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Friday 10 March 2023

Bass Coast Shire Council proudly celebrated this year’s International Women’s Day, Thursday 9 March, with a community event honouring inspiring women and cultural diversity.

Deputy Mayor, Bass Coast Shire Council, Cr Rochelle Halstead, said International Women’s Day was vitally important in marking the strong progress towards gender equality – locally and globally - while also acknowledging the work still to be done.

“It is a day for inspiration and change,’’ Cr Halstead told the 150 people gathered at the sold-out event at Phillip Island Winery in Ventnor.

“As we continue to reduce the gender gap, we also recognise the rich cultural diversity of women in our community and their journey to equality.’’

“Cultural diversity is something we need to think about and embrace. Together we can make a difference. Our strengths lie in our differences, not in our similarities.’’

The keynote speaker was Div Pillay, CEO of MindTribes, Co-Founder of Culturally Diverse Women and Board Director of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.

Gender equity is everyone’s responsibility and a human right,” said Div. “Bringing together various creators of community spirit, ensures that the message of gender equity and inclusion resonates to volunteers, public servants, leaders, policy makers, educators and more.”

“It was a privilege to be asked by Bass Coast Shire Council to shine a light on gender and cultural diversity. Approximately 30.8% of women in Australia are not born here: they bring skills, languages, cultures and more that fuel our economy and society, yet we still see these women experiencing the compounding impacts of sexism, racism, classism, ageism. They experience wider gender pay gaps, plus barriers and biases to accessing job security or leadership opportunities.

“This is what embracing equity is all about this International Women’s Day: we need to see and address the many women who are being left behind in our gender equality making.”

Local speaker Nicky Chung, President of Rotary Wonthaggi, Deputy Chair of Bass Coast Health, Board Member at South Coast FM radio and CEO of Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, told of her family’s remarkable journey to Australia.

“After the Vietnam War, Nicky and her family of six fled their home country, leaving behind their loved ones, taking a risk in the hope of finding a better life. It started with a perilous boat trip, but the result has been the opportunity to make the most of living in the greatest country in the world, Australia,’’ Cr Halstead said.

Maddy Harford, representative Bass Coast Refugee Sponsorship Group, also spoke at the event, sharing Khadija Moustafa’s powerful and moving story of how she and her family have settled since arriving in Australia and Bass Coast as a refugees.

"Maddy asked the attendees: think about what you can do to include and support our refugee family in our community."

“We live in such a supportive amazing community. It just goes to show that together we can make a difference,’’ Cr Halstead said.

Bass Coast has a proud record of making industry-leading changes which have had a significant impact on improving women’s lives.

“In the past two years Bass Coast Shire Council has introduced equal pay initiatives that are effectively closing the historic gender gap, including applying equal parental leave rights to both parents and continuing superannuation during periods of parental leave. We have also ensured equal prize money for all sporting events held in the shire,’’ Cr Halstead said.

The event was sponsored by Bass Coast Health, Phillip Island Nature Parks and Westernport Water.

IWD Bass Coast Shire Lisa Burge Photography 152
L-R Nicky Chung, Maddy Harford, Div Pillay, Khadija Moustafa, Lukman Ali, Deputy Mayor, Cr Rochelle Halstead and Cr Clare Le Serve

Photos Courtesy of Lisa Burge Photography