Previous Guest Speakers


Speakers x




Following is a list the remarkable women who have addressed SWAN audiences between 1996-2022. It has been compiled based on SWAN’s early archival records; the comprehensive set of newsletters (2000-08) kept by inaugural SWAN Speaker Coordinator, Val McKenna; and copies of other newsletters and flyers from 2008 onwards held in SWAN archival material. 


Local social justice advocate Denise Hassett was the principal speaker at the initial meeting held in Mt Martha in 1996 that led to the establishment of SWAN. Other outstanding women who addressed SWAN meetings in its early years included:


  • The Hon. Joan Kirner AM, AC, Centenary Medal 2001 (1939-2015) the only female to date to become Premier of Victoria (1990-92) was SWAN’s inaugural guest speaker.
  • Christine Campbell elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1996-2014 and holding various portfolios including Family Services and Women’s Affairs.
  • Mary Crooks AO appointed Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust in 1996.
  • Susan Feldman Jewish commentator on the Ageing, Adjunct Associate Professor at Federation University.
  • Felicity Hampel AM, SC prominent human rights lawyer and Judge in the County Court of Victoria.
  • Sally Mitchell manager of the family farm after the death of her husband. Chair of Community Leaders’ Group, involving rural youth in community leadership.
  • Brownyn Pike AM served as a Member of the Victorian Parliament (1999-2012), and was appointed Minister for Education (2007-2010).
  • Janet Powell AM, Victorian Honour Roll 2001 (1942-2013). Leader of the Australian Democrats (1990-91).


March 2000: Vivienne Nicholson spoke to SWAN members about a wide range of environmental concerns on the Mornington Peninsula and in both Port Philip and Westernport bays, encouraging us to take appropriate action to raise these issues in the wider community.  This led to SWAN initiating a public forum to establish a Mornington Peninsula Environmental Collective.

May 2000: Jill Hennessy, who in 2010 was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly. She became Minister of Health (2014-18) and was Attorney General of Victoria (2018-2020). She delivered a challenging address raising questions and concerns about women influencing and achieving effective political power and sharing insights on what women can do to ensure that they can play a more active role in government.

July 2000: Prof. Linda Hancock, Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Policy at the University of Melbourne and former Commissioner on the Law Reform Commission of Victoria shared her knowledge and experience on justice issues.

September 2000: Sian Prior, ABC presenter and occasional journalist for ‘The Age’ spoke to SWAN members about how government funding cuts to the ABC threatened its character and its ability to deliver innovative and in-depth analytical programming.

November 2000: Irene Bolger, barrister and former leader of the Nurses Union who led the Victorian Nurses strike during the time of the Cain government, gave an inspiring presentation on the topic: ‘The Journeys of a Feminist’.

March 2001: Lisa Jane Solomon, Convener of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (Vic) who has had a long and distinguished career in both State and Federal Government positions relating to social justice and equity, spoke to us on the topic: ‘Five most important issues for Victorian women in the new millennium.’

May 2001: Sara Coward, assistant to State Government Minister Lynne Kosky and former mayor of the Maribyrnong Council spoke about the marginalization and disempowerment felt by people living in the Western Suburbs’ multicultural communities.

July 2001: Susan Davies AO, Independent MP Victorian State Government shared her parliamentary and political insights, rejecting the claim that independents cannot make a difference, being a constant reminder to the major parties that they need to listen to the needs of the constituents in the communities they represent. 

September 2001: Dr. Lynette Dumble, Convener of the World Sisterhood and former Senior Research Fellow in surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital gave an impassioned presentation on the topic: ‘Women in Peril from Womb to Tomb’ in which she spoke about the devastating situation of women under the Taliban in Afghanistan; the torment faced by female asylum seekers and women in prison; and the maltreatment and suffering girls in many countries around the world.  

