A sell-out crowd descended on the West Gippsland Arts Centre on Thursday, 9 March, to celebrate Baw Baw Shire’s annual International Women’s Day event, delivered in partnership with Women in Gippsland.
What does it mean to count yourself in? This was the question explored throughout the night and the theme for this years’ event; with the audience encouraged to not only search within to identify what it might mean to them, but given tools to silence their inner critic, and count themselves in.
Keynote speaker and award-winning musician, actor, author, and broadcaster, Clare Bowditch, inspired the crowd through songs and stories about her struggles with anxiety, her aspirations, and dreams as a young woman and how the tools she has used to silence her inner critic have enabled her to turn those dreams into reality, while living a life of joy.
The audience also heard from two inspiring Gippsland women as part of a panel discussion lead by Dr Nicolette Snowden, a Warragul based oral historian, writer, researcher, and photographer.
Jen Smith and Caitlin Grisby, who have each counted themselves in their individual ways, talked about their own struggles and the importance of having a support network to call upon when times are tough, and how having the right mentality can keep you focussed on your goals.
Prior to the panel discussion and keynote address, a short documentary titled Jackson’s Track was premiered. Filmed by local filmmaker and director, Danielle McAlpine-Johnson, Jackson’s Track highlights the inequality faced by First Nations people in Gippsland during the stolen generation, exposing the lack of treatment Aboriginal people received through the healthcare system.
Outside of the theatre and before the main event began, hundreds gathered in the West Gippsland Arts Centre forecourt to network, enjoy the festival vibes, and celebrate the achievements of women across Gippsland, before a smoking ceremony conducted by Aunty Cheryl Drayton signalled that the time for listening and inspiration had begun.
International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women while calling for gender equity and an end to gender-based discrimination and violence.
2023 marked the fourth year the joint event has been delivered in partnership by Baw Baw Shire Council and Women in Gippsland, with all proceeds from the event going to the not-for-profit organisation to continue its event and advocacy work, which includes the Put Her Name on It campaign.
Quotes attributable to Mayor Cr Annemarie McCabe
“It is important women have a platform to share their stories. Council has partnered with Women in Gippsland for four years now, and each event seems to build on the last.
This year the audience was enlightened with the premiere of the short Jackson’s Track documentary, which highlighted the very real challenges faced by Indigenous women right here in Baw Baw.
Thank you to the many incredible women who shared the stage on the night, all of whom spoke with honesty, vulnerability, and grace. I hope everyone in the audience left inspired to Count Themselves In this year.”
Quotes attributable to Cr Jazmin Tauru
“International Women’s Day was a great night of celebration with an important message.
As Council’s Women’s Charter Champion, I am so pleased we have this platform to highlight the work done to date, and the work still to be done, to improve gender equality outcomes in Gippsland. Thank you to everyone involved.”
Quotes attributable to Cr Tricia Jones
“International Women’s Day is always a highlight on the calendar. The atmosphere in the forecourt was incredible and the speakers on stage were thought-provoking, raw, and real.”
Quotes attributable to Cr Peter Kostos
“Everyone has a role to play in gender equality and I am pleased to attend this event each year. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to listen, reflect and celebrate.”
Quote attributable to Leah Mether, Women in Gippsland Committee Member