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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.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

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For the last couple of years I have been in a transitional emancipatory state in my life, in terms of relationships, career, family, and geographical location. It’s a time of growth and transition. I feel like I’ve commenced a new evolutionary stage of my life. Being happy, living a good life, having fun.

I grew up in Canberra. I’m from a really big family, one of eight children. I moved to Brisbane after I completed university in 2006 with my daughter—to be on my own, be independent and to travel. After seven years I had an epiphany about coming back to be closer to my family, and moved back just under two years ago. I’m really enjoying being reconnected even though it is challenging at times.

I really love Canberra in certain ways and I’ve really been able to see it through fresh eyes. I think the best thing about being a women in Canberra is that women are potentially more emancipated because they’re more likely to be highly educated than in other parts of Australia, and education places women at an advantage.

We also have a really good lifestyle in Canberra. My perfect day would be a picnic in a park with friends and family. Maybe near the carillon, hearing the carillon sing is quite beautiful. A spring day with the promise of summer; the promise of new life. Being in a nice bar with a fire—or a fake fire and a wine while watching the sun go down as the night begins to chill.

It’s hard to think of things that are hard about being a woman in Canberra because compared to other parts of the world, there are great distinctions here. To generalise, women are disadvantaged and there’s a lack of equity, even though the divide is less so in Canberra. There is still an unequal divide of household labour and pay gaps.

For me personally, and I think for many women, is the juggle that is the dream of having it all. There’s plenty of really smart women in Canberra who seek to be great mums and be there for their kids, but who also want to be career driven and are passionate about the work that they do.

Canberra’s a really easy city to live in. Canberra really is the bush capital. I live in a 10 minute walk to a reserve. If you are into the outdoors and love nature, it is a really beautiful place to live and exercise. The weather can be a bit difficult, but you acclimatise. As you see the change in seasons from spring to autumn there’s a real beauty and connection to the cycle of life. You miss it when you live in a place that doesn’t have deciduous trees.

My favourite things are my dog, my partner, my daughter, my family, my friends. Connection. The people I connect with make my world. Being close to nature and spirituality are also incredibly important.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

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At this very moment in time I am comfortable with where I am at and who I am.

My three favourite things in life are my family and friends, my motorbikes and my job.

I think it is hard being a woman, it’s just hard, it is difficult to negotiate being a woman. I just feel like it is a really tough job.

I was born in Adelaide but I have lived in Canberra since I was nine. This is my home.

There are a lot of opportunities in Canberra for women to get an excellent education and there is a lot of options in terms of jobs after you have received an education. I don’t think there is anything particularly hard about being a woman in Canberra. If you want something in Canberra you can make it happen.

There are so many things to do and heaps of different ways to keep fit and healthy. I think living in Canberra means we have a really healthy lifestyle—in general.

My perfect day in Canberra would be swimming down at the river with my friends and families. I might even ride my motorbike down there. I don’t go too much in the city, like cafes and that type of thing—it is not really my scene, I would rather be out having a picnic and being in nature. But that’s what I love about Canberra it is the place where nature and the city meet in the middle. For me Canberra is the best of both worlds.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

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I have used a lot of the women’s services available in Canberra. I was a single mum for 15 years and having that extra support was fantastic.

I am happy. I am feeling amazing. I am training for my very first triathlon, it is a beautiful day. I am 42 years old, I have two grown up children that are doing really well. I got married in April. I am happy.

I think we are very lucky to be women, but I think it can also be really hard work. In my experience women are fun, we are extremely complex, we are all very interesting and different and wonderful—all at the same time. Not one of us is alike. We might have the same bits here and there but ultimately no two are alike.

For women in Canberra we have really fantastic opportunities to try and maintain a work/life/family balance. We did have a very strong public service town and we also have a lot of private sector opportunities, so women can find what works for them and their family. I think there is a lot of support for women of all types, heterosexual, homosexual, all sorts of women.

Like I said, I have used a lot of the women’s services available in Canberra. I would like to make it a little more accessible or make people a little more aware of it. Because there are some women out there who don’t realise how many services we do have here to support each other.

