Although the winter break is generally a great time for recuperation before semester 2, it can be less great surviving for over a month without the fantastic discussions and activities organised by the Women’s Collective on campus. For those women experiencing such withdrawals, the annual NOWSA (Network Of Women Students Australia) conference was a great remedy, this year held at beautiful Melbourne University. Four days were spent listening to keynote speeches from inspirational, intelligent, and successful women across a variety of fields, attending many interactive and informative workshops on women and society, well-being, culture, and the workplace, and enjoying the great hospitality of Melbourne and the university’s Women’s Collective in between. Notable speakers included Leslie Cannold on the dangerously inadequate state of abortion laws in Australia, Melba Marginson on advocating for the rights of migrant women, Clementine Ford on the experiences of women in the media, and many more.
The conference also had a great variety of workshops on offer, where women could learn and discuss new skills and ideas. Some favourites included discussing great feminist literature, learning how to identify sexism in the media and report it to the relevant bodies, and learning how to be good allies to marginalised groups like trans and intersex people, and sex workers. NOWSA also emphasised and acknowledged that women cannot ask for recognition of their oppression, and recognition of the privilege of men, without recognising the privileges of some women over others. Autonomous and pro-caucuses were held with workshops to acknowledge the additional oppressions of queer women, women of colour, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and women with disability. It was moving to be a part of something that managed to be humbling, confronting, empowering, and inspirational. Some tears were shed, but there was also laughter and a great sense of solidarity.
NOWSA’s theme is about sharing positive and useful skills and ideas amongst women from all over the country, educating ourselves and others on recognising the struggles women from all backgrounds still face, and using this knowledge to become activists to solve these issues for the future and change society for the better. Problem? Patriarchy! Solution? Smash it!
SRC Womens’ Officers