November 2001: Christine Nixon AO, APM, Chief Commissioner Victoria Police addressed SWAN members, on the occasion of our 5th Anniversary, about women’s leadership and the need to recognise and seize opportunities when they arise.

March 2002: Amanda George, Victorian Honour Roll 2001, lawyer, women’s rights activist and founding member of Women Against Prison was part of a collective that established the Women’s Legal Resource groups in the early 1980s. She spoke to us on the topic: ‘Women and Prisons’.

In addition, Tahmeena Faral, human rights activist at the Revolutionary Association of Afghanistan Women addressed a special public forum of Mornington Peninsula women attended by many SWAN members.

May 2002: Morag Fraser, Miles Franklin Award (2005-2007), social analyst, author, and editor of Eureka magazine spoke to us on the topic: ‘Confronting two Current and Controversial Concerns: Community Movements and Asylum Seekers and the Terrorism Bill 2002’.

July 2002, SWAN AGM: Mary Bluett, President of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Education Union (1998-2012) spoke about her personal involvement in the trade union movement and the active role being played by other women.

September 2002: Dr. June Factor, Victorian Honour Roll 2001, senior fellow at The Australia Centre, the University of Melbourne and former President of Friends of the ABC told us that many positive outcomes had been achieved through the efforts of the ‘Friends’ when she addressed the topic: ‘What’s happening to the ABC’.

November 2002: Glenyys Romanes AM, former Mayor of Brunswick and State Director of Community Aid Abroad gave an inspiring presentation sharing her experience about ‘The Long Road to Parliament’.

March 2003: Kate Durham, artist, political activist and the driving force behind the community network Spare Rooms for Refugees was joined by her husband Julian Burnside in her presentation about the great shame of Australia’s refugee policy.

May 2003: Inaam Barakat, Manager of the Overseas Qualifications Unit, Victorian Communities, Chairperson of North Eastern Migrant Resource Centre, and former radio presenter at SBS spoke to us about her experience as a Lebanese Muslim woman living in Melbourne and about her work in assisting women from many different ethnic backgrounds to secure employment in their fields.

In addition, under the auspice of SWAN, a public meeting was held in May featuring guest speaker Surma Hamid, from the Committee in Defence of Iraqi Women’s Rights, in which she spoke on the topic: ‘War is not the Answer – An Iraqi woman speaks out’.

July 2003: Sharon Burrow AC, President ACTU and the first woman elected President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Asia-Pacific Region, gave an inspiring address providing an overview of the global situation of women in the workplace and an update on work issues in Australia.

September 2003: Christina Browning, Waan and Chitlu from the Australia Karen Youth Project informed us of the plight of the Karen ethnic minority in Burma where over 120,000 refugees are living on the Thai border in dire conditions, with many persecuted by the military regime; and about the education workshops that are being provided in these refugee camps by Karen supporters.

November 2003: Duré Dara OAM, Convener of the Victorian Women’s Trust, Vice President Philanthropy Australia, business woman and musician gave a scintillating address on the topic ‘My Life as an Australian Citizen’, in which she shared various aspects of her life and told us that the key to a successful life is negotiation.

March 2004: Kate Bailleu, journalist and activist who was recently appointed to the Point Nepean Management Trust gave a provoking presentation that painted a clear picture of the many complex issues relating to the future of Point Nepean.

In addition, SWAN facilitated a public meeting at which former Senior Intelligence Officer at the Office of National Assessment, Andrew Wilkie MP shared his views on the reasons given by the Australian Government to justify joining the ‘coalition of the willing’ in the invasion of Iraq.

May 2004: Lillian Holt (1945-2020) was born on the Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement in Queensland and had been involved in Indigenous education for over 30 years, including as the Director of the Indigenous Education Unit at The University of Melbourne. Lillian addressed SWAN members on the topic: ‘Building a Dreaming Track for a Better Australia’

July 2004: Pamela Curr AM, Victorian Honour Roll 2009, the Greens National Spokesperson for Refugees spoke about the situation in East Timor and Australia’s poor history in failing to prevent or even to acknowledge the murder, rape and displacement of many thousands of Timorese people.

