We send our best wishes and hope that you and your families are well.
There’s no way to adequately describe the start to 2020: drought, fires and COVID-19.
Studies have laid bare the gendered impact of COVID-19. Women are more likely to be in precarious or casual employment and overrepresented as ‘frontline’ or ‘essential’ workers in education, healthcare, childcare, retail and hospitality. Restrictions, social distancing or forced isolation have elevated the risk of family domestic violence for some women and many women have had to make difficult decisions about health and safety while also dealing with financial hardship. Unpaid work and caring in women’s domestic lives has increased, as women are more likely to care for sick family members and take on education-related responsibilities while children are home from school.
Federation has advocated on behalf of members during the pandemic, motivated by the necessity to protect the health and safety of all members and hold the Department to account. Senior Vice President Amber Flohm provides a detailed explanation of these issues in this article.
Throughout it all, you have supported your families, each other, your communities and Federation. You’ve navigated constantly changing government restrictions and health advice, business closures, uncertainty, panic buying and dramatic social change. You have endeavoured to balance your personal life and your work. You’ve adapted your teaching and learning in a very short timeframe, developed resources and innovative ways to continue educating students while, in many cases, dealing with the complexities of partially open schools, colleges and workplaces, varied student access to technology and shortages of sanitiser and cleaning products.
For this, you have our utmost admiration and thanks.
Leeanda Smith, Women’s Coordinator
Earlier this year Federation commissioned an independent inquiry into the changing nature and complexity of teachers’ work. It is important that all members have an opportunity to have their say (login details required). We strongly encourage women members to participate.
Valuing the Teaching Profession — an Independent Inquiry is investigating changes in the policies, procedures, practices and regulation of teaching and their impact on the work of teachers and principals. The last time such an investigation was conducted into the nature of teachers’ work was in an Industrial Relations Commission case in 2003, with the Commission handing down its decision in 2004.
Maternity leave in schools
People use the term “maternity leave” to refer to a range of rights and entitlements related to pregnancy. However, those entitlements can vary depending on the nature of employment.
A national inquiry has found that sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is “widespread and pervasive” and equally shocking is the “gendered and intersectional nature of workplace sexual harassment”.
The community is demanding that governments take steps to address the scourge of family and domestic violence. A number of organisations, led by Fair Agenda, have started a petition asking for MPs to act.
This course is open to women who have been elected by their local association as the Women’s Contact and will run 27-28 July and 27 November, subject to COVID-19 regulations. The first two days will be training-focused and participants will design an association-based project to increase the local engagement and activism of women. Participants will then return for the third day to report on their project and share outcomes and strategies. Completing all three days and the project will contribute to 20 hours of NESA-registered professional development.
For more information click here, talk to your Organiser or contact Women’s Coordinator Leeanda Smith.
Two-week Anna Stewart Program
Applications for the two-week programs planned for semester 2, 2020 (subject to COVID-19 regulations) are open now. The program aims at developing the skills, knowledge and confidence of women members and empowering them to be actively involved in Federation in their workplace, local association or state level.
The Global Institute for Women's Leadership podcast features conversations with prominent female leaders from a range of different fields and backgrounds, aiming "to celebrate the stories of female leaders, learn lessons from their lives and share insights on what works to get more women into leadership positions”.
In this podcast Julia talks to Sally McManus, the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in its 90-year history. Sally discusses trying to gain acceptance in a male-dominated environment, leading the fight against unequal pay for women and learning to be herself, whether others like it or not.
All about women 2020 — The forgotten women of astronomy
Professor Jo Dunkley explores the universe while unearthing some extraordinary, little-known women who defied the restrictions placed on them because of their gender, and whose pioneering research laid the foundations that Professor Dunkley has built on. The lecture is followed by a conversation with STEM journalist and Wiradjuri woman, Rae Johnston.
Mary Beard is Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. This extended essay, in short book form, examines women’s voices through history and how history has treated powerful women. The essay uses examples from Medusa to Merkel, and Professor Beard considers the extent to which the exclusion of women from power is culturally embedded, and how idioms from ancient Greece are still used to normalise gendered violence. It also questions the definition of power.
On 11 May 2020 the Workplace Gender Equality Agency released an initial report into the gendered impact of COVID-19. The report states that health crises can exacerbate existing gender inequalities. Data collected shows an increase in unemployment, underemployment and underutilisation of the Australian workforce in April 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19. Women experienced a greater reduction in hours worked than men and the women’s labour force participation rate decreased. Research will be ongoing as the impacts and effects of COVID-19 are still being assessed and understood.
The Sydney CBD International Women’s Day march was held on 7 March. The march was coordinated by Unions NSW and the theme was ‘Joining together’. The march started at Hyde Park fountain, after hearing from women about the importance of safety and recognition, and progressed to Belmore Park, where there was family friendly entertainment and a range of stalls.
IWD and young women — Finding your voice
Morgaine Sharp was a one of 10 keynote speakers and panellists at a Blue Mountains forum for school students in celebration of International Women’s Day 2020. The forum was organised by students for students ranging from years 6 to 10. The theme of Morgaine’s speech was “Finding your voice, high school and beyond” and here is an extract:
When I was growing up, the fact that I was a girl meant little to me outside of superficial purposes, because it never stood in the way of me doing what I wanted to do. I loved dolls and fairies and dressing up, yes — but I also loved toy trucks and cars. I used to be a shy kid because I was an only child, and was often busy with incessant reading, writing, drawing and dancing — but not because these things were bestowed upon me as a young woman — because I chose to do them, with my own autonomy. And just because I enjoy my own company, and can cope with the quiet and alone time, does not mean I don’t enjoy being loud and extroverted — I’m involved in community musicals, attend many rallies and protests every year, and I was school captain in 2018 at Springwood High, under the guidance of the wonderful Mr Joseph.
The point is, I’ve never been told that it’s not okay for me to do any of these things. I’ve never been told not to pursue something, or to hold my tongue, because I’m a woman. More often than not, my growth as a person was fiercely encouraged by my family and friends. I am beyond grateful to have such a brilliant support network in my life.
But the sad reality is that many women around the world do not get to be so lucky, solely because of gender. It is a horrible and blisteringly unfair reality — one that makes me so sad and angry. But I choose to turn those emotions into passion, instead of letting them fuel who knows how much further negativity...
The one thing I want you to take away from me today is that empowered women empower women — let’s continue to support each other in our dreams and bring on the change that we wish to see.
Morgaine is the daughter of Mandy Wells, Federation’s Multicultural Officer.