The Power Of Kindness

Big things happen when women get fed up, and take action.

Dr Kirstin Ferguson, the creator of the #CelebratingWomen campaign, was at the beach on the Christmas holidays almost two years ago and was angry and upset at the vile comments and vitriol that were continually directed at women online, especially her female ABC colleagues. Women who are the targets of abuse online are told to ignore, mute, report, block – and all these things certainly have their place – but Ferguson wanted to try change the tone as well, and so, as women often do, she channeled her anger into action, and the #CelebratingWomen movement was born.

Throughout 2017, the profiles of two women were shared daily. Social media was awash with celebration, to try to drown out the denigration. By the end of the year, 757 women from 37 countries had been celebrated and made visible as role models to others. The group of women was incredibly diverse. It was joyous to look each day to see who it was going to be, as was the experience of being profiled myself. Often the profiled woman was a public figure I recognised easily, many times it wasn’t, and I truly value the connections that I made through #CelebratingWomen. I really noticed the absence once 2018 rolled around and I would go to check who it was that day, and then remember that there were no more posts!

Women from all walks of life were profiled – students, communicators, environmentalists, financial advisors, stay at home mothers, stay at home grandmothers, cricket commentators, advisors, journalists, politicians, cancer warriors, chefs, volunteers, businesswomen, writers, doctors, musicians, pharmacists, lawyers, safety experts, community workers, futurists, farmers, playwrights, aid workers, public servants, chairwomen, counsellors, advocates, scientists, publishers, librarians, producers, paramedics, researchers, servicewomen, sportswomen, car dealers, pilots, speakers, board members, real estate agents, artists, DJs, broadcasters, actors, brewers, social workers, retirees, psychologists, dancers, veterinarians, beauty therapists, nutritionists, designers, directors, authors, artists, horticulturists, nurses, Olympians, editors, academics, coaches, dentists, lecturers, retailers, and so many more.

It was actually quite hard for me to write that list of occupations, because women were specifically asked to describe the tasks that they actually did for whatever they considered their ‘work’, not their job titles or positions. Each woman self nominated and answered the same four questions and provided four photos – a description of what you do, what you wanted to do when you were young, to describe your life in three words, and who you hoped to inspire. There was no criteria (beyond identifying as a woman) and no vetting or selection process. Each women was introduced just as her first name, with no titles or qualifiers, and then her own words about herself.

Surprisingly, the #CelebratingWomen campaign attracted almost no negative or abusive comments, which was paradoxical when it was happening in the same, often toxic, social media space which had initially spawned the whole campaign. Instead, it was a ray of sunlight. In amongst all the tweets about how the world it on fire and everything is awful, the power of kindness and women raising each other up gave overwhelming respite and happiness.

Ferguson teamed up with Catherine Fox (author of Stop Fixing Women) to write Women Kind, released by Murdoch Books last month. Backed by scrupulous research, they explored the #CelebratingWomen phenomenon more closely, and looked at what happens when women support each other. Women Kind blows the ‘Queen Bee’ idea out of the water and is full of first hand accounts and practical examples of what leaders, organisation and individuals of all genders can do to support women for the benefit of all.

Just like the girls who crashed their brothers’ Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace, the women who have fixed a problem for a workmate who was sobbing in the toilets, the tsunami of women who shouted #MeToo, those who take to the streets time and time again to protest injustice and refuse to accept the substandard hand they have been dealt, #CelebratingWomen and Women Kind show the power and change that comes from women helping each other and taking action.

To my brilliant research career that never was


A letter to my unfinished business, aka my research career,

We first met in 2002. I was a dual degree student, studying science and education.

You were the Advanced Study Program in Science, a course “for high-achieving students interested in pursuing a career in scientific research”.

I reminisce about our year together fondly. You were interesting and enjoyable, we learned so much, and met many great people.

I was in another relationship at the time, and was quite open about it. I wanted to teach.

We were a great threesome – I loved science – I loved doing it, learning about it, showing it; but deep down I saw myself exploring the scientific world with students, rather than spending my days with you in the lab or field.

Read more… 

Survivors of institutional sexual abuse are failed by the legal process

imageMy piece published today in Overland entitled Survivors of abuse are failed by the legal system. 


The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been inundated with thousands of Australians sharing their stories of abuse. Over 5500 people have attended a private session and a further 1500 are scheduled. Repeatedly, survivors have told not just the heinous stories about their abuse, but about the systems which allowed abuse to flourish. Despite all this, the processes for seeking redress frequently put survivors in an invidious position and the barriers to substantive compensation are overwhelming. Read more…

Geocached Dreams

imageIn the last few months or so I’ve noticed a curious and distinctive bunch of people when I go out for my afternoon bike ride or run.


