International Women's Day awards at Meroogal


On 18 March 2017 we acknowledged twenty-two women of all ages, who are living in the Shoalhaven, for their contribution to community through culture, sporting groups, health, well being, heritage knowledge and preservation.

It was an opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank individuals for their passion, commitment and enthusiasm in a wide variety of organizations and projects. The International Women's Day (IWD) awards, now in their twentieth year, are funded and presented by Sydney Living Museums through our house museum, Meroogal, located at Nowra.

We were welcomed to country by Aunty Ruth Simms OAM, who is a previous IWD award recipient and has been working in education for over forty years. She also reminded us how important it is to have family support, community involvement and to care deeply and actively for our environment.

Historian Robyn Florance OAM told us about two little known, but significant late 19th Century Shoalhaven artists Maggie Fleming and Gertrude Lovegrove.

Then the IWD Choir, led by Christine Rigg, and dressed in suffragette colours purple, green and white, sang  'You don't speak for me',  a protest song written by Australian Judy Small, and 'Blessing'.

Mayor Amanda Findley spoke about the important work women do in the community, and how support from men and children is vital if equality is to be reached.

Mayor Findley presented the 2017 International Women’s Day to recipients as follows (in alphabetical order):

Anita Barry, Lilly Boland, Wendy Bolt, Margaret Britton, Pam Burridge with Roz Johnston, Leanne Colley, Julie Anne Danser, Dianna Day, Janie Hamilton, Gemma Hart, Dawn Hawkins, Veronica Jean Husted, Lisa Johnson, Trish Kahler, Tanya McGeachie, Naomi McKelvie, Monica Mudge, Margaret Ogle, Jo Power, Margaret Simoes, Joanne Szczepanowski and Kim Waters.

The event was moving and meaningful, and made more so because each of the recipients told us a short story, and gave insight into why they were nominated and, more broadly, some of the really important issues in our community.

Here are a few of their stories:

  • Margaret Simoes, Aboriginal Community Development Officer at Shoalhaven City Council spoke about her research into the previously unacknowledged contribution Aboriginal Peoples made to the World War I effort for the ‘In Mem.ory’ exhibition and her continuing cultural work in the Shoalhaven area.
  • Julie Anne Danser has been providing services to people who are grappling with addiction to ice (crystal methamphetamine) and has been pivotal in operating the Shoalhaven Crystal Meth Action Group to combat the use of ice She was very moved to be acknowledged for her work, leaving us with an idea of the enormity of this problem and that it could be any of us who have friends or relatives who need support.
  • Pam Burridge, acclaimed surfer and World Surfing Champion (1990), and surf instructor Roz Johnston received their award for contribution to the communities health and well-being through the surfing instruction and general fitness services they provide for young and old.  Pam spoke about how difficult it was being a female surfer when she first began. She broke down barriers for many women who came after her to participate and succeed in this sport.

Finally, the day ended with tours of the house itself - Meroogal.

The day left all present with a resounding sense that it is the women who have broken down the barriers, who have gone out of their comfort zone to push for equality, plus the people who supported them, who have made all our lives more equitable today.