By Judith Graley
MEMBERS of the Southern Women’s Action Network (SWAN) are compiling the story of the group’s history of more than 26 years of social activism.
SWAN was founded by a group of Mornington Peninsula women looking to learn more about the justice issues facing women and working together to bring about social change.
Over the years SWAN boasts an impressive roll call of activism. For example, members have campaigned for the release from jail of Heather Osland; organised an Islamic women’s fashion parade; and marched in rallies to promote human rights, to protest against family violence and to support asylum seekers.
Founding members Val McKenna and Maureen McPhate said they would sometimes join marches in Mornington, wearing a SWAN badge and dressing in purple, white and green. They also wrote letters to the media about social justice issues.
Bi-monthly meetings featured more than 150 inspiring women and such guest speakers as former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner AC; domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty AO; former Chief Police Commissioner Christine Nixon AO APM; and Victorian Women’s Trust executive director Mary Crooks AO.
SWAN has remained true to its original objectives.
“There is a forum; justice and equity issues are still actively promoted; women’s active participation in community decision-making has surely been increased as women take up the battle in various ways,” Fran Rule, another founding member, said
Diane McDonald, who is leading the book project, said SWAN was a unique group run for more than a quarter of a century by women volunteering their time to enable local women to meet, to learn about social justice concerns faced by women from all walks of life and to become actively engaged in supporting women’s causes.
The focus on empowering women to make a difference continues to this day. Members participate in human rights marches; write letters to MPs on various social justice issues such as family violence and youth criminalisation; and advocate against racism and inequality.
SWAN is pro-actively supporting the key reforms of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including the enshrinement of an Indigenous voice in the Australian Constitution.
Women have commented that attending SWAN meetings was important to them, as they not only learnt new things but also formed long-term friendships. It has truly played a significant role in the lives of many local women.
It is so important that their SWAN journey is recorded with our book. We have collected a lot of material from many members and speakers, but we are still looking for more recollections women may have from attending our meetings.
If you would like to share your SWAN experience or would like to come to our next guest speaker event email: firstname.lastname@example.org