I’m guessing at ages here – a ten year old kid was slowly riding his bike while half on, half off, in no distinct direction, but with definite purpose. Two young men sat in their cars, engines running, near the top of the bikepath. Half a dozen 12 year olds walked around the steps of the overpass with a teacher looking on – a boarding house outing I suspect. A young woman was slowly riding a fold up bike she must have purchased extremely recently, since the barcode label was still attached to the basket. Three 11 year olds had Macgyvered-up phone holders with duct tape and wood offcuts on their bikes for better screen visibility.  One very tall and obese man – tummy hanging out from under his shirt, cigarette balanced on his bottom lip, stood next to his svelte, dark haired companion, both staring at their phones. Two Grade Nine girls from the local rich private school in full uniform, including Panama hats and brown leather shoes, were on skateboards while holding golf umbrellas for the rain. A couple in their 20s, clad in active wear and cuddling, stood near the path. All were meandering, but constantly checking their phones, so I assume they were playing Pokemon Go. They were hunting the geocached pocket monsters – all around us, but visible only through the smartphone screen.


In the same park someone lovingly tends some fairy doors and fairy gardens. There is a little grove where the trees don’t let much light through. It’s dark and mossy like a rain forests. No bikes are allowed on that part of the path.

The fairy house are beautifully decorated. Miniature tea sets and flowers in tiny vases sit near the fairy doors, sprinkled with glitter. Minute framed pictures carefully hung on the tree add to the décor.

I’ve lived near this park for the better part of two decades. I’ve never seen anyone tending the fairy parties, and yet I can’t remember them ever not being there. I’ve often thought about who is cultivating them, and why? They are never unkempt.

My hunch is that is that someone who has lost a child is tending the fairy gardens in memory of her little lost one. How many fairies, how many lost children, dwell among the greenery?


As well as invisible fairies, lost children and unseen pokemon exist around us, what other spectres concealed? Are the ghosts of all the choices we didn’t make, floating amongst the trees? Are there diaphanous angels of abandoned dreams moving about unseen? If there was an app to find lost children and abandoned hopes, what would we see floating around us? Would we be able to Catch Them All?

Could we bear it, if we did?


Advice for the mentally ill


I returned home from yet another hospital visit today to see that my ABC Open piece on ‘Advice’ had been published.

Advice for the mentally ill 

Ensure that you have a supportive and loving spouse, family, friends and employer. Navigating mental illness without this is unthinkable.

Don’t expect that if you present to the emergency department that you will get to see a doctor. If you get concerned about this, expect to be offered prescription sedatives, but you still won’t get to talk to a psychiatrist.

Expect to be scolded if you insist on this – being proactive in seeking medical care is generally frowned upon as ‘rudeness’. Don’t feel relieved when you finally get an appointment; tomorrow they’ll decide you live in the wrong suburb and will cancel.

When admitted, an allied health professional may occasionally visit. Sporadically you’ll get to see a doctor, but she’ll contradict the registrar and scold you for following her advice.

Read more…

Faking Being Kind

My most recently posted article on ABC Online on the topic of Faking It entitled Faking Being Kind.



“You stupid, stupid idiot. It’s not ok to make mistakes like that. You should be better at this.”

That scolding was served with venom in a present-day Australian school and for many students and teachers alike, vile self talk of this nature is an uncontrolled epidemic.

In a therapy session with a graduate psychologist, he asked me what would it look like if I showed compassion to myself. I was dumbstruck, flabbergasted, flummoxed. I could not think of a single thought or endeavour which could possibly meet that ridiculous specification. I racked the foreign frontiers of my brain looking for a skerrick of an idea which might answer my therapist’s question, but still nothing.

Continue reading….

Manners: The small things

I recently wrote this piece for ABC Open on the topic of manners entitled The Small Things.


Meal made by a friend with love for Special Delivery
Meal made by a friend with love for Special Delivery

To say that it’s been a dreadful year for my husband and me is quite an understatement. Trauma crippled us. Trying to rectify the situation hammered us again, repeatedly. The darkness has threatened to pull us both under – sometimes at the same time.

The trauma and distress has been unbearable, with precious little relief. When your lives are decimated, but the demands do not cease, the impact of careless discourtesy – and the power of kindness – can be profound. Read more…