We Make it Happen

International Women’s Day is fast approaching and to mark the occasion Millie Cotes and Kassia Aksenov spoke with three inspiring women at the forefront of this year’s celebrations in Leichhardt.

We find out why International Women’s Day is still important in their fields of work and how they plan on making change happen.

Julie McCrossin
Julie McCrossin is an Australian radio broadcaster and journalist, who is well known for her leadership in campaigning for women’s rights. This year McCrossin will be facilitating a panel discussion for Leichhardt’s International Women’s Day Twilight Supper.  

What does the theme “ Make it happen,” mean to you? 

It means local women talking about practical action they’ve taken to support other women in business, workplaces and their family lives. We’ll be sharing stories to inspire us to make positive things happen locally for women and girls.

What are the main issues you see that women face on a daily basis?

The key issues for women are as varied as women themselves. Our challenges change according to our age, cultural background, sexuality and income. However, the cost of housing, access to quality health care, freedom from family violence, affordable childcare, retirement income and loneliness are key issues for Inner West women in my experience.

What would you say to people who think International Women’s Day is unnecessary?

I am the stepmother of a boy and a girl. I am as committed to men’s health and wellbeing as I am to an equal role for women in our society. Special days like International Women’s Day give us the opportunity to talk to each other and strive to build a better world. We get the chance to pause and ask, “How are we going towards achieving equality? What more needs to be done?” I think the men’s health movement has emulated the women’s movement and helped to raise community awareness about vital issues for men, such as the gap in life expectancy and the rates of suicide.

Who is your role model? 

My 90-year-old mother, Marjorie McCrossin, is a key role model for me. My mother is passionate about education. Mum left school at 14 and joined the WAAF in London during World War II at 17. After marrying my dad, Bob McCrossin, an Australian bomber pilot, in London, she migrated to Australia and they raised five children. My three sisters, as well as my two brothers, all went to university and have professions. Mum was determined her girls would get an education and earn a living. These are still the keys to equality for women.

What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?

The anxiety many women feel about their physical appearance distresses me. However, my primary dream for women in the future is a real reduction in domestic violence.

How do you celebrate being a woman?

I celebrate being a woman by bushwalking with women in a group called Wild Women on Top. This group raises funds for The Fred Hollows Foundation by hosting a charity walk called Sydney Coastrek. On 6 March I’ll be walking from Coogee to Balmoral along the gorgeous coast and harbour foreshore. Our goal this year is $3 million. We’ll make it happen! (www.coastrek.com.au)

Angela Catterns
Angela Catterns is a renowned media personality and broadcaster who is currently presenting 2UE Afternoons. She will be providing her insights as a woman working in the male-dominated radio industry at the Panel Discussion of the Twilight Supper. 

What’s the most memorable story about a woman you’ve ever covered? 

So many stories, so many interviews! I guess one of the most impressive women I’ve interviewed recently was Eman Sharobeem. She’s a doctor, and director of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service at Fairfield. When she was barely a teenager, she was forced into an arranged marriage with her cousin in Egypt. She lived through physical abuse for 14 years, until her husband died. Now living in Australia, she works with young woman in similar situations. She’s working patiently and tirelessly within Muslim communities here in Sydney to try and modify the beliefs and attitudes held by parents who still believe in forced child marriages for their daughters.

If you could change one thing about the representation of women in the media what would it be? 

In radio, it doesn’t really matter what you look like, although these days I’m live on the webcam as well on the radio. On TV, a woman’s appearance continues to be closely scrutinised.  It’s telling that a woman spends up to an hour in makeup before a TV appearance, whereas most men are done in about 10 minutes! I’m loving the new hashtag AskHerMore. [That relates to] accomplished intelligent actresses sick of only being asked “Who are you wearing?” on red carpets, while their male counterparts are asked much more varied and interesting questions.

What advice would you give young women trying to enter in the media industry? 

Radio seems to go through phases of having several women on air, and then not having many at all. Currently, I work at 2UE – a news/talk commercial radio station and I’m the only woman on air. Young women wanting to work in radio have a pretty hard road to hoe. They’re often seen as a side-kick to a bloke, or the news or weather-girl. My number one piece of advice is to start off by getting a job somewhere out of town, at a country station. I did that many years ago and it was one of the great experiences of my life!

Roxanne McMurray
Roxanne McMurray, the leader of the Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre, led the campaign against the closure of Women’s homelessness services in Sydney. She is part of the team that has been organising the Twilight Supper event. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? 

It means coming together and saying we have to get behind our women’s services. We have to support them, we have to ask them what help they want. They are essential and they do fantastic work, women’s services is a fundamental part of what makes our community a great place to live and work. We’ll be coming together to celebrate women in business, women in sport, the arts and in the community and we will be sharing what inspires us and how we have been able to support other women. We’re looking at how to make it happen!

What led you to work in a role that focuses on helping women?

I was very attracted to the type of work it was. It was a combination of drawing together what I’d done in the past with an area that I really care about which is women, women’s health and women’s rights. And also it would allow me the opportunity to work in an area where you’re actually assisting women’s access to good quality health care. If you don’t have a lot of money there are a lot of barriers. It’s wonderful that there are places like Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre that provide this no matter what economic situation women are in.

Are there any aspects that are unique about working with women?

The uniqueness is that it is an incredibly safe and very supportive environment and I think that’s something that the women who use Leichhardt Women’s Health Centre talk about a lot. They deliberately come here because it’s women’s only. A lot of women have said that it feels like home, and in some cases a home that they haven’t had before.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

Working with a team of very skilled professional women, within a network of women’s services and other community services. There’s a very strong sense of seeing the possibilities through the challenges and I think that’s really exciting.