September 2004: Marguerite Ryan AM, Founder of Women for Women in Africa, a fundraising group assisting Kenyan women to establish their own businesses, told the SWAN audience about her efforts to improve the lives and expectations of people living in Kibera, on the outskirts of Nairobi, supporting them to earn a living to provide for their families and raising their self-esteem. 

November 2004: Anne O’Rourke, Research Fellow, Faculty of Business and Economics, Monash University and Vice President of Liberty Australia (2004-2014) challenged us to consider many world-wide issues and concerns including attitudes to torture, sweat shop labour conditions in third world countries and the war against terror and genocide.

March 2005: Dr. Caroline Taylor AM gave a moving presentation on the topic ‘Social Death and Violence against Women’ in which she told us about her personal suffering as the victim of her father’s sexual abuse up until the age of 15, her experience of the legal system and the systemic bias against women and girls who are victims of sexual and domestic violence.

May 2005: Prof. Marcia Neave AO, Law Faculty, Monash University, foundation Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission and former President of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Council explained the functions of Law Commissions across the world and spoke about some of the more controversial legal issues that have been addressed here in Victoria.

July 2005: Trish Bolton, Lecturer Media Studies, Swinburne University spoke to us on the topic: ‘The Fleeting and Fickle Nature of News’, reinforcing the importance of the media to our democracy and culture; and the influence of the media on the lives of women, sending messages to our daughters about the issues we face and highlighting where social change is needed. 

September 2005: Elleni Bereded-Samuel AM, Commissioner to the Victorian Multicultural Commission spoke of her advocacy work in supporting migrants from the Horn of Africa who had experienced violence and civil unrest in their homeland.

November 2005: Dr. Lauren Wimetal, then final year Medical student, Monash University spoke about her volunteer internship in East Timor, outlining the multiple needs of the Timorese people following many years of war and devastation and the challenges that faced people such as herself who offer assistance.

March 2006: Tracee Hutchison, author, broadcast journalist and presenter and producer in radio and TV spoke about her strong commitment to protecting the environment, her work in the media and the importance of being an idealist.

May 2006: Kali Paxinos, spoke of her experience of having a son diagnosed with schizophrenia and about the particular difficulties faced by culturally and linguistically diverse communities in trying to access the necessary treatment and support. She explained how this led her to stand for State Parliament as a member of the People Power Party.

July 2006: Dr. Anne Manne, Australian journalist and social philosopher, engaged SWAN members in her presentation entitled ‘The Invisible Heart: women, family work and the care penalty’. She spoke about how society significantly undervalues this unseen and unpaid work.

September 2006: Sushi Das, award winning Columnist with ‘The Age’ impressed SWAN members with her ability to take on the issue of racism in our society and her efforts to ensure that this issue is taken seriously by politicians and the society at large.

November 2006: Prof. Marilyn Lake AO, from the History Department at La Trobe University spoke to SWAN members on our 10th Anniversary on the topic of Australian values and the historical factors that had led to them to evolve.

March 2007: Sue Cowden, Special Projects Manager at UNHCR spoke about the agency’s reproductive health program in Myanmar and the support provided to Burmese refugees in India, Nepal and Chad.

May 2007: Mary Dalmau, Manager of Reader’s Feast Bookstore, spoke about how bookstores can play an active role in the community; her involvement in providing audio books to the Braille Library; running forums on political issues and facilitating a Social Justice Festival supported by Julian Burnside and Brendan Kelty.

July 2007: Tara Anderson spoke of her work in combatting the stigma of mental illness through the Stigma Watch and Sane Speaker Program, and her role in the Federal Government’s peak youth body, the Nation Youth Roundtable.