As women there are a lot of stereotypes that we have to overcome particularly in the workforce. I also see a lot of male driven stereotypes at home. A lot of men still believe that a woman should be at home looking after the children, doing the housework, cooking, cleaning and unfortunately it’s not limited to Canberra, it is a problem everywhere. I would like to try and get rid of.

In Canberra I love that there are so many wonderful tracks, walking and running tracks. We have three or four beautiful lakes that we can make our way around. There are lots of different groups that people can get involved with to help them stay fit and healthy and active. I think it is great and love the community that comes with that.

My three favourite things in life are definitely my friends, my family and I just love my exercise.

Today would come pretty close to being my perfect day in Canberra. I did a 30km bike ride this morning, having a look around Fair Day, having lunch with my girlfriend, couple of glasses of wine, going home to the husband and kids later. That’s pretty perfect for me.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

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I love roller skating, absolutely love roller skating and roller derby.

At this moment in time I am half derby girl and half not derby girl because I am not in my uniform. I’m at AIDSAction Fair Day drumming up some support and awareness of our all-inclusive Roller Derby League in Canberra.

Apart from roller derby, my other favourite things in life are definitely construction, which is great because I work in construction, and my siblings, I better include them.

What it means to me to be a woman is a really interesting question. I’m not quite sure. I think being a gay woman makes things a little bit different. I think people look at you differently. I am not a feminine person so I guess I have been treated like one of the boys all of the time, including in my career now. I have never really been treated like one of the women. I have never really thought about it before.

I was born in Queanbeyan and have lived in the Canberra region my entire life. I have just never gone anywhere else. I have never ventured anywhere else because I just love Canberra. It is nice. It is small and everyone I know and love is here.

I think being a woman in Canberra is great because it is a smaller community there is lots of opportunities for things, like sport. Through my workplace they offer lots of women in construction events and supports. I like it because Canberra is not afraid to be different.

I have never had a problem looking after my health and wellbeing in Canberra. I play a very odd sport, I get injured all the time and I have never been turned away from getting healthcare or support. I’ve just never had an issue.

My perfect day in Canberra is a nice sunny day. Flowers are out. Floriade is nice. You know a day that I can go outside and skate around and not be rained on! I also love coming to community days like this.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

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My favourite things in life are performing, entertaining people and just making sure everyone is having a good day. Regardless of whether I know them or they are just a random person in the street. Just going up and saying “hello, how’s your day going?” I think this can make a huge difference to people.

I’m intrigued to meet new people from all walks of life.

I am in Canberra today because I live here, well I live in Queanbeyan to be precise. We have come to Fair Day today to promote our business Canberra Winery Tours. It is just starting to get off the ground and was founded by my co-worker Caroline. She came up with the idea of doing wine tours around Canberra and I put it to her—why not the gay community? She took it and ran with it. Even though it was our idea together, it has been Caroline who has pushed it along with plenty of girl power.

Being a woman means being empowered. Women are strong, forthcoming, determined, but they do it in their own way. They are very mentally strong, but are underestimated. Growing up I had a lot of women around me who taught me the values of women, which I hold very dear to my feminist heart. I have a lot of pride and respect for women.

The best thing about being a woman in Canberra is that even though I get underestimated for portraying a feminine version, this allows me to educate people on what I do. I occasionally get people asking me if I want the “full change”. I let them know that I love being who I am and I also love being able to entertain. I take everything off at the end of the day and I am who I am—I am still who I was originally born as. I do this because I love to entertain. I am a make-up artist as well, so I get to experiment on myself. I like being who I am. I believe in the equal rights of all people.

It is a little bit difficult to maintain your health and wellbeing in Canberra, because we have such good accessibility to fast food, which can make it hard to stay on track. Magazines featuring size two women do not make me feel good as a plus size drag queen either. It is hard, but you eventually learn that you can’t simply throw up everything you have eaten to achieve thinness. I want to have my bag of chips and perform as well; and if that means that I have to suck it in, then I suck it in! It can be tough to fit a mould that everyone else expects. I try to escape that and be the mould I want to be. At the end of the day you have to be happy with yourself, you have to be empowered by yourself and other women, and have the strength to say I am me and I am happy to be me.

I love Canberra though. I did move to Sydney for a short amount of time and while I was there I found a new appreciation for Canberra. I am very glad to be back and living in my hometown. I know people here, and it is easy to get around. I love Canberra and I’m not afraid to say it anymore!

