate to attend the first feminist conference held in Sydney for more than 10 years. At the conference I was able to participate with more than 500 women and a small contingent of men who seek ways to give women in our community a fair deal. It was an impressive conference, with women attendees ranging in ages from teens up to some in their eighties.

The conference was organised by a diverse collective of women who wanted to bring women together to discuss how we can enliven and ignite the feminist movement in Sydney. Each of the organisers was an activist and representative from various organisations, including the Women's Electoral Lobby New South Wales, Amnesty International, the Feminist Bookshop, ACON, the Sydney University Students Representative Council and the Australian Services Union.

Over the two-day conference panels discussed and examined a range of issues including: What can feminism learn from indigenous women's knowledge? Why is feminism relevant for all of us? The sharing of power—why aren't we there yet? What sort of future can we create from this conference? There were over 50 workshops on issues such as women and education, mothering and maternal activism, sexism and sexuality in the media, feminist perspectives on pornography, women and poverty, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, women in prison, women and disability and about 40 more topics.

Some people have suggested that we are living in a post-feminist world and that feminism is no longer necessary. While ever women make up the majority of the world's poor, live their lives in fear of violence, continue to suffer from discrimination in accessing education, housing and other basic human rights, feminism is necessary. The conference was a shot in the arm for the many women across this State who work every day to improve women's lives. Anne Summers said at one of the conference sessions that feminism is alive and well. At this time there have never been more men and women who are prepared to call themselves feminists. We should work with and act on that concept.

At a personal level, it was a privilege to gather with so many intelligent, passionate and committed women. The conference was truly inclusive and did not shy away from controversy. There was not any one form of feminism. No one had to have one particular way of representing feminism. There was respect for and inclusion of all points of view, based on the basic value that all women should be treated equally.

I want to place on record tonight my appreciation for the hard work that was done by a voluntary collective. These events usually run on the smell of an oily rag. I thank those who organised the conference: Jane Cullen, Rosa Campbell, Eva Cox, Melanie Fernandez, Gail Hewison, Helen and Celia Hurwitz, Jessica Ison, Gabe Kavanagh, Simone Morrissey, Claire Nemorin, Jenna Price and Tania Safi. Their work is just the beginning.

I look forward to their future efforts on behalf of women in New South Wales.


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