Graduate House recently hosted the Melba Group’s meeting, convened by Jenny Standish. It brought together women leaders from many spheres of influence in the Victorian community who were from different generations. The Melba Group’s first meetings were held in the 1980s and members continue to focus on activities bringing about social and cultural change for women. Two members, Lynne Selwood and Kay Oke, were congratulated as recent recipients of Queen’s Birthday Honours. However, Jan Harper explained that women continue to be underrepresented in the national honours system. She introduced a plan to nominate more women to be considered for future honours awards.
A special guest was University High School’s past student Sara Draca who won the Pat Goble Award for her speech at the My Vote My Voice event in 2016 conducted by the National Council of Women of Victoria (NCWV) at the Parliament of Victoria. She was presented with the Award by Dr Deborah Towns, vice-president of the League of Women Voters, Victoria (LWVV) which funds the award and Sheila Byard, immediate past-president of NCWV. The award honours the late Pat Goble, who was a local, national and international human rights activist. Sara’s notable speech was eloquent and thought provoking and she shared a summary with the Melba Group’s members.
Sara described how today we live in a world where feminism can be commodified; it can be a t-shirt with a feminist logo, made by mistreated workers, and packaged and sold to us as a commodity. ‘Feminism’ she said, has been stripped of its radical and progressive roots’. She added, ‘corporate feminism - ‘if such a thing exists’ -has never truly helped them.’ Reflecting on feminist activism Sara advised, ‘I think, on our own small scale, it’s quite easy to be productive; all I ask is that you are always conscious as a feminist. That means critiquing your own actions, critiquing those of the feminists around you, and never ever settling for the ‘lesser evil’. For me, solidarity is the only way forward-to take care of the people around you, like those who don’t have the same privileges as you do. We need to open ourselves to new perspectives and critical thinking.’ Sara explained how honoured she was to participate in My Vote My Voice.
Now we are looking forward to this year’s My Vote My Voice, organised by the NCWV to be held on , in the inspirational Legislative Council Chamber. Then we will be privileged to hear from secondary students from government and non-government schools. Responses will be provided by a panel representing the Australian Local Government’s Women’s Association, Victoria. It’s another opportunity for current and future community leaders to engage with feminist ideas and activities designed to bring about greater leadership opportunities for women.