September 2007: Leslie Cannold, Australian Humanist of the Year (2011), past president of Reproductive Choice Australia is a philosopher, ethicist, educationalist, writer, activist and public academic who spoke about ethics and the abortion myth. 

November 2007: Merle Mitchell AM (1934-2021) former head of ACOSS, spoke about many community development initiatives from the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau to assist newly arrived migrant and refugee families during her time as their director.

March 2008: Jenny Wharfe President of the Blue Wedges Coalition against the deepening and dredging of Port Phillip Bay spoke about the group’s activism.

May 2008: Pamela Warr (1933-2022) spoke about her commitments with the Salvation Army including her role with their missing person's bureau, now known as their family tracing service.

July 2008: Belinda Jakiel, Emerging Leader under the Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership (2006-2007) spoke about her Aboriginal heritage and role as Project Manager in the National Indigenous Employment Program of AFL Sportsready.

September 2008: Dianne Bowles spoke about her work with World Education Australia that helps empower women in developing countries by providing education and training and micro-finance loans to assist them in creating sustainable employment opportunities.

November 2008: To commemorate and celebrate the Centenary of Women's Suffrage in Victoria SWAN had a special meeting which included 3 special guest speakers. Founding SWAN member Judith Couacaud Graley, Victorian Legislative Assembly, spoke of her 12 years as a local councillor and current State MP role, Bev Colomb, Mayor of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, spoke of a recent meeting with the PM Kevin Rudd in Canberra, and Prof. Marian Quartly, academic, gave an overview of the history of the women's vote in Victoria.

March 2009: Our planned speaker Mary-Lou Doswell from Trauma Centre Australia was to speak about strategies for supporting grieving adults and children who are survivors of trauma and disasters. Instead at short notice, SWAN member and academic Dr. Carol Morse provided us with information about post-traumatic stress disorder and her work with survivors of the recent bushfires.

May 2009: May Kentish spoke about her lifelong interest in the international political economy and the devastation wrought on the environment during times of war.

July 2009: Aboriginal health worker and Indigenous artist Bea Edwards, a speaker and advocate for the Aboriginal Community living on the Mornington Peninsula through her association at that time with the Kaala Koori Association, Hastings, spoke about the current and future concerns of the Aboriginal community on the Mornington Peninsula.

September 2009: Joan Kirner AM, AC, Centenary Medal 2001 (1938-2015), first female Premier of Victoria (1990-92), spoke about women having a voice in our political system and of Emily's List which she helped found in 1996 to support and mentor progressive Labor women to be elected to parliament.

November 2009: Sabra Lazarus spoke about her role as a housing officer at the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and her report ‘Speaking Home Truths: homelessness on the Mornington Peninsula 2008’.

March 2010: Debby Maziarz founder of Westside Circus, Melbourne, creative entrepreneur and community arts and cultural development leader spoke about circus skills to engage and disadvantaged and troubled young people, migrants and refugees.

May 2010: Morag Loh (1935-2019) a writer of children’s literature and Australian History and a curator of photography, Morag spoke about social justice and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and featured 'The ABC: It's Ours, Independent and Free' a travelling exhibition she put together with photographer John Werrett for Friends of the ABC, to emphasise the importance of the ABC remaining in independent hands.

July 2010: Marguerite Ryan AM spoke about the Women for Women in Africa Foundation (WFWIA) established in 2003, and of which she is the chairperson. WFWIA is committed to empowering and supporting women and children in Kiberia, a slum area of Nairobi, Kenya.

September 2010: Assoc. Prof. Marlene Drysdale, Head of Indigenous Health studies, Department of Rural and Indigenous Health, Monash University spoke about her ‘Aboriginal Women's Journey: Politics, Social Justice and Academia’.

November 2010: Sian Darling, film maker, spoke about her role at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) and screened her film ‘You'd Sing Too’ about artists from refugee backgrounds and their thoughts on the concept of freedom.

March 2011: Marlene Fox, manager of Biala Peninsula in Mornington, spoke about children with disabilities and the importance and benefits of early intervention strategies.

