The first Forum I went to was in 1985 in Nairobi, Kenya. I was one of twenty women funded by the Australian Government. I was put forward by Quentin Bryce now - for a little while longer - Australia's Governor-General. I owe a lot to Quentin. In 1995, I decided to go again. There was no government funding for women as there had been ten years before.
By 1995, I was living in Tennant Creek in the NT. Because I decided to go, my friend Sharon Kinraid decided she would come too. By the end of January 1995, we had held a meeting of local women in the office of Maggie Hickey, the then Member for Barkly and started an organisation under the title of The Women of the Barkly. The adventure had started. We embarked on fundraising. The Australian Government was funding one Aboriginal woman and we encouraged our friend Joyce Napurrula Schroeder to apply. Her application was successful, so Joyce was on her way too. As was, our good friend Pene Curtis.
Fundraising continued for some months. The WoB, in the end, subsidised (but not fully paid for) the fares of three women. Because WoB was so active, a number of other women came from the local CWA and ATSIC. If attendance was measured as per capita representation of a community, Tennant Creek probably sent more women per head of population than anywhere else in Australia!
And we went in style. We did a workshop in Beijing. We booked what turned out to be a schoolroom of the old fashioned kind. With hindsight, we really needed two or three times that space! We had to shut the doors to the schoolroom because we were already plastering people to the walls!
We had received a grant of $20,000 from the Australia Council. With this money, our friend Gerardine Sullivan produced a wonderful video of professional quality on the life and art of the Women of the Barkly - with Maggie doing the narration. We employed two TC women to produce a photographic exhibition on a similar theme. With the $200 left over from all this, we had sufficient to pay for brochures describing it all. And on the day of our workshop, it was the day for our Minister for Women's Affairs to come to the Forum --- and Carmen Lawrence came to our workshop. How wonderful that was! When you are far away from home in a strange land ... and your Women's Minister walks into the room to your workshop!
All along the way we had included the Tennant Creek community in our doings. While in Beijing, there were news items which gave concern to people and of which we knew nothing. When we got home we were pulled up in the supermarket by concerned people. Are you all right ~~ we heard that... There is nothing quite like the feeling when you are supported by your community and find a place in their concerns. But that's Tennant Creek for you.
I hope, if you have read this far, that you too would love to go to such an event. If so, I hope you will go over here and join this this group >>> https://www.facebook.com/groups/5thWCW/.
I am a fan of Jean Shinoda Bolen and heard of this movement through her work. To me, the response to this great idea seems sluggish. If you go to http://www.unwomen.org/en/how-we-work/intergovernmental-support/world-conferences-on-women you will find out more about the previous four conferences.
I want Australian women to stand up and be counted on the move for the 5th World Conference. You see, there are five continents (if you count North and South America as one). Women's Conferences have been held only on four. The missing continent is Australia - and I think we ought to get together to push for a fifth UN world conference for women - but it must be held in Oceania. It should be in Australia, but if not then it should be held somewhere in the South Pacfic.