A celebration of the contribution of women to our community was held at the Daylesford Town Hall on Thursday, March 4.  The International Women’s Day Heather Mutimer Women’s Honour Roll, which was launched in 2005, announced three new inductees, Frances Fiddian, Betty