|The 25th National Older Women’s Conference was held on 17th-18th October in Sydney, hosted by OWN NSW.
The conference was an incredible expression of the passion and resilience of older women and those who work for justice and equity for all, including older women.
Jane Caro, our keynote speaker on day one, spoke on the emerging voices of older women – their grit, adaptability, energy and persistence. She asked us to be disruptors and to remain angry in our fight for recognition of the particular issues facing older women.
The Hon. Susan Ryan, our keynote on day two, spoke about how policy failures are bearing down on older women and that our work is not done. “Purposeful and effective action at all levels is required”. Unfortunately, Quentin Bryce was unable to attend at the last minute due to family reasons. She sent a heartfelt apology and spoke of her love for OWN. As our National patron, she was dearly missed and we hope that all will go well for her and her family.
Our first panel on Invisible and Unvalued – Let’s fix Ageism was chaired by the marvelous Jenna Price with four other passionate and vocal women – Jane Caro, Wendy Bacon, Eva Cox and Layla Pope.
Amani Haydar, Moo Baulch and Sharron Sillett spoke powerfully on the panel, How Feminism Changes the Narrative on Violence against Older Women. It was facilitated again by Jenna. She has also personally changed the narrative through her work on social media, particularly the significant Counting Dead Women initiative, and for putting up with the shocking trolls.
Our last panel was facilitated by Karen Walsh from SHELTER on Affordable Housing (also accessible housing) – From Myth to Reality with Katherine McKernan, Debbie Georgopoulos, Romola Hollywood and Annabelle Daniel. The experience of each panel member who has worked on the ground on these issues for decades was clear. They got to the heart of the matter and all made the point that the government must build more public and affordable housing.
We were fortunate to have some of the best minds and workers in the field in our audience and on our panels. Participants were invited to write on the action board of ideas. OWN will collate these responses and follow up where we can. We thought we’d share one quote from our ageism board: “It’s not age – it’ s about life experience. Make it count!”
As always, the OWN NSW Theatre Group entertained and challenged us. The SOS Choir moved us to tears with their beautiful singing, and the “It’s Still Germaine” performance group made us laugh and think with their version of “Manspread”.
Shirley Randell, our National Ambassador, closed day one of the conference with a clear round up of the day and the way forward for all involved.
On day two, Meredith Burgmann made a strong case for why quotas are needed in politics. “Women need a seat at the table” she reminded us and “Policies are better for women when women are part of the decision”. She outlined why she changed her mind from being anti-quota to being a proponent of quotas.
Kim Boettcher spoke about protecting our legacy by planning ahead. As she described, we should “Row our own boat” and look at a Power of Attorney document, an Enduring Guardian document and an Advance Care Directive. Learn more here.
Rita Martin of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (our gold sponsor) also spoke about quotas, but with regards to aged care. She also highlighted the work of the Aged Care Round Table in putting out information leaflets on the 10 important questions we need to ask related to various aspects of residential aged care. Get involved here.
Susan Ryan and Aloma Fennell, our national president, presided over a casual question and answer session and we heard that Aloma Fennell will be working with the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older Persons, in particular with the task of introducing a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons, paying particular attention to older women and those with disabilities. Congratulations Aloma!
We must also thank Minister Bronwyn Taylor and Minister Geoff Lee for the excellent reception they hosted at Parliament House.
We will be sharing the videos of the panel discussions as well as photos from the conference when they are ready. A notification will be sent out when this is completed.
Thank you for your feedback and enthusiasm. We are feeling very positive about making a difference on the current and future plight of older women.
Article courtesy of the OWN NSW E-Newsletter 22nd October 2019. A number of Queensland members from Brisbane, Gympie and Mackay attended the conference.