The perfect day in Canberra is not too hot, not too cold, preferably leaning towards winter. I would love a typical Canberra winter wonderland with a spring edge to it and just not have a care in the world. Not have to worry about what I have to do that day or what I need to cook for dinner. I would like to just be.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

 

 

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I am a single, white female in Canberra. I finally love life after a few bad years. I am about to turn 40 and coming to peace with the idea that I am now a matronly mum and not a wild child anymore. I am ok with it, but just trying to find out who I am.

My three favourite things are my daughter, my mum and definitely art.

For me being a woman is to be strong, to be funny to be there for each other.

I am Canberra born and bred. I had a brief stint in Ireland which was horrible and I’ll probably be in Canberra for the rest of my life. It’s great and it’s getting better.

I’ve come down to the Fair Day because it is always a great day, heaps of things to do with the kids and I am good friends with the organiser. There is lots of opportunity to take photos and we will head of the Zombie Walk for Halloween after this.

I think the best things about being a woman in Canberra is the freedom and the opportunities.

I can’t think of anything I find difficult about being a woman in Canberra. I have nothing to bitch about—I am really lucky. I don’t really want for anything.

It is easy to look after your health in Canberra, I only have myself to blame for my lack of health. We have good healthcare here, it is getting dodgy but we still have some good options. We are an outdoor town with beautiful clean fresh air and lots of opportunity for exercise and getting outdoors.

My perfect day in Canberra would be meeting up with wonderful people and taking photos of something colourful and amazing and full of life.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

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Today I am here with my friend and my kids and we are on our way to the Halloween Zombie Walk. I am dressed up as Liv Moore from iZombie. I am also a solo parent to three. I am recovering from chronic fatigue and some thyroid issues and have just rediscovered my passion for community and the arts.

My three favourite things are simple they are my babies, photography and sleeping.

What does it mean to me to be a woman? That is a really hard question. I don’t know what it means to be a woman, because I just am who I am.

I have been in Canberra since I was 10 and I am now 37. I came here with my mum. We were escaping a horrible family situation and we came here to make a better life for ourselves and it has worked.

I grew up in a house full of domestic violence and when we came here it wasn’t a country town anymore. In Canberra my mother had work opportunities, friends, there was support available and people were a bit gentler with us.

For me being a single mum in Canberra means it is hard sometimes because there is quite a bit of discrimination. That is probably the hardest thing for me personally—the discrimination: “Oh you’re a single mum—look at you, you’re such an idiot.”

At times I have found it difficult to maintain my health and wellbeing because there are not many bulk billing doctors in the ACT. Chronic fatigue is not recognised as an illness and I am finding it very difficult to get treatment that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars.

The part about my health and wellbeing I find easy to maintain is definitely being outside and walking around the parks and nature. It is a great city to live in.

My perfect day in Canberra would be visiting the art gallery, taking some photos and dancing in the street with my children running around being happy.

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Image created by Nicole Zimmermann

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My personal story is that I am the third generation in a line of strong women whom I grew up with—my maternal grandmother, my mother and myself. So each of us in our own way and in our own time, has had the opportunity to a very large extent to be ourselves and to excel in our chosen fields.

At this moment in time I am sitting in front of you as a WWDACT Officer, answering some questions. Stepping outside the room, I live in Canberra. Stepping outside of Canberra, or stepping into different parts of Canberra, I would describe myself as an older woman who is socially and professionally engaged as a human rights lawyer.

I first came to Canberra to look at a Betty Blockbuster exhibition in the 1990s. I was staying at the Brassey Hotel and I walked around the corner from where I was staying into an old Canberra street: country cottages and huge trees! I said to myself: I could live here. At that moment I fell in love with Canberra. Then found my way here. And that street is the only street I’ve ever lived in here! I’ve had to move away for work over the years, but Canberra has always been my heart home. Wherever I’ve lived has been my home—I’ve always been content wherever I’ve lived. But I’ve always referred to Canberra as my heart home. I love it.

