AT first glance, these seven women may appear to have little in common.
Noongar elder Oriel Green, deaf youth advocate Drisana Leviztke-Gray, geologist Erica Smyth, emeritus professor Margaret Seares, former politician Cheryl Davenport, retired Anglican priest Pamela Halbert and social worker Glenda Kickett will soon be forever united in the WA Women’s Hall of Fame.
Sixteen West Australian women, six posthumously, will be honoured at the International Women’s Day induction ceremony attended by WA Governor Kerry Sanderson and Deputy Premier Liza Harvey tonight.
Standing side-by-side at Kings Park last week, Ms Green said she felt honoured to be counted among “such wonderful women who do wonderful things”.
“Women lean on women, we try to help each other, so it’s a fantastic feeling,” she said.
“I have always tried to be myself and do what I feel I should do, even if sometimes I go off the path.”
Former Labor politician Ms Davenport, who worked to decriminalise abortion in 1998, said she was heartened by how much had changed for women in such a short time.
“I was only the eighth woman ever elected to the Legislative Council in WA in 1989, and there are many, many more now,” she said.
“It’s important that young women don’t take no for an answer.
“You have to be really focused and try to sort out early in your own mind where you want to put your energy and efforts. It doesn’t matter what field you put it into, as long as you feel you can get personal satisfaction.”
Young Australian of the Year 2015 Ms Levitzke-Gray said she hoped to inspire the next generation of deaf youth by breaking down barriers of oppression and discrimination.
“In high school, the relief science teacher didn’t have the DVDs captioned for the science program, even though that was the policy,” she said.
“He refused to get the DVDs captioned, he said: ‘Why do I have to change for one person?’
“I packed everything up and walked right out of the class. I got in huge trouble with the principal for that. In the five years I was at high school, from the beginning to the end, I saw huge changes because I decided to stand up and say: ‘I do not accept the barriers in front of me’.”
NAIDOC WA volunteer chair Ms Kickett said it was great for women to be recognised for the work and commitment to their community.
“The recognition for me being an indigenous woman, Whudjuk Noongar from this area, is that our voices are important,” she said.
“We have been silent for too long, and to have this recognition will help to enhance some of those other voices who are silent.”
University of WA senior honorary research fellow Ms Seares said women had taken great strides towards equality, but there was still a long way to go.
“The big pressure when I went to university, even in my day, was whether you would do law or medicine,” she said.
“But my big interests were music and French and history.
“Choosing my passion took me a long way in life. For me, it was following that rather than what was expected.”
Mining executive Ms Smyth, named as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence in 2015, said she believed women could do anything they wanted.
“Whether you want to work full-time, part-time, whether you don’t want to work at all; all of those choices are available,” she said.
“Everyone should get familiar with managing their own affairs and their own finances.
“Make their own informed choices so that they’re not dependent on other people. Once you have made a choice, you can always change your mind if it does not work. But you should never sit around with indecision.”
Ms Halbert, who was a victim of domestic abuse to a man her father forced her to marry, said the most important skill to learn was confidence.
“Confidence is something that we are then able to use to bring out the courage to do things,” she said.
“We have to know ourselves, trust ourselves.
“I ask myself the question: ‘Do I still want this poor situation to continue?’ Then I look for the choices. There are always choices.”