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© 2019 by Wendy Stiles Photography

Yarraville VIC | wendy@wendystiles.com | 0403 814 430

Women Who Fight With Grace

Women Who Fight With Grace, is a project for women who don’t give up, keep fighting and do it with dignity and grace.

 

Featured are portraits and real stories about women who have experienced or witnessed injustice and discrimination and have something to say about it. It's not only to raise awareness but to empower, inspire and help women learn from each other so we can be stronger together.

I'm using my passion for photography to connect women and tell our stories. Because the truth is, it's not something we talk about . . . The REAL stuff that makes us stronger.

This is Helen, founder of Infinite Possibilities. We had an amazing chat over a cup of tea for the Women Who Fight With Grace project. This is her story . . .

 

“I experienced prejudice in the work place because I'm a mother and grandmother. 

 

A new business opportunity and extra financial rewards were given to someone I worked with who didn’t have children. When I questioned how I can have the same benefits I was told: ‘You have a family so they are more important to you.’ Of course my family are important to me but they never affected my time or work. Many times I even changed or cancelled family commitments or events to fit in urgent work so I was furious at this comment.

 

Since leaving that job I’m now much happier and working towards helping people improve their lives through conversations that are missing in life today - good old fashioned face to face communication over a cup of tea or coffee. I love seeing someones face light up when we are discussing something that has been troubling them and a solution has presented itself. When they see the light at the end of the tunnel that they couldn't see before - it makes me so incredibly happy.

 

Something I’ve noticed through my work is the lessening of value in our society of life experience as a valuable thing. I've found that this has been undermined and unless someone has a "piece of paper" with their name on it you are often viewed as worthless.

 

I’m fighting to change that. I believe people are valuable to society regardless of what qualifications you "should" have. I also stand for not conforming to the status quo of what society and others think something should be like.

 

I would like to tell other women out there that they are very valuable and that nothing should come in the way of them being women, mothers and grandmothers. I encourage them to question anything that limits them in any way.”

- Helen

This is Elaine. She is a vibrant and talented lady that was unfairly dismissed from work after her son was born. This is her story . . .

 

This image may not represent the story you’re about to read but it certainly does represent her fun, open and resilient personality. 


“My dismissal was conducted in the most humiliating manner - at a meeting in front of everybody in the room. I was told there was no need for me to be there anymore because I was still lactating. My boss said since I was only working part-time and no longer full-time I wasn’t of any use to them anymore. Needless to say nobody else was made redundant - just me.

I was outraged. I was considered ‘useless’ because I had become a mother and ‘lactating’. I was spoken to and treated without any respect or regard, after working there for almost 8 years. 

When I discussed this with a trusted colleague, after the meeting, she said that surely I understood it was the ‘culture’ of the place to be spoken to like that, and to just get on with it.  

This was several years ago. I’ve moved on and work for myself now in my graphic design business but it never really leaves you. I went onto enjoy a successful career elsewhere, but it does make you think that you may never want to work for someone else again.

I can’t change any of this now but for anyone going through anything remotely like this I want you to know my one true regret was never doing anything about it. I had my reasons as many women do - it’s a vulnerable and tiring time with a baby at home so to have to deal with this as well can be too much but get some support and fight back with whatever might you have. It’s not ok. You deserve so much better!”

- Elaine

Jaye was made redundant while on maternity leave, took it to court and won. This is her story . . .

"I worked as an Operations Director at a large market research company. Whilst on mat leave (three months in), I received a letter notifying me of my new reporting lines and new title, which was effectively a demotion. So I raised my concern with HR and started to do some 'keeping in touch days' back in the office as apparently there was a restructure happening – which no one told me about until after I received the letter. I was due to return to work in early July 2014, and before this I submitted my flexible working request to work reduced hours for three months. My request was rejected and I was subsequently made redundant. My role, however, continued for some time with my male replacement who was later promoted to a new position. 

I challenged this decision, first at Fair Work, and then later in the Federal Circuit Court. The judge found that the company had breached the General Protections Act three times in handling my redundancy and finally awarded in my favour. 

I don’t know if there can ever truly be justice in these cases, but at least I got the moral victory in the end. It did come at a price, as it was an extremely stressful, expensive and long road to travel. I'm currently pregnant with my second child and I'm so proud that I stood up for myself. Hopefully the little girl growing inside me won't have to deal with this kind of crap in her lifetime. Companies need to be held to account for mistreating and disadvantaging parents in the workforce. I truly hope that the two and half years I spent fighting this issue will help show other parents who are unfortunately in a similar position to what I was, that you can stand up to the big guys and have your voice heard. It’s important to know your rights in the workplace. No one can take them away from you. We have to get better at this stuff."

- Jaye

This is Mia. She saw an injustice and people who needed help so she stood up and did something about it. Here is her story . . .

“I started the charity West Welcome Wagon after I saw on facebook that a friend had been to visit a household of asylum seekers. I was surprised and curious that there were asylum seekers living nearby, as we live in a fairly affluent part of Melbourne. I contacted the organisation involved and was told that a household of young men fleeing persecution and recently arrived into our community was living nearby and needed some help with basic household items. On asking ‘what items’ I was told ‘literally everything’. I put a call out on our Buy Swap Sell site at around 10pm asking for donations and the next morning the post was alive with offers. By 10am that day I couldn’t open my front door from the volume of goods. Mattresses, sheets, kitchen items, even a huge box of fresh food and flowers in a vase. What immediate and abundant generosity! What caring and community spirit! We loaded the ute, bundled in the toddler and went delivering.

