International Women's Day Event Welcomed Vibrant and Diverse Panel

Latest News, Thursday, 09 Mar 2023

“Today was frankly the best IWD lunch I’ve ever attended. It was a joy to watch the student performances and hear the inspirational stories of your speakers.” Luncheon attendee, Ms Colleen Keating, Archdiocese of Brisbane.

The St James College community came together to celebrate International Women’s Day by welcoming a diverse vibrant panel who voiced their journeys and provided strong advice on how to “Embrace Equity”, the 2023 IWD theme. Compered by Principal Ann Rebgetz, the panel of special guests included the following individuals:

  • Grace Nanyama, St James College Captain.
  • Agnes Lunani, mother of Grace Nanyama.
  • Keiriana Dargin-Clark, St James College Vice-Captain.
  • Ana Hatherley, Lawyer, Corney & Lind, and Chartered Accountant - Corporate Taxation.
  • Yvonne O’Neill, Member, St James College Advisory Council and Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Firehawks Brisbane.

Event reflection by Principal Ann Regbetz:

International Women’s Day IWD Celebration - St James College Extraordinaire 2023 At St James College International Women’s Day lunch today, with over 300 participants, the program featured diverse female dance troupes – First Nations, Samoan, with a riveting choir, and other ensembles, closing with a very heartfelt choir rendition of “She’s a Woman” by Noella Wiyaala. This set an atmosphere of unique diversity and an embracing of strong spirit of empowerment.

IWD was celebrated with a very diverse vibrant panel voicing their journeys and providing strong advice on how to “Embrace Equity” the 2023 theme. It really was apparent that although Australia has progressed that it still ranks 43rd on the Gender Gap Index with Iceland being No 1 and New Zealand being in the top 10. This must be balanced with the voice of women from Iran and Afghanistan, whom we have in our community, where freedom and basic human rights for women are being denied. Australia particularly needs to focus on economic / pay areas, science, mathematics, engineering and technology occupation/skills gaps, and political/board representation gaps. In addition, to crack the code of the equity gaps, we need to challenge the stereotypes, and all feel comfortable in our own skin in diversity of identification.

Speakers on the panel included Agnes Lunani who was very clear about her journey from poverty to support herself and her family. As an African woman, coming from Kenya, eldest of eight children, Agnes worked hard in Kenya, to save money to gain an education, and provide for her parents, and have some ownership. Her message around marriage partnership was one of empowerment, not control which she experienced. Agnes emphasised that the control model of relationship was destructive, and so important to have freedom and ability to achieve vision. Agnes came to Australia in 2015, paying for herself, and then was able to get her three children here. Her message was strong – “Break the Norms, Bring Change in Community” through education, vision, walking with the right people, choosing wise mentors, overcoming obstacles whatever is in your way.

This theme was strongly supported by Yvonne O’Neill, Vatican famed artist, educator and Australian Women’s Rugby League team player, whose beginnings in Western NSW in small indigenous community, who called for all to be a narrator of their own journey, to not be intimidated by unconscious bias, and saying no to the wrong influences. Yvonne spoke passionately of the role models who influenced her, being the strong women in her family, and how anything is possible if you focus on it and believe this can be your story. She also questioned all the women in the room as to what is their superpower? For her, it is being a woman of colour and being able to lead.

Keiriana Dargin-Clark, College Vice Captain reiterated Yvonne’s sentiments, calling out for others not to be afraid to take the lead, and focus on what they can do to take people with them “from the back” – she is very passionate about encouraging others to have a voice, as exemplified by her being chosen to represent Qld in the National Schools Constitutional Convention in Canberra, as well as being part of National Indigenous Netball Team due to tour Europe / England.

Grace Nanyama, College Captain and daughter of Agnes Lunani, was very clear about her directions - she spoke of her mother’s guidance and drive to see her as an educated independent young woman who will strive to achieve her vision. Grace articulated the need to always look to improve herself and how she matches herself against the best form of herself, not against others. Grace spoke of the challenges and how many teachers had influenced her to overcome obstacles, and have her achieve heights she thought were not possible.

Ana Hatherley, lawyer from Corney & Lind, who is also a qualified Chartered Accountant, was compelling in her journey arriving as a refugee from El Salvador, not being able to speak English and having the challenge of family adjustment, and then striving to gain the best education. Ana also outlined her journey as a humanitarian focussed lawyer, how hard it is to take time out to have four children, and then reconnect with being a lawyer, with others progressing quickly. Her talk was inspirational in encouraging others to achieve their dream, and break the stereotype!

The lunch had a broad audience, commencing with our Year 11 and 12 students, Year 9 student leaders as ushers, Year 11/12 Hospitality classes in table service and cooking, with other students in performance, many of our female and male staff, parents of our leaders, tables of students/staff from St Laurence’s College, The Murri School, Hymba Yumba School, key academic leaders from UQ, GU, QUT, ACU, USQ. In addition, we were thrilled to Have Mr Neil O’Hare, and many from EREA office and community services, Edmund Rice Foundation – Jason Bongers, great supporters Technology One, Macksey Rush Architects, Rotary, Helen Donovan St James Advisory Council, Special Counsel Lawyer, Lander & Rogers, McInnes Wilson Lawyers, QPASST Chair, QCEC Education Director, Qld African Communities Council, Australian Tourism and IT College, Engineers Australia, MCA, Catholic Leader and ABC guests.

It was a privilege to Have Aunty Fran and Ms Tate Williams (Principal) of Hymba Yumba Independent School Springfield. Furthermore, we had 60 Japanese Year 9/10 students who had just arrived from Japan for an exchange tour “Konichiwa”!

Overall, the following comment from one of the guests Ms Colleen Keating, Archdiocese of Brisbane:

“Today was frankly the best IWD lunch I’ve ever attended. It was a joy to watch the student performances and hear the inspirational stories of your speakers. The food and service was so very well done, even down to the smallest detail of having a student greet me in the car park and lead me up to the auditorium. It gives me great hope for the future.”