May 2011: Fazila Hajeb, who was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, a part-time teacher and SBS broadcaster, spoke on ‘Muslim Women in Australia’ and about the charity Tents4Peace in her role as co-founder and Deputy Chairperson.

July 2011: Our NAIDOC week speaker Glenys Watts, team leader of the Aboriginal Support and Development Team at with the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, spoke of her family history and the work of her team.

September 2011: Due to our planned guest speaker becoming unavailable at short notice, SWAN member and Social Worker Rosemarie Draper spoke about her recent working holiday in the Northern Territory, where she did a six-month Child Protection locum to see for herself how the Government's Emergency Response (‘Intervention’) was being implemented.

November 2011: Prof. Cordelia Fine, philosopher of science, psychologist and academic, shortlisted for the Victorian Premiers Award, discussed her book ‘Delusions of Gender: how our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference’ that challenges gender stereotypes and explores the differences and plasticity of the male and female brain.

March 2012: Sarah Capper from the Victorian Women's Trust spoke about the work of this leading women’s organisation whose vision is to create a world in which ‘Full gender equality’ is a reality. The Trust defines this as ‘A world where women, girls, and gender diverse people take up all of life’s opportunities with respect, safety and dignity’.

May 2012: Jenn Fowler, Project Coordinator at ‘The Big Issue’ spoke about her role in the marketing and promotion of this street newspaper, with its ground-breaking approach to awareness-raising and supporting homeless and marginalised women.

July 2012: Lynn Brodie from Lowitja Institute for Research into Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing gave a powerful NAIDOC Week presentation entitled: ‘Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on’.

September 2012: Karen Toohey, Acting Commissioner Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission spoke about the diversity of complaints received, the manner in which they are dealt with and the work being done to address concerns and implement appropriate solutions in line with the law.

November 2012: Dr. Nuzhat Lotia from the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights spoke of the challenges faced by women in Pakistan and the valuable work being done by her organisation to empower Lebanese, Eritrean, Somali, Afghani and other Muslim women to be more active in our society.

March 2013: Prof. Jayashri Kulkari AM Director of the Monash-Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, raised significant issues regarding the treatment of women’s mental health concerns.

May 2013: Mel Gillon from Project Futures and Nicky Mih from the ‘Free to Shine’ initiative spoke about human sex trafficking and the sex trade in Cambodia and of their role in supporting the rescue and nurture of young girls from sex slavery.

July 2013: Reverend Aunty Janet Turpie-Johnson, a proud salt water woman and Anglican Priest, gave a feisty NAIDOC Week address reminding us of the importance of community, spirituality, women’s role in society and the issues facing Aboriginal Peoples.

September 2013: Dr. Caroline Norma from RMIT University and member of the Coalition Against Trafficking Women in Australia, critiqued the Government legislation on prostitution and challenged our own views.

November 2013: Judith Graley MP, founding member of SWAN, former MPSC Mayor and later Victorian Government Member for the seat of Narre Warren spoke about the importance of women in government.

March 2014: Kylee Bates, State Director of Mission Australia spoke of her role in supporting disadvantaged youth and those transitioning from juvenile justice services.

May 2014: Natalie Collard: Winner of the 2013 Telstra Victorian Women’s Business Community and Government Award. Natalie spoke about her work in supporting farmers in her role with the National Farmers Federation and as CEO of the Australian Dairy Farmers Association.

July 2014: Dr. Lois Peeler AM, a proud Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri woman and original member of the Sapphires, gave an inspiring NAIDOC Week address, sharing her own story of activism and reminding us of the ongoing struggles faced by Aboriginal people and the need for us all to press for social justice for Indigenous Peoples.

September 2014: Kirsty Rosie, Community Officer for Ovarian Cancer Australia spoke about the need for all women to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the cultural difficulties faced by ethnic women needing advice and support.

