I’ve lived in Canberra now for going on six years, I moved here to do my undergraduate degree and I spent a lot of time doing student advocacy and politics and being involved in the Women’s Department and the Queer Department at ANU. When I graduated I was working at the community radio station and had been volunteering there for many years as well. That embarked me on my career in the community sector, now two to three years.
Now I work for the YWCA of Australia, in communications and advocacy. It’s really wonderful to get paid to be a professional feminist, and it’s also great to continue to be able to do work that’s connected to grass roots advocacy as well as national level thinking, strategy, lobbying and campaigning. I love that I get to bring the passion I have for communications from my experience working in the media.
Feminism is one of my favourite things. I’ve got it tattooed to my body, to my heart, and I think it’s really a compelling way to live and to define your principles and values. If it wasn’t for my feminist identity I think I would be a little bit more lost when it came to knowing who I am, knowing what I want to do, and how I want to contribute to the world.
I actually identify as gender diverse or non-binary, so being a woman probably has a different meaning than it would to someone who is cisgender. Some days I identify very strongly with being a woman, and then there’s other days where it actually really irks and frustrates me to be gendered as a woman.
But then of course, working in the women’s sector really adds a different facet to my identity where it’s also quite important to feel connected to being a woman and connected to other women because we have that experience of shared structural oppression, but also shared empowerment through identifying with womanhood. Then at the same time, I also think it’s really important to be someone in the women’s sector who is ready to question and query and push around gender identity. I actually identify as queer both in terms of gender and sexuality, which is kind of radical in some circles, but not really that radical in others.
I think in Canberra you have the privilege of being connected to a really strong women’s sector. The Women’s Centre for Health Matters is a great example of an excellent women’s organisation. It’s local and contextually understood in a way that isn’t necessarily true of other cities. One of the best things about being a woman in Canberra is being able to be connected to lots of feminists who also have a really cosmopolitan mind because they’re living in Canberra.
Right now, living in Canberra would probably be one of my favourite things. I’m really at peace with being here, having been transient for a long time and feeling like maybe I was going to leave. I’ve just enrolled in a Master’s Degree, I’ve just begun a wonderful new relationship, and my job is really rewarding. That feeling of being settled is really good; knowing that you’re going to be somewhere for a long time means that you can lean into it a bit more.
Canberra is one of my favourite places because I’m definitely someone who should live in the country. I like small town places. I came from Melbourne and I hate the suburbs, which is weird because Canberra is a giant cluster of suburbs, but the city is totally not my speed and Canberra is an excellent size in between. I can’t live out in the country anyway, because in the country there just aren’t enough queers, there isn’t enough community organising, and there’s not enough vegan food. So yeah, Canberra is a really good in between.
I don’t think there’s anything particularly hard about being a woman in Canberra that you wouldn’t experience as a woman in the rest of the world. But I do think that sometimes it’s hard to see the women who draw the short stick in Canberra because it’s such an affluent place. For example, in Canberra we’ve got a really big housing and homelessness problem, but for women who make up a large proportion of people who are in housing stress or homelessness, they’re not necessarily visible.
It can be much more dangerous for them—living in housing stress, in between houses, victims of domestic violence, trapped, and living in women’s shelters. The experience of being a woman who is in housing stress in Canberra is probably acutely felt, but gender is mis-represented or under represented. This is an issue nationally, but in Canberra housing is a really big problem.
I think maintaining health and wellbeing is easy on one hand because we have a beautiful landscape, a lot of reasons to spend time outside and a lot of mountains to walk up. But Canberra is like the city that worships the car and even your commute is made equivalently easy if you just drive. I used to ride my bike to work but now I just can’t seem to get back into the habit and I think because there’s just…that’s something that is probably more of a reflection of me than on the city, I like to blame the structure for things that I can’t generally address.
I think it’s probably easier rather than difficult because there’s a lot of access to different types of food, I mean I’m vegetarian and it’s relatively easy to do in Canberra. On the other hand food here isn’t actually that cheap. For example, it’s significantly more expensive than it is in Melbourne. So if you want to have a super foods diet you’re not really doing yourself any budgetary favours.
My perfect day in Canberra is probably the first few days of spring. I love Canberra’s long winters but the spring time is really important to me as a mark of the end of a long winter. Winter is a time where you work really hard and you stay home a lot and it’s really, really cold. Spring is like the perfect moment where it’ll all be a little easier. I’m always really happy in spring. For me it would be finishing work, it’s still light, it’s nice and you have good friends to see later and that sort of thing. Pretty simple. It’s all about the weather really.
My third favourite thing right now is definitely my girlfriend, she’s the first one but I’ve listed her third, don’t tell her! I spend so much time with her—she’s so wonderful and it’s lovely to be in love, especially in spring. I haven’t really had that while I’ve been in Canberra. So it’s just been all round excellent. I think everyone on my Facebook is really sick of it, but whatever.
Image created by Nicole Zimmermann