Sunday, 3 March 2019

58th Annual Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony 2019

               
                                          Sally Capp with Elizabeth Newman, president NCW

Speech by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, the Right Honourable Sally Capp.
On behalf of the City of Melbourne, I would like to begin by acknowledging that we’re gathered on the traditional land of the Kulin Nation, and I pay my respects to elders past and present.  I recognise and respect the continuing spiritual and cultural relationship our first peoples have with this land.
I’d also like to acknowledge:
Paul Webster, Chairman, Australia Day Council, Victoria; Elisabeth Newman, President, National Council of Women Victoria; Janet Park, Vice-President, NCWV; Delegates and Members of NCWV and their guests; Past NCWV presidents and honorary life members; Future women pioneers. Welcome everyone.
Thank you for the opportunity to be part of today’s ceremony. How fortunate we are to be meeting in this tranquil place – a place for quiet reflection. It’s intimate, ornate and serene - the perfect backdrop for our event.
More than 80 years ago, a group of Victorian women campaigned for civic recognition of the contribution of women – as part of the City of Melbourne's Centenary celebrations. And that’s what led to the creation of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden in the Kings Domain – a garden that women and their families still enjoy today. It’s a wonderful legacy. 
And this beautiful place has a story of its own. This garden was built in 1986 to commemorate the International Year of Peace. It was designed by a team of women. The plants were chosen to fit with the colours of the Women’s Movement — green, purple and white, and to symbolise remembrance — the peace rose, rosemary and olive trees. As well as a place of recognition and reflection, the Women’s Peace Garden is a place where women and families can join together. These gardens are now home to the National Council of Women of Victoria and the Australia Day Council’s Annual Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony.
And today, we continue the tradition of honouring the legacy of pioneering women, as well as celebrating the great city and state that their efforts have helped shape.
The lives of women have changed significantly over the years. But some things never change – the admiration we feel for the pioneering women who contributed so much to early Victoria. As Lord Mayor, I’m a rare breed in Melbourne’s history. I’m one of only three women to have been elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne in 176 years, but I’m declaring the drought over. I’m confident there’ll be many more women to come, especially when I look around an occasion like this and see so many capable people who are making a contribution to our city – be it in business, community or civic life.
In fact, the more voices we hear and stories we share about women making their mark across all spheres, the more leaders - and networks of leaders - we’ll see emerge across the board. We really need women to stand up and take on leadership roles within their organisations and communities. And to support those willing to have a go, we need to support other women to take on these roles at all levels. Through this we will see a manifest change in how we shape our communities going forward.
I’ve had quite a few conversations, post-election, with some outstanding women I know and my advice is simple: put your hand up and have a go. There will never be a right time if you wait for it. Seize the moment and make an impact on the imbalance. To have a go and fail, as I have many times in my career, is not failure. Just the action of having a go must be claimed as victory because it changes your personal trajectory and adds significant impetus to the momentum for change in our society.
I recently had lunch with the two female former Lord Mayors before me - Leckie Ord and Winsome McCaughey – both of whom were NCWV patrons during their terms as Lord Mayor, and Leckie spoke at this same event back in 1988. It was only 30 years ago, but politics and public life were undoubtedly harsher and more hostile for them, not to mention Victoria’s first female state premier, the late Joan Kirner, and Lady Millie Peacock the first woman elected to Victorian Parliament before her.
These women campaigned publicly and paved the way for others through their example. These women broke through the hard, stony ground of politics to create the richer soil in which we are flourishing today. They had an enduring impact on Victorian public life. Their careers were often catalysts for reform and greater respect for women’s intellects and achievements. Times didn’t just change – they helped change the times.
Among a multitude of grand portraits of male mayors which look down from the elegant walls of Melbourne’s historic Town Hall, the faces of Winsome and Lecki stand out - and we must celebrate their legacy. These women were leading council at a time – in the late 80s – when Melbourne needed proactive and strong leadership. Our city had a population deficit. Just 100 residents lived in the CBD. Compare that to today. Now we have some 37,341 residents in the CBD alone. They were leaders when a transformational vision for Melbourne was imagined. Postcode 3000 was launched to repopulate the central city. It set out the urban choreography of Melbourne’s makeup, steering it away from what was termed ‘a donut city’ to become a 24-hour metropolis – a place where people want to be. And these two women were part of its imagining, its design and its implementation.
To be the first woman in any field today is still notable. When I look around the faces here this morning, I can see Barbara Abley, AM, who became the first female mayor of the City of Geelong in 2002. Gracia Baylor, AM, was one of the first two women elected to the Victorian Legislative Council in 1979. This was after she became Healesville Shire Council president in 1977 – the first female shire president in Victoria – after having been elected as a councillor in 1966.  We should celebrate firsts like this.
When people talk about their example it helps role modelling and helps others not to be fearful, which encourages others to have a go.
Female leadership in the numbers we are seeing now is a recent phenomenon in our national and indeed international experience. I am enjoying greater acceptance and legitimacy in my role than Leckie and Winsome did, and I suspect many of you are having the same experience. It’s very refreshing.
So here we are, in 2019, the wind in our sails. Attitudes and workplaces are changing around us - and we are actively changing them. Women are seizing this moment. In the past couple of years, we have begun to see and feel a massive turning of the tide for women. And for me, I’m particularly conscious of how differently we are viewing and treating female leaders in public life.
In a number of jobs I’ve had there hasn’t previously been a woman. People have to change their mindsets or environments and maybe think differently. Collingwood Football Club is an example of that, where I became the first female board member in 2004. And then in 2009, I became the first female Agent-General to represent Victoria overseas.
During my election campaign last year, one thing that really stood out was how important role models are for me - and that I was also a role model for other women. In my case, my aunt has been a federal politician, I am good mates with former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and have several girlfriends that are state politicians. They all provided great encouragement.
One of the standout role-models was Sue Morphet who will be known to some of you. Sue, who has many strings to her bow, is president of Chief Executive Women. She was wonderful because she campaigned to become deputy lord mayor in the last local government elections and failed in her bid. But she is still admired and respected for having a go which helped with my worst-case scenario planning! That’s why I took the election campaign on. I thought I’d get a lot out of it even if I didn’t win. And at the heart of it lies passion. I always have a go if it’s important to me.
I am encouraged daily by the words of Edward Hale that remind me that an individual’s actions can be powerful:
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.
The roll call of pioneering women is a proud one for Victoria – in so many fields - and I take heart from the achievements of women in our past, and the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead of us. Today is also about looking to the future and anticipating the wonderful achievements of coming generations of women.
The City of Melbourne is very pleased to support the National Council of Women of Victoria, and it is a privilege to spend the morning with you.  Thank you.
To view the program, click here

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