November 2014: SWAN in Crisis. Instead of a guest speaker, an Extraordinary General Meeting was held to discuss dwindling member attendance and the lack of volunteers to fill Committee roles.

March 2015: Dr. Philomena Horsley, Victorian Honour Roll (2001) co-founder of the Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE) and Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Sex, Health & Society at La Trobe University spoke about the Centre’s world-class research and education on the social dimensions of sexuality, gender, health and human relationships. This includes working collaboratively with other researchers, communities, community-based organisations, government and professionals to advance knowledge and promote positive change in policy, practice and people’s lives.

May 2015: Hannah Jay, Program Manager at Save the Children, South East Asia gave a presentation entitled: 'Women and Girls in the International Development Agenda’. She discussed issues such as barriers to girls accessing education and gender based violence.

July 2015: Meena Singh, Director of the Legal & Strategy Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service spoke about the important work being done by this organisation, including trying to address the over-representation of First Nations Peoples in the criminal justice system and in child protection. Meena also shared her views on the need to change the Australian Constitution to include Aboriginal & and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  

September 2015, AGM: Gabriella Bornstein who holds a Science/Law degree is employed by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) spoke about key social justice issues being addressed by ASRC. She also outlined the organisation’s core principles to ‘Assist, Advocate for, Empower, Engage & Educate’ those seeking Asylum in Australia’

November 2015: SWAN hosted a ‘Peninsula Forum’ in which several women spoke about local issues such as domestic violence, palliative care, homelessness and abuse. Speakers included Giselle Bailey, Program Manager Good Shepherd Organisation; Rachel Bovenizer CEO Peninsula Home Hospice; Judy Cooper Salvo Care Eastern Rosebud; and Ruth Stuettgen Focus on Balance.

March 2016: Carmen Hawker from the Global Women’s Project spoke about the work being done by this Australian based NGO to empower women and support grassroots organisations in Nepal & Cambodia. She also told us about the GWP mission to support women to be educated, employed, empowered and equal, and about her personal efforts to prevent violence against women.  For links to The Global Women's Project and ideas for fundraising, please refer to  'other information and links'  on the 'Information Sharing' page.

 May 2016: Jeanette Lane CEO of the Peninsula Advisory Committee for Elders (PACE) provided SWAN members with a comprehensive report on the recent National Elders Abuse Conference and the work of PACE on Mornington Peninsula.

July 2016: From Baluk Arts, award winning Indigenous artist and curator Lisa Waup and Indigenous artist Tracey-Lea Smith, Manager Baluk Arts, discussed the work of Indigenous artists on the Mornington Peninsula and around Australia. This not-for-profit organisation has, through their support, enabled family groups and members of the stolen generation to be reconnected with their culture. 

September 2016: Aline Burgess, from the Peninsula Carer Council and winner of Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 2016 Citizen of the Year, gave an inspiring speech outlining the power of grassroots organisations, explaining how she came to recognise the need for support for carers of those with mental illnesses. She spoke about the work of the Peninsula Carer Council in assisting the mentally ill and inspired SWAN members to take action on these issues.

November 2016: Ambreen Mirza, Chief Operating Officer of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, spoke about the Centre’s work in lifting the situation of Muslim women towards full participation in Australian society.

March 2017: Luz Restrepo, Founder and CEO of SisterWorks spoke about the work being done by this admirable community organisation that supports migrant, asylum-seeker and refugee women to develop their own small businesses and achieve financial independence.

May 2017: Kathleen McInnes from WAYSS Housing and Support Services addressed the topic: Homelessness in Our Region. With over two decades of experience in issues of homelessness, mental health and older people at risk, Kathleen explained who and why people become homeless and informed us about the supports and linkages for homeless people in our region.

July 2017: Karan Kent, Leader of the MPSC Warringinee Group gave the SWAN NAIDOC Week address. She spoke about the work being done by this team to support cultural diversity and understanding across the Shire and deliver programs and services to Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders People living on the Peninsula.   

