International Women's Day 2018 holds special meaning in Maitland

GO GIRL: Maitland mayor Loretta Baker, 2017 Citizen of the Year Amorelle Dempster, and Paterson MP Meryl Swanson. Picture: Marina Neil
GO GIRL: Maitland mayor Loretta Baker, 2017 Citizen of the Year Amorelle Dempster, and Paterson MP Meryl Swanson. Picture: Marina Neil

IT was always going to be difficult to get some of Maitland’s busiest women in one photo.

But, with International Women’s Day returning on Thursday, it was worth trying, to acknowledge the contributions of women locally.

The city is represented in local government by mayor Loretta Baker and deputy mayor Sally Halliday; in state government by MP Jenny Aitchison; in federal government by MP Meryl Swanson, and by its 2017 Citizen of the Year and slow food advocate Amorelle Dempster.

“I’m always cognisant of the fact that on International Women’s Day, it doesn’t mean that we want to be men, or that we want to even be like men,” Ms Swanson said.

“I’m a particularly feminine person but I stand in my femininity as a place of strength, and femininity is incredibly strong.

“For the first time in my life, I actually see a groundswell of movement, bigger than what we saw perhaps even in the 1960s and1970s because now it’s got that gravitas.”

For Ms Dempster, International Women’s Day is all about equality, diversity and an acceptance of all women in whatever role they are in.

“We all have met with disadvantage in terms of our careers but I think it can go two ways,” she said.

“You can either take the positive stand of ‘I’m not going to take that, I’m going to actually achieve my dreams’. Or, you can let it define you, and I have certainly not let that define me.”

I’m a particularly feminine person but I stand in my femininity as a place of strength, and femininity is incredibly strong.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson

As Maitland’s first female mayor, Ms Baker said the progress of today was built on the foundations of those who went before.

“I need to put my hand out and pull those younger women up and let them know to reach for the sky,” she said.

“I think our job is to help [young women] get there and pursue those dreams and those opportunities.

“We’ll do whatever we can to break down those barriers and get those doors open.”

Being a member of parliament was a natural fit for Ms Aitchison, who decided long ago she wanted to make a difference.

“It’s not enough just to get women into positions of power,” she said.

“It’s about actually doing everything we can, all of us, every day, to make a difference to the lives of women.”

This story Women leading the way in Maitland first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.

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