Edna Ryan Awards

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SpeakersWestwood The Hon Helen

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      The Hon. HELEN WESTWOOD [10.22 p.m.]: Each year the women's electoral lobby, known as WEL, celebrates the life and work of Edna Ryan through the presentation of the "Ednas". When Edna Ryan died in 1997 at the age of 92, she left a rich legacy. During her life Edna was known as a feminist social reformer, political activist and author. Amongst her many achievements Edna was elected to Fairfield Council in 1956 and was the first female deputy mayor in New South Wales in 1958, was the first women president of the largest branch of the Municipal Employees Union, was a founding member of the Women's Electoral Lobby, is credited with achieving equal pay for women, campaigned for maternity leave and work-based child care for women workers, and was an advocate of women's reproductive rights.

      On the evening of 11 May this year I was delighted to be part of the crowd to see Edna Ryan's daughter Lyndall present the awards that commemorate her mother's life and acknowledge the contributions of others in the areas she cared about. In this, the tenth year of the awards, 11 women were acknowledged in the areas of community activism, mentoring, education, media/communication and battling. I would like to share with the House the stories of some of the award recipients.
      Rosemary Kariuki migrated to Australia in 1999. She has worked tirelessly for the wellbeing of migrant African women. In addition to her work as an ethnic community liaison officer, she is a member of the African Communities Council and is a part of the Domestic Violence Team at Flemington Police Command. She is committed to addressing the needs of migrant women and their children and runs information sessions and organises various community events for African women and the broader community. She has a deep desire to empower African migrant women and to combat cultural isolation. Rosemary has encouraged and supported countless African women who have settled in Australia.
      Denele Crozier, another award recipient, worked for nine years as a women's health worker at the Liverpool Women's Health Centre. She has played a significant role for working women in the Australian Services Union. She now has a leadership role in the New South Wales women's health sector resourcing and encouraging the workers of the 24 women's health centres throughout the State. Denele is well regarded for her faith in women's abilities, her belief in women's experiences, her respect for women's decisions and her promotion of women's rights.
      The father of Muyesser Durur, another award recipient, did not believe in educating his two daughters. It was a progressive female teacher who built Muyesser's confidence and determination, and this enabled Muyesser to complete her elementary education. She has worked as a fitter and turner and kitchen hand, right through to holding senior positions in equal employment opportunities and human resources at the University of New England and TAFE. Muyesser is now a Master of Business Administration, and this year has submitted her PhD thesis. Her journey from Turkey to Germany and then to Australia is a story of struggle in the face of deep cultural and social prejudices, poverty, isolation and the barriers created by language and fear of difference. She is an example to immigrant women and an inspiration to all women who hear her story.
      Libby Silva, also an award recipient, has been a committed feminist since the mid-1970s. In her youth, she was actively involved in women's health, and in 1982 took over The Feminist Bookshop with her two sisters, and has worked tirelessly to turn it into the valuable resource it is today. The feminist bookshop specialises in issues such as domestic violence and child abuse. Many women have sought information and support there.
      Emily Maguire is a freelance journalist and author whose body of work has raised in the public arena issues surrounding sexual mores and sexual morality in a factual, enlightening way which makes feminism appealing to young women. In particular, her recent article "One violent crime and the female victim: considered guilty until proven innocent", published in the Herald , provides a succinct, forceful, uncompromising and reasoned expose of the issues surrounding rape. Rosalind Helyard is a TAFE teacher who entices young women into trades with a program called Holly Hardhat, and started a program for Babes with Babes to allow very young mothers to continue studying. The Edna Awards are a lasting testimony to the life and work of Edna Ryan.