Union Women on Campus celebrate Suffrage Day

AUS Status of Women Committee hosted a Fiesta day of events, in venues across Kelburn and Pipitea campuses, to mark the 115th Anniversary of Universal Female Suffrage.

The events were varied, kicking off with a breakfast in the Staff Club to launch the Human Rights Commission’s NZ Census of Women’s Participation, with Dr Judy McGregor speaking on “If Universities were serious about EEO, what would they look like?”. This was a sellout session!

Followed up by speakers from the School of Gender & Women’s Studies in the first session, held in the Ian Gordon room adjacent to the staff club, discussing the place of Women and Gender Studies in a mass Tertiary Market, with input from Associate Prof Prue Hyman, grad Pia Titus, researcher Dr Anne Else, Shenagh Gleisner, the CE of Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and Celia Briar, a senior advisor in the Pay and Equity Employment Unit. Sobering but essential information was received by those who could stay on after the breakfast presentations.

Then we moved to a session of creativity, coffee & conversation – the all-important balance of life vs work time. Concurrently, a clothes swap was held in the Cotton Building Hallway.

Having de-stressed to a degree, we were then admonished to de-clutter in an inspiring workshop by Maria Dorothea from Christchurch, who is a professional organiser. Her workshop focussed on how to set aside time to de-clutter, and how to decide what to keep, and how to let go.
Basically boils down to: If you love it, keep it.
If it raises your energy to look at it, or it’s truly useful NOW, you can keep it.
Many archivists, librarians and researchers in the workshop found this to be ‘tough love’ to the extreme, as we made feeble excuses for keeping our outdated archives of research paraphenalia. The Beaglehole room was discussed as a repository of last resort!
Lunch was a breeze, catered by premise staff, and a welcome respite.

The group then broke, to travel down to Pipitea Campus, where cake and afternoon tea were served, and the seminars continued.
Financial Planning for Women from Alison Renfrew, a remarkable financial planner and courageous breast cancer survivor, was well attended by a variety of women, and two babies, just to skew the demographics a little!
She gave away a copy of her recently published biography to a lucky participant, and told us about the circumstances that allowed her to be treated efficiently in the private healthcare system, due to her prudent acquisition of effective insurance products. Another lively question time followed her presentation, covering many issues around financial planning for a variety of ages of women.

Then it was the Maaori Women Speak session, presented by Aroha Te Pareake Mead, who is a member of the International Union of Conservation of Nature, an NGO hosted in Switzerland, which is doing global work on biodiversity and other issues of sustainable development, as well as being on the staff at VUW lecturing in the areas of economic sustainability, and a past member of the National Maaori Congress in the 80’s and 90’s. She travelled with Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikahu, to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, where Te Arikinui signed the Convention on Biodiversity on behalf of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Her koorero to us was insightful and fascinating, and touched on recent Waitangi Tribunal claims such as the WAI 262 claim for indigenous ownership of biodiverse flora and fauna, negating foreign patenting of seeds or components of rongoa maaori.

The late afternoon break for wine and a quick refreshment was very welcome, and then the Candidates Forum commenced, introduced by Sandra Grey, one of the two organisers of the events. Maryanne Street represented Labour, Sue Bradford the Greens, and Katrina Shanks, for National. All spoke about their parties’ policies for women and workplace relations, and then the panel were asked questions from the floor.

Sue Bradford speaking

Sue Bradford speaking

Sitting MP's Katrina Shanks, Sue Bradford & Maryanne Street at the Candidate's Forum

Sitting MP's Katrina Shanks, Sue Bradford & Maryanne Street at the Candidate's Forum

Sue B highlighted the gains the Greens’ Private Members’ Bills have made in addressing youth rates, minimum wage, and conditions for mothers in workplaces and other areas. She also spoke about policy issues directly pertaining to students, around student allowances, interest-free student loans, and pay equity for graduate women starting out in the workforce.

This was a great end to a day of celebrating the rights women have accumulated in the past century, and gave direction to those of us who want to see improvements in some areas before the end of the next century!


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