"One aspect is making sure women have equal opportunities in the workplace. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in traditional rural and regional businesses and enterprises."
Known as a pioneer of the rural women’s movement in Australia, Alana is a sought-after speaker, travelling the country advocating for equality for women.
As keynote speaker for La Trobe University’s annual Women in Leadership event Alana recognises that our city is in a unique position to play a key role in the women’s movement, with an all-female leadership team taking out the top jobs – as Mayor, Federal and State Government representatives.
Alana will join local champion, City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Margaret O’Rouke, on The Capital stage for the La Trobe University annual event on Wednesday 25 October.
“Doing something to push the women’s equality strategy in Bendigo would be a really good move when women are in all those positions. Many places in Victoria are looking at what’s happening in Bendigo, particularly in terms of leadership” said Alana.
The local event will focus on a few of Alana’s biggest concerns; equal opportunities in the workplace, financial security and safety for women. As the only rural representative on the recently-formed Victorian Government’s Ministerial Council on Women’s Equality, they’re concerns she’s in a good position to see policy change on.
“The strategies we’re developing are relevant for all women – not just those in the city. As the only rural person on the council my job is to make sure we put a regional and rural lens over everything,” she says.
“As such there’s a few things I want to speak about while I’m in Bendigo. One is making sure women have equal opportunities in the workplace. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in traditional rural and regional businesses and enterprises.
“We’ve seen good progress in the mining sector but we’ve got a long way to go as far as women’s representation in decision-making positions in agriculture goes, with a pathetic 12 to 15 per cent of women represented.”
She says when women are treated equally in the workplace, with the same opportunities as men to enter positions of power, it has a flow-on effect into community, social and personal life.
“Empowerment only comes when women are seen to have power,” she says. “It can take 20/30/40 years for social and cultural change to take place. We’re in a process and there’s a growing sense that women have a right to speak up and be confident in their own position.”
But as Alana says, we have a long way to go. At a Brisbane conference Alana and her fellow rural advocates are about to see the documentary Grace Under Fire, which shines a light on sexual harassment of women in rural Australia.
“One of the reasons I’m at this conference is because due to the smallness of many communities there’s a lot of hidden abuse towards women within them,” she said. “Abuse is very easily covered up and women find themselves in situations where they feel powerless.
“We’re seeing a lot of money go towards family violence programs now and it makes sense that some of that gets into our little country towns.”
She says another aspect of regional and rural life that needs addressing is the growing number of women finding themselves in dire financial circumstances.
“Women’s economic security is an issue we’re facing Australia-wide as we head towards an aging cohort of poor women,” she says, citing years of substituting work to raise children and little or no superannuation as driving forces.
“In terms of government policy to address this we need to look at what’s practicable and what needs to happen in rural and regional areas. A lot of towns in Victoria that have poorer communities and no support services are often affordable places to get a house and so that’s where women find themselves.”
Alana and Margaret O’Rouke will join La Trobe University Professor of Finance Amalia Di Iorio and Bendigo Day and Night Pharmacy business manager Katherine Hancy for the October 25 event.
Tickets are $25 each, with all proceeds going towards La Trobe University’s Women in Leadership bursary, giving regional female students financial support towards their leadership goals.
This is event is presented by La Trobe University in partnership with Bendigo Bank, City of Greater Bendigo & Be.Bendigo.
To book your seat click here.