The Time I was Seated at the Table

She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul.

F Scott Fitzgerald

Yesterday, I had the honour to be at the WA Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Services. As the guest of Dr Anne Aly no less. I was so humbled to be seated on the same table as Dr Aly (Federal MP for Cowan), the Hon Simone McGurk (Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Child Protection and Community Services), Michelle Andrews (Deputy Director General Premier and Cabinet Policy and Reform) and Chris Fields (Western Australian Ombudsman). This was only my table. There were 200 other women and men in the room, celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) 2018 #pressforprogress.

The opportunity I had to converse with state and federal politicians and leaders, all able to offer me advice and making me promise to give them a call so they could hear more about The Cool To Be Kind Project. I left, head spinning, with a new found determination to offer not only the women of Australia, but the men, those less fortunate, my generation and the world, a voice. Our common thread. Simply being kind.

It was an honour to hear Minister McGurk speak about the harrowing statistic that 1000 cases of domestic violence are reported to WA police every week. That’s one in four and the ones we actually know about. Dr Aly gave a poignant speech, having been in an abusive relationship 25 years ago. She only started to tell her story 23 years later and read from her upcoming book “Finding My Place: From Cairo to Canberra” (read it if you can, it truly is an irresistible story of an irrepressible woman).

The comradery in the room, the laughs, the tears, the lady who made her hat a cervix (I am not kidding) the food (arancini balls get me every time), the speakers, the ……..genuineness is impossible for me to put into words. What I can say is that despite the state of Australian politics, there are people who are in our corner. These people have not hesitated to stand up to family and domestic violence, happily flying the flag for those less fortunate.

One thing really stood out for me. The men in the room were the minority. The men were the ones nodding and clapping the loudest. I asked a gentleman on the next table what he takes from an event such as this. His answer. “I am continually blown away by the calibre of the women in this room. What some of them have been through is mind-blowing. I would love to have some of the perpetrators attend to see the result of their handiwork. Bring them in and sit them in front of the lady they abused. See her tell her story, read from her book, receive a standing ovation, laugh and interact. These men, thinking they had ruined a life, had the opposite effect. It created a powerhouse of individuals willing to stand and tell their story. Whether it was a month later or 23 years later. Sorry mate, you lost this one.” Another wow moment.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, here are some quotes from bold and inspiring women.

Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person“. – Gloria Steinem

Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” – Coco Chanel

Success isn’t about the money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

“It’s the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Last Thursday’s IWD asked us to #pressforprogress. To be a part of the global momentum striving for gender parity. We acknowledge this issue will not be solved overnight, the good news is that women are making positive gains day by day, motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive. IWD is not specific to a country, a group or an organisation. The day belongs to all groups collectively, and together, let’s be tenacious and united in accelerating gender inequalities #pressforprogress.

Dr Aly offered to take me home and I’m glad because I got to learn a little more about her character both on a personal level and as an MP.

  1. She is an expert in counter-terrorism.
  2. She is the first Australian Muslim woman, the first Egyptian-born woman and the first counter-terrorism expert to be elected to federal Parliament.
  3. Barack Obama invited her to The White House. Did she go? Hell yes!
  4. She was the victim of domestic abuse and had the courage to remove herself and her children, despite not having total support from her family. It took her 23 years to tell anyone.
  5. She swears. Who doesn’t?
  6. She didn’t expect to become a Politician.
  7. She thinks we need a more informed debate on wearing the burqa in Parliament.
  8. She still gets nervous when she has to speak in front of other people. I’m now privy to the other politicians inflicted by their nerves #informationgoingtothehighestbidder 
  9. She expects to face off against Pauline Hanson – see point 5.
  10. She loves scones and the gym, is married, has two boys and a sense of humour as wicked as mine.

I am blessed to have someone of this calibre be my “self-confessed” mentor and look forward to working together in the future.

This week has been especially poignant for me as I received a message from Kate Everett, the mother of the late Dolly “Amy” Everett. I wrote to the family before I published my blog on bullying. To hear back from the family thanking me for the support brought me to tears. One of those moments I will never forget #doingitfordolly. I’ll put it in a box next to my memory of being mentioned in Parliament on Valentine’s Day (thanks Anne!)

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend, and to everyone not in WA, enjoy having Monday off.