September 2017: Teresa Gillespie, an Advanced Care Planning Clinician spoke on the topic: ‘Planning Ahead for Health Care’. She outlined the benefits of this process that enables people to identify their preferred health care and medical treatment options should they become too ill to make decisions. 

November 2017: SWAN celebrated its 21st anniversary. Some of the founding members spoke about the establishment and early days of SWAN; others brought memorabilia to share; and participants enjoyed a rolling slideshow of photos of past events that triggered further memories of SWAN’s social justice actions and events over two decades.

March 2018: Rosie Batty AO, CEO of the Luke Batty Foundation and Australian Citizen of the Year 2015 spoke of her relentless campaign work to raise awareness and action concerning family violence.

May 2018: Santilla Chingaipe, acclaimed journalist, filmmaker and researcher spoke to us about the experience of African refugees and of her research concerning racism and difficulties facing South Sudanese refugees living in Melbourne.

July 2018: Celeste Liddle, Victorian Honour Roll (2017), proud Arrernte woman, public speaker, author and activist employed as the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Organiser for the National Tertiary Education Union, inspired us with her moving NAIDOC Week address.

September 2018: Gillian Triggs, former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission spoke to SWAN members on a most concerning topic: ‘Australian human rights regression’. She inspired us to go out into the world and do our own bit to encourage justice and fair play.

November 2018: Dr. Dalal Smiley, CEO Wellsprings for Women, Deakin University, spoke about the valuable work being done by this community as a gathering and learning place in support of migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women.

March 2019: Nyadol Nyuon OAM, Sudanese-Australian lawyer, writer and community advocate was born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia and spent part of her childhood in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, spoke to us about her passion for social justice, a fair society and the nature of our public discourse. 

May 2019: Micaela Cronin, Director of the Future Social Services Institute spoke to us about her long-term work in the not-for-profit community sector, including as CEO of Hagar International based in Cambodia and as President of ACOSS.

July 2019: Irene Fisher, proud Jawoyn woman from the Northern Territory (NT) and passionate advocate for Indigenous rights, spent many years working in the Indigenous health sector, including as a Board member with the peak body, the Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance N.T.  Irene gave the SWAN NAIDOC week address on the theme: ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth: Let’s work together for a shared future’.

September 2019: Leonie Morgan AM discussed her passion for equal political representation with particular reference to her co-founding of Emily’s List Australia. She also spoke about her work with the International Women’s Development Agency in which she brought together six female MPs from Myanmar with six Australian women MPs as mentors.  This ‘Women Supporting Women Program’ was so successful that she was replicating it with women MPs from Timor-Leste.

November 2019: Pamela Curr AM, who had recently retired from her long-term employment with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Melbourne, spoke about her work in advocating for people in community detention. Since her workplace retirement Pamela has volunteered with the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project. She is also a member of the Refugee Advocacy Network, the Liberty Refugee Policy Group and is one of the regular Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) detention centre visitors.

March 2020: Shen Narayanasamy, Human Rights Campaign Director of GetUp! spoke about her long-term advocacy work as one of Australia’s most powerful influencers of political discourse on humanitarian issues. With a strong background in human rights law, economic justice and land rights, Shen founded the ‘No Business in Abuse’ campaign targeting corporate involvement in mandatory offshore detention of asylum seekers, led #LetThemStay, a campaign preventing the deportation of hundreds of asylum seekers to Nauru, was actively involved in the Medevac Bill effort and was the Economic Justice Advocacy Coordinator with Oxfam Australia.

May 2020: Meeting cancelled due to COVID.

July 2020: Meeting cancelled due to COVID.

September 2020: Meeting cancelled due to COVID.

