Keddie also opened up about how becoming a mother changed her. “Today we like to say being a mum doesn’t define us, but when I became a mother, I became unapologetically fierce, thoughtful and protective in a way I’d never been before,” she shared.
Next up was actress Yael Stone, best known for her seven-season stint as Morello in Orange Is The New Black. “We sit in this room with a lot of privilege,” she told the audience. “And that’s ok… It’s how we use our privilege that counts.”
Stone made allegations of sexual misconduct against Geoffrey Rush in 2017 and revealed that at the time she really didn’t want to speak up. “But I realised I had to use my privilege and power,” said Stone, who’s since become an advocate for the environment, giving up her US green card to reduce the eco impact of living between two countries and help win the “climate war”.
The theme of making a difference was echoed by model Elyse Knowles, who spoke about her heart-filled fight to save our koalas, “the voiceless victims of summer’s bushfire disaster”. The Myer ambassador and partner of the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary teared up as she recalled her recent road trip from Melbourne to Byron Bay, driving through blackened landscapes and meeting families who’d lost their homes. She implored the audience to do their bit for planet Earth: “Buy local, support your farmers, ride your bike, turn off your lights.”
Next to take the stage was Amy Thunig, who starred in marie claire’s February It’s Time campaign, calling for Indigenous constitutional recognition. The academic and host of podcast Blacademia opened up about being the first person in her family to finish high school and go to university, and the uncomfortable truths (or mistruths) that all Australians need to confront. “We can’t have equality until we realise that the room we’re sitting in today was built on stolen land,” she declared.
But it was the fact that Amy is a mum of three who’s fostered five children and is currently completing a PhD, at the ripe old age of 32, that got the loudest round of applause. “I’m tired,” she said simply.
Matina Jewell is probably tired as well. The room fell silent as the retired army major and decorated war hero spoke about being seriously injured in Lebanon, then finding out four of her team members had been killed back at the base. “For many years I resented being alive, I had survivor’s guilt,” she explained. “But out of a horrific situation, I found my voice.”
She’s now one of the top female leadership speakers in Australia (and she’s held some seriously challenging leadership positions in a male-dominated field – on one post overseas, half the men in her team would spit at her feet, and the other half wanted to marry her). But Jewell had some sage advice for leaders in the room: “Give a shit about your people.”
To close out the event, Jean Hinchliffe took the stage. The 16-year-old climate activist has been dubbed Australia’s Greta Thunberg, but we like to call her Australia’s Jean Hinchliffe. As well as her environmental work, she’s recently become an organiser for Believe Survivors, which aims to change the culture and system around sexual violence. “We’re sick of the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality, my generation wants change,” she said. “And as long as I’m passionate about something, I’m going to get the work done.”
It was a simple but salient message, a parting gift for audience members as they left the inspiration-filled event and returned to their daily lives: the future of women is in good hands.