Knitting Nannas or Sisters in Arms?

“I think it is interesting that you can`t un-see something once you have seen it.”

So said Sarah Gavron, director of the movie Suffragette; the story of Emmeline Pankhurst and other women activists who in the 19th century took up the fight for women’s suffrage; “political equality and equal rights with men”. She was of course speaking of the revelation which dawned on those who were prepared to listen and acknowledge the truth of the inbuilt prejudice and injustice of a social system which discriminated against the female half of the population in almost every way.  This recognition has led to improvements, but to this day, is often honoured more in the breach than the observance.

Gavron goes on to say that once this state of affairs is seen, “it is almost untenable to keep living the way you are − or not to join in the fight once you realise there is a fight you can join”.

Is there a fight Aussie women can join today? Are they doing so?  It is a question easily answered if you live in places like Gloucester, the Manning Valley, the northern rivers of NSW, many parts of Queensland. Here you could hardly miss the powerful female presence in the fight raging across the country. No longer is this a fight for suffrage, but for the soul of this country where the struggle is between the forces of exploitation of our natural resources at any cost, and those who have an alternative view of how to live in and with the natural world in a harmonious and sustainable way.

This female force is something to behold, and while we men are certainly equal partners in the struggle, we are somewhat in awe of the dedication, the intellect and the persistence of our sisters in arms. This takes many forms, from the leadership of community organisations like Groundswell Gloucester, which takes delegations to both State and Federal ministers and works tirelessly for the wellbeing of the Gloucester Valley and its people, to the ubiquitous ``Knitting Nannas`` who, perhaps, personify this powerful grassroots force working for a more just and intelligent way of regulating the way we live in, and care for, our world. These strong women have seen where our present culture of exploitation has led us and will not rest till we mend it.

We came to this land as conquerors, who saw it and its people as things to be subdued and brought under subjection, failing to recognise an existing culture which had sustained its people, and the environment, for many thousands of years.

While we have much to be proud of in what we have built in little over 200 years, there is no doubt that many parts of Australia have been, and continue to be, savagely exploited with little regard for the sustainability of their soil, water resources, sacred sites, flora and fauna and the physical and psychological wellbeing of the people who live there.

We could do well to acknowledge the wisdom of the First People of this land, and learn to tread more lightly upon it. And these women are leading the way in doing just that.

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Greg Doepel

Greg Doepel is a parishioner of St Joseph’s Parish, Gloucester.

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