November 2020: Teela Reid was the guest speaker for the postponed NAIDOC week meeting. Teela is a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, a criminal defence lawyer, award-winning junior fiction writer and former teacher.  Teela gave a powerful presentation in which she explained the long history leading to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. She stressed the critical need for a First Nations Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution and for a Makarrata Commission to enable Treaty and Truth-Telling.

March 2021: Jodi Peskett is former co-lead of the Women’s and Equality team at Victorian Trades Hall Council, a job she shared with Pia Cerveri, a social worker,  specialising in working with children and their families, youth justice and women in the Victorian prison system. Jodi was unable to attend but Pia spoke about their work towards achieving gender equality and stopping gendered violence in the workplace, including through the collective power of the union movement.

May 2021: Ronnie Gorrie is a proud Gunai/Kurnai woman and author of ‘Black and Blue: a Memoir of Racism and Resilience’. With a gift for story-telling and a wicked sense of humour, she spoke frankly and movingly about the impact of racism on her family, the effects of intergenerational trauma resulting from cultural dispossession, and the inevitable difficulties of making her way as an Aboriginal woman in the white, male-dominated police force.

July 2021: Helen Bnads, Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll (2019): has direct family ties to the Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission. Aunty Helen is a highly respected Elder in the local First Nations community, employed as a health professional by Peninsula Health. She practices a holistic approach to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians. Helen is a board member of Willum Warrain Aboriginal Gathering Place and was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2019 in recognition of her life’s work in health, academia and reconciliation. Aunty Helen spoke of the urgent need for the Australian people to accept the invitation from First Nations People to walk with them to achieve the significant structural reforms requested in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

September 2021: Coralie Alison, is a Board member from Collective Shout, a grassroots campaign and women’s movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture. Coralie shared many examples of the campaigns she led to victory both nationally and globally. Her heart for justice drives her to bring about change in her local community and beyond.

November 2021: Fiona York, Executive Director of Housing for the Aged Action Group spoke about the rising number of homeless women in the 50+ age group. Fiona also highlighted other social justice concerns and discrimination related to inadequate housing and tenancies, and health and wellbeing issues associated with homelessness for older people.

March 2022: Joanna Hayter AO is recognised for ‘distinguished service to women in the areas of gender equality and individual rights through leadership and policy development roles, and to the promotion of global health, peace and security. She was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll for Women (2016).  Joanna was the CEO of International Women’s Development Agency from 2010-2017 and is the Women’s Rights Convenor with Macquarie University’s Global Leadership Program. She spoke about the global gender equity gap and of the challenges that still face women in Australia in trying to address these injustices.

May 2022: Judy Carroll and Katie Shafar of the Bayside Refugee Advocacy and Support Association spoke about the struggles of refugees and asylum seekers through their personal experiences of working in the field. They also provided a comprehensive update on the sudden release of many detained asylum seekers just prior to the 2022 Federal election.

July 2022: Stephanie Ross and Alice Ugle from the First Peoples' Assembly spoke about the important work being done by the Assembly towards negotiating a Treaty or Treaties between First Nations Peoples and the Victorian Government.  The Assembly is an independent and democratically elected body that represents Traditional Owners and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the State. It is anticipated that Treaty discussions will begin in 2023.

September 2022: Dr. Diana Johns, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Melbourne with extensive expertise in youth justice, crime prevention, post-prison reintegration and collaborative research with African-Australian communities, addressed the criminalisation of children - how it happens and why it needs to stop. She spoke about the effects of criminalisation, the impacts of imprisonment, and the possibilities of restorative and relational justice practices.

November 2022: Dr. Sarah Russell, founder of Aged Care Matters in 2016, and former critical care nurse was motivated into advocacy by successive governments’ failures in the Aged Care sector, including personal experience. Since 1999, Sarah has been the principal researcher at ‘Research Matters’ where her work has focused on public and mental health, ethics and aged care. Her persistent advocacy for some of the most vulnerable people in our society has won her widespread respect.


Last edited ML and EC 9 December 2022 FINAL


Image Gallery