Canberra has a lot of expertise: and a lot of national experts live here. For example, I went to an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on the weekend, called In the Flesh, mainly featuring these fabulous contemporary women artists. Marvellous! Inspirational to see what contemporary women artists are doing in Australia…So that is a wonderful thing about being in Canberra—that there is a cultural life and cultural activities that are curated by national experts who often, if not always, will include a women’s perspectives. Ah! There are lots of good things about Canberra. I don’t know that I can pin gender tags to all of them.

It is easy to maintain your health and wellbeing in Canberra because the city itself has a fantastically healthful environment. You know we have fresh air, we have low traffic, we have good water, we have relatively uncontaminated soil—despite Mr. Fluffy. We have access to food. We have access to cycle ways and walk ways, all of which are free. And despite the criticisms, we have a good health care system. I have lived in rural areas of Australia where access to medical specialists is very complex and difficult. I’ve lived in countries with no running water or reliable electricity. I love that, very typically, a lot of what is great in Canberra is free. You don’t have to spend money if you have the cultural capital to know what is on offer here.

I think the hardest thing about being a woman in Canberra is not getting the breadth of experiences that comes with living in a more diversified community. A broad range of people exists in Canberra, but they are often invisible. So it’s easy to kind of get wrapped up in your own little world. I think that’s a negative. It can be too contented in a funny way!

My three favourite things in life are Buddhism, fun, and people.

I don’t have just one perfect day. I let each day evolve as it arises. That is perfection.

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Images created by Liz Thompson, Nicole Zimmermann, and Josey Carnovale as part of a workshop with Jane Duong from PhotoAccess

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I’m surprised that you would want to photograph me when I’m almost 80 years old.

I enjoy my family, they are my favourite thing. As I’m on my own, music would be my second favourite thing, particularly listening to ABC classic FM. My third would be lunching out with friends.

I came to Canberra in 1955; I was 19 and single and came to join the public service. I stayed in Havelock House on Northbourne Avenue, one of the more expensive hostels. It was a great place to meet people. I met my husband there.

There was only one place to go out for dinner, a hotel on Northbourne, I think where the Rex is now. The ultimate was to be asked out to the hotel for dinner with its double-sided fire places.

I worked in the Public service for 5 years. In those days when women got married it was the end of their public service careers. We moved to the eight story flats, then to the Northbourne flats and then bought a block of land to build a home on. We used to go on family holidays and have a week at the snow and a week at the beach.

When I had had four children, I decided to get a qualification and studied librarianship part time over four years. I got a job at the National Library of Australia totally expecting to only work for a couple of months as I didn’t know how I would cope with school holidays, but I was still at the National Library sixteen years later. I think we had a good time, towards the end there were a lot more cuts and efficiency dividends.

I think Canberra is safer than Sydney, and it’s much easier to get around in terms of transport—I have a friend nearby and if we go to dinner we can still both walk home and feel safe. There are also so many activities you can do in Canberra: exercise classes, University of the Third Age and for me, visiting family nearby.

It’s easy to maintain your health and wellbeing in Canberra because of all the opportunities for the gym and for exercise classes. The closeness to everything helps too and using busses, which are now totally free for me. I think it would be harder if you lived further out but I can get to Civic quickly now. As people get old you need more medical appointments and we have doctors and can get to appointments fairly easily here.

It is tricky to answer what it means to me to be a woman. I don’t think you are as free as a man, particularly when you are single, you can’t just go out as easily. Also, in such a political place, women have to juggle careers and family and manage everything. Perhaps because things are so easy to do in Canberra kids enrol in so many extracurricular activities that everyone can end up doing too much. I use to spend all my Saturdays ferrying kids around in every direction.

It is nice having grandchildren though, and I think that is easier for women.

My perfect day would include going for a morning jog and walk with friends, perhaps my walking group friends. Then go and get coffee, and then go out to lunch somewhere nice. I would then go to a concert, like the other day I went to the Austrian club for an amazing concert. Then I guess dinner with family. There is always something on in Canberra with the national institutions, we are so lucky, maybe I would have coffee there.

Describing myself now: well, I’m sitting here in the sun with friends. At this time of life I’m enjoying grandchildren and am about to have some visitors from Sydney today on their way to the snow. I have been on two overseas tips this year which is unusual for me. It is a pretty good time of life.

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Image created by Liz Thompson