They were Iranian, barely into adulthood, had spent years in Australian offshore detention camps, terrified, traumatised and alone in the world. They were 6 to a unit in West Footscray, rotating use of the single bedroom day and night, on the hard floor, in their only change of clothes. They had no rights to work, no rights to study and were paying private rental with no prospect of ever having the money to buy furniture if they even knew how to go about doing that. Their status was ‘asylum seeker’, not yet ‘refugee’ and as such were falling through the cracks. No system of organised support existed to meet their needs for basic goods. And there were other households like them around, our neighbours.

I jumped back onto facebook and started a page to mobilise action. There was plenty of interest. We held a public meeting and invited representatives of all the organisations involved in the lives of local asylum seekers. We wanted to know what help was currently available and what was still a gap. We heard there was a need for furniture, clothing, food and English lessons. But most of all, for a hand of friendship. Well, our community was up for all of that! We had so much and so much was going to landfill. Before long we were receiving referrals from other agencies of all types, and arranging a system of receiving, preparing and delivering items. First it was done from my front porch, then it rapidly outgrew that space. The size of the need was staggering. But so was the generosity. That first year we delivered over 500 beds!

I am so glad and grateful that my children got to come with me on this journey. To learn about other people and cultures and to have some little appreciation for how lucky we all are. And to really see how community can come together to uplift.”

- Mia

This is Beatriz De Larrazabal and her daughter. She is the founder of Beatrize Co. Collections and this is her story . . .

Although Beatriz has achieved her dreams of becoming a fashion entrepreneur that’s not where she started. Even though her passion had always been buried in fashion, she knew what a competitive and fierce industry that was so she first pursued a career in science and became a successful medical scientist!

However, that inner desire to build a fashion empire never died. She persevered and worked towards her goals, making use of her design skills, creative imagination and hard work (and a few sleepless nights). As a result, Beatrize Co. Collections was born.

While working in the fashion industry was a dream come true for her, it got her thinking: “How can I use this platform to help others?”

Her compassionate nature was largely nurtured during her upbringing. She was born in the Philippines. Her father was the part-owner and distributor of a food chain and was able to provide a comfortable life for Beatriz and her two younger siblings. That life was disrupted when her father began receiving death threats and blackmail. In 1991, he made the decision to move his family to Australia in order to provide a safer life for his children.

Upon her arrival in Australia, Beatriz noticed how drastically different life was compared to the Philippines. There were no children begging on the streets, no cardboard houses and no toddlers looking after younger siblings on the side of the road. At that moment, Beatriz realised that there were places in the world where children were taken care of and where life was worth living for everyone, not just the privileged.

She made the promise to herself then that when she was able to stand on her own two feet, she would do whatever she could to help children have a better chance at life. While she knew she couldn’t change the world, she could give her support to those less fortunate.

Through her success as a fashion entrepreneur, she now uses her platform to provide work and aid to families.

On the surface, Beatriz Co. Collections is known for beautiful handbags and other fashion products. Underneath, though, its founder is using her own success to support ChildFund, Greenpeace Australia and Kaisahang Buhay Foundation to make the world a better place for the children in it.

- Beatriz

This is Renae. She's is an amazing intelligent woman and mum to two gorgeous girls and this is her workplace story . . . 

“I worked 4 days a week as a Project Manager prior to going on mat leave. I'd been there 2 years and had great feedback from clients and management and good relationships with my colleagues. I was very excited to go back after 12 months off but while I was away, there were changes in management. Our new Operations Director decided that there were no longer part-time project manager roles available and advised if I wanted to come back to work it would have to be full time.

 

There was a lot of back and forth over a few weeks which included a phone interview with this new ops director where I had to sell myself and my experience as he had no idea who I was. In the end it came down to me either going back full time or accepting a package. I knew what they were doing was illegal as I was entitled to return with the same working conditions that I left with. But in the end, I was pretty hurt and angry with them and felt I'd be better off taking my chances with the package rather than work for a company that treats loyal staff like that. I wasn't the only part-timer who was forced out of the business.

 

Ugh, still make my blood boil just thinking about it!”

- Renae
 

Meldalina and her workplace story . . .

 

“My redundancy wasn't while on mat leave. I had been back at work less than 6 months. I was newly promoted to a role and then got pregnant. I went on mat leave, was off for about 9 months, came back part-time and then had to take leave again for 6 months, because of child care issues.

 

I went back to work part time, got pregnant, went on mat leave and was back at work after 6 months. So over a 2 year period in the new role I had been on leave over half the time and part time for the rest. Then there was a restructure and we all had to reapply for our jobs, 10 people applying for 8 roles.

 

I didn't get a role, was never going to get one. I just couldn't compete with people that had been in the role full time for the last 2 years, they could speak to previous projects they'd worked on etc. It wasn't blatant discrimination, I don't think, but it was a perfect example of how the system just doesn't consider the impacts to women when we have kids.”

- Meldalina

We all have a story to tell.

Let your story inspire others to be the change that needs to happen.

Speak out so your children can one day live where people are treated equally.

 

If you want to be part of this movement that inspires goodness, love for one another and change please get in touch or show a friend that might be interested.

Take Action

Women are made redundant when they're on maternity leave at an alarming rate. It's a huge issue in Australia.

It happened to me and I continue to hear loads of similar and worse stories to mine so rather than sit by and do nothing I started this change.org campaign.

The petition addresses unfair redundancy payouts for primary care givers.

Please take some time to read it and help by signing and sharing it!

https://www.change.org/p/the-hon-scott-morrison-fair-payouts-for-women

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