Former premier inspires Bendigo women

VICTORIA’S first female premier Joan Kirner was a guest speaker at last night’s Women’s Health Loddon Mallee Annual General Meeting. 

The advocate for women’s rights spoke in front of more than 70 Women’s Health members about the importance of women in leadership roles. 

Ms Kirner – who was elevated to Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation’s highest award, in the Queen’s Birthday honours earlier this year – has been an advocate for women in leadership throughout her career. 

She said courage and understanding of power, networking and clear purpose were just some of the qualities women needed to become good leaders in the community. 

The 74-year-old said times were changing and it had become more acceptable for women to hold leadership roles. “It is changing,” she said. 

“When I was teaching after I got married I had to resign because married women could not be teachers, but my husband was married too, to me, and he was a teacher, but he didn’t have to resign.

“That was only 52 years ago.

If you don’t stand up and say ‘no, that is not right,’ then nothing will change.”

Ms Kirner said she was still appalled at the misogynist abuse aimed at women in power. 

“It does seem that some blokes can’t cope with women in power,” she said.  “But I think the more women who stand up and say ‘I am me and I have the same rights as you’ – the more it will change.” 

Women’s Health Loddon Mallee executive officer Linda Beilharz said gender equity was an important issue. 

“The position of women in society is very important for business, whether we are talking about Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Joan Kirner at the premier level, or even the women here in this room, we are all trying to do better,” she said.

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