‘I’ve never wanted more, I just want the same’: Women speak out on IWD

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Monash College celebrated International Women’s day with inspiring speeches from powerful guest speakers, including keynote Melissa Barbieri, former Matildas' captain and veteran of four soccer World Cups.

One hundred and thirty staff gathered at our 222 Bourke Street campus under the UN Women’s theme of ‘more powerful together’, to hear about gender equality, supporting women suffering economic abuse and how women can be empowered through storytelling.

Equality in elite sport

Melissa, a proud advocate of women’s rights in sport, spoke about her formative experiences as a young woman in soccer, who faced challenges because of her gender right from the start. Finding a club that would let a girl play was a challenge, and she was repeatedly told ‘no’.

“When I was coming through the ranks I had discrimination,” Melissa said. “I’ve always been driven by the people who said I couldn’t do anything.”

As a professional, she quickly understood that things in elite sport were different for women. But that didn’t stop her push for equality.

“I’ve never wanted more,” Melissa said. “I just wanted the same.”

Melissa also placed a strong emphasis on the importance of education in breaking down barriers, and had positive words for our teachers.

“I always thought my power came from my muscles, but it actually comes from being resilient,” she said. “Education taught me that. I want to commend you for what you’ve already done in the education space.”

Economic abuse and the rights of womenSharon Whippy, Melissa Barbieri, Rachel Simmons, Julie Coleman smiling to camera

The College’s Executive Director of Product Development and Innovation, Rachel Simmons, spoke passionately about the importance of economic rights for women and the realities of economic abuse. Rachel is a member of non-profit group POWER (Protection Of Women’s Economic Rights), and highlighted Australia’s standing when it comes to gender equality.

Protection of women's economic rights need to be a top priority in Australia,” Rachel said. “We’re ranked 39th in the world in gender equality and have dropped from 15th since 2006.”

The good news is that we are rated number one for gender equality in educational attainment.

“Prevention is far more effective than cure,” Rachel said. “Education is so critical to breaking the cycle”.​

Storytelling and female empowerment

Fellow colleague Senior Learning Content Designer Sharon Whippy presented on a film called Vai, which she collaborated on with her sister and a team of Pacific Island female writers and directors. Fresh from a triumphant screening at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, Sharon turned her focus to the importance of using your voice and platform to speak up for communities who don’t get mainstream attention.

“Stories aren’t just about the telling - they’re about being heard,” Sharon said. “Vai has given space to us to tell our story our way.”

Sharon also thanked the College for its support throughout the challenging creative process, which necessitated writing workshops and a location shoot in Fiji in order to bring the project to life.

This hour of inspiration and enlightenment left its mark on the audience and presenters, and will serve as a reminder of the work done so far to bring gender equality to the education space, and the work that remains to ultimately reach the goal of a fair Australia.