Feminist Voices – The Edna Ryan Awards

The Edna Ryan Awards for feminist achievement were held on the 18th October 2013.  You can see a list of the recipients here, including our very own Shirley Kent. The Awards recognise feminist achievements in Arts, Community Activism, Education, Leadership, Media/Communication, Mentoring, Sport and The Grand Stirrer Award.

Congratulations to all the award winners and we thank you for your commitment and hard work.  Your actions help make the world a better place for everyone, especially for women.

Shirley received an Award for her leadership and tenacity campaigning to stop the O’Farrell Government cutting funding to community services.  The “Barry Cuts We Bleed” campaign was successful and many community services secured ongoing funding, in particular the Liverpool Women’s Resource Centre.

During the evening there were many wonderful acceptance speeches and cheers.

Shirley’s speech was amazing so we decided to publish it in full here so that people who weren’t there can join in the experience.

I didn’t discover feminism until I was in my thirties about the same time as I came out as a lesbian.

Feminism gave me a voice, a context for my own experiences and a sense of connection and support from other women. One of the privileges in my life has been to work with other women to find their voice, to speak out about abuse, violence, misogyny, and inequality.

There are costs to speaking out and naming injustice.  It can cost relationships, friendships, jobs, and economic security. I never lose sight of the fact that for many of our sisters in other countries speaking out can cost their lives.

In our current climate, it can be very easy to become discouraged.

We watch many of the rights that we have fought for dismantled.  We see increasingly right wing views, the loss of essential women’s services, we still have to fight for accessible abortion, childcare, equal pay and we are confronted continually with the ongoing proof of rape culture and misogyny. I have as a screensaver a poster many of you may have seen which shows a woman in her eighties holding up a sign that says “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit’. I’m sure most of us can identify with that.

The things that give me hope, that keep me going and believing are not the big actions. I have immense admiration for the women who speak out politically and academically, and who are often the public voice for women.

However, what inspires me and keeps my hope alive are the actions of women whose names almost certainly won’t go down in herstory, or appear in the Who’s Who of Australian women or win awards.

It is the young woman with a childhood from hell, who is raising her sons to be loving and gentle men with a conscience.

It is the young woman who takes her own childhood of abuse and uses it to write her Phd on survivors in the Court system and therefore gives a voice to many silenced women.

It is the older woman from a disadvantaged suburb who, when she hears that her son has threatened his partner, takes two buses, a train and a taxi to confront him and say “I love you, but if you act like this I’ll disown you.”

It is the woman in her 40’s with a Year 6 education walking back into a classroom because she wants a better life.

It is the workers, in so many NGO’S and services, walking beside their sisters as they reclaim their lives from abuse and violence.

It is the workers who have been bullied and abused in their workplace joining their union and standing together to challenge this abuse.

It is a group of women from F infiltrating and anti abortion rally and glitter bombing and throwing a ballet slipper at the speakers.

It is every woman who takes her life back from abuse and violence, who will not wear the shame and blame society places on her and who refuses to be silenced. These actions and many others are what keeps my hope alive.

So, in closing, don’t give up, stand together, take action, keep working for change, and, anyone who has ever done a group with me will remember my favourite quote:

‘Don’t Let the Bastards Win’

Shirley Kent

18th October 2013

Congratulations to everyone from The F Collective! Also a big shout out to Destroy The Joint who won the Grand Stirrer Award.

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