Whatever you’re interested in, you can make a difference.
Describing myself right now is really hard. You think about labels that we apply to ourselves: mother, worker, advocate, lesbian—so labels around identity—daughter, sister, friend—but then there’s also labels around how you’re feeling. My life is fantastic. My life has never been better. I have an enormous amount of control in my life, I have a sense of belonging, and I get a sense that the things I do makes a difference! That’s a powerful position to be in, and I don’t think that we all get to experience it. I feel incredibly lucky at the moment.
I came to Canberra about 22 years ago and worked at the War Memorial where I met Liz, my partner. We’ve continued to stay here and have no intention of leaving.
I’m one of those refugees from Sydney, leaving behind the travel time and the frenetic pace of life. We don’t have that in Canberra and I love it. You can get the best of being in a city but also the best of being in a large regional town.
All of our three kids – I don’t imagine that they’ll live elsewhere. When we have spoken to them about this, as our daughter Anna said: “Well why would live somewhere else? Canberra’s great, it’s got everything.” That’s really nice to hear, because plenty of people who grew up here feel the desperate need to leave, and me, as someone who chose to live here – I can’t understand that.
Being a woman is just who I am! I am what I am. Me, I jiggle and I wiggle and I have my hot flushes. Probably the most defining thing about being a woman for me is actually motherhood. That whole concept of growing another person and caring for them is amazing.
My experience of being a woman in Canberra is very different to others. For me I can’t help but think so much of the best things about being a woman in Canberra are about my level of education, my level of confidence and my level of safety and financial position. So to some degree, what’s good about being a woman would also carry through to many other places – it’s not Canberra specific.
We’ve had a series of progressive governments who identified that women’s issues are important and have supported that. One of the examples is that just over ten years ago the Stanhope government brought in legislation that allowed same-sex couples to have the names of both parents on their children’s birth certificate. Unfortunately it’s not federal law, and same-sex relationships are not recognised in terms of their relationship with children. So for me, that’s one of the things that I reckon is great being in Canberra – that I’ve got a government that supports my needs, my choices, and you don’t get that somewhere else. Another example is Liz and I got married in December 2013, in the 5 days of equality, and it couldn’t have happened anywhere else. We were able to marry with 100 family and friends to witness this. It was a fantastic, beautiful, special day.
I don’t think that there’s a lot that’s hard about my life. I do hear stories of women who don’t have access to private transport, who are having to get children between appointments to school, who aren’t getting access to homelessness services, who don’t have access to the education that they want and opportunities for employment. Similarly, there are women having difficulty in accessing mental health services, trying to find a GP that they can build a relationship with and support them in the development of their understanding around health and wellbeing. So there are incredible hardships in this town, I’m just very fortunate not to experience them on a day-to-day basis.
It’s not hard for me to manage my health and wellbeing in Canberra. It can be challenging: waiting times, affordability, navigating the system, knowing who to go to, who’s reputable, understanding if there’s a doctor or another health provider who can give me the outcomes I want. Health literacy is still an emerging area that we need as a society to deal with. I think health literacy is one of those things that regardless of your status or position in society the minute you are given a diagnosis there is a common experience of ‘aw geez,’ you know, high level of anxiety, ‘what do I do,’ being lost in the system, not knowing where to turn to. So from that perspective, it applies to everyone. And that’s why it’s one of the areas I really want to make a difference in.
Music is very important to me. Family is the other thing – I love spending time with our family, our friends, the dogs and the chickens. The other favourite thing is being involved in an activist organisation, and making a difference. For me personal politics is incredibly important. I love doing it. We live in a society where people can have a voice – and in fact, it’s better if we do have thoughtful and committed citizens who do want to make a difference. So whether it’s about gay and lesbian rights, improving our health system so there’s more equity in healthcare and it’s more consumer-focussed or whether it’s about children getting the education we as a society need them to have – it doesn’t matter, whatever you’re interested in, you can make a difference.
I’ve had my perfect day in Canberra and that was the 7th of December 2013, when Liz and I got married. It was at the Arboretum, a place I hold particularly dear to me. I really like it when governments make decisions about the future. The Arboretum was a risk at the time and was not well-received, but it was actually a decision of a government building something for the future, and that’s one of the reasons why we decided to marry there. It was perfect: beautiful view, beautiful Canberra blue skies, looking down over the valley looking to the lake, and in the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion. It made sense on so many levels, and I think for Liz and I both it was one of the best days of our entire lives.
Of course I’m going to stay in Canberra. What is it, like, one of the safest cities or something? Might have kids here, be near the city, good shops, good schools.
Canberra is a bit different to Sydney. It’s a lot more laid-back in a way.
There is still inequality between men and women so, that’s difficult. I guess maybe it’s a bit more equal between men and women here. I mean in Australia.
If I was asked in school to describe myself at this moment in time I would turn to my friend and ask them to describe me and I would describe them.
My favourite things are my family, friends, basketball and music.
I guess being a woman means I get to have kids, which is a good goal. I don’t know, I get breasts. You get a good excuse to eat a lot of junk food on your period.
It’s reasonably easy to maintain your health and wellbeing because there are lots of health places, like health centres. I like eating healthy, so the whole thing about health is good. And wellbeing, well, I like Canberra, I’m happy in Canberra, so that helps.
My perfect day in Canberra would be being able to drive around Canberra listening to my music loudly.
Image created by Liz Thompson