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Powerful women help women find power

Catherine Russell

In physics, power is the rate of doing work, a key part of which is the amount of force that is applied to the work performed on a chosen path.

If you apply that definition to the work of women, then perhaps we can extend power to be the ability to amplify the challenges that women face and at the same time demonstrate the qualities needed to keep working a chosen a path.

This past week, powerful women were everywhere.

It was Rosie Batty, our Australian of the Year on the ABC’s Q&A program, bringing her power to the issue of domestic violence in Australia, a conversation which she started in the wake of the loss of her son Luke.

Rosie spoke to women in homes and domestic violence situations throughout Australia saying, ‘stay safe, but it will never get better. And you deserve more. You deserve to live a life where you can wake up every day and not have to worry about the day ahead’.

Power was in Gillian Triggs, our President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, who has been the subject of political character assignation following the release of a report into the handling of children in detention; a report which was her statutory duty to prepare and release.

It was not what Gillian said nor the many supporters that have come to her defence, it was the grace with which she faced a public trial at Senate Estimates. It said to people everywhere, you may be called names, made to feel uncomfortable, attacked even, but you always have the power to stand up to those who would rather see you fall over.

Gillian amplified the courage and conviction we all need to touch base with to endure hard times.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Patricia Arquette was accepting her Oscar for best supporting actress and had taken to the stage with message that transcends Hollywood.

Patricia passionately called “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America”.

It was a moment of great power and Patricia chose to use to amplify injustice, it was a call that heard throughout the world.

In a more intimate setting in Canberra last week, women of the Australian Labor Party paused to reflect on their contribution to politics and society.

Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader for the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the guest speaker, spoke of the history of women in the Labor Party movement. She read from letters about why women are to blame and told stories about women making it against the odds.

But it was a response to a question from a young woman who asked how she keeps going that drew applause.

“I just hate letting the bastards win,” Tanya said, revealing a steely resolve that fuels her drive to keep going despite the sexism she encounters every day.

But perhaps one of the most powerful moments was also one of the funniest, as our Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop answered a Channel Nine host populist probe of ‘What is a thermomix?’ with an emoji.

It tells us that when it comes to women and power we can be ourselves. Yes, be confronting, be graceful under fire, use powerful moments wisely, have resolve and determination, but do it with humour and authenticity.

These are but five women in the space of a week, but the force they apply to their rate of work on their chosen paths of advocacy, art, law, politics and foreign relations, helps to lift the work and voices of all women.

There is a common thread to their power – that they celebrate their self worth and remind us all that we define our own value.

This is the essence of power, not money, or fame, or popularity or position – for how we value ourselves, determines how we value and celebrate others.

And when women become powerful using their self worth as the driving force, it helps all women find power.

Listen out for women who speak to you or for you this week.

Feature image of Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop courtesy of Shutterstock.

Catherine Russell

Catherine Russell is enthralled by public affairs in Canberra and the world at large; the issues that impact people from all walks of life; start memorable dinner party debates; fuel politics; create our advocates; and drive social media commentary. Consultant, mother and partner Catherine presents the HerCanberra perspective on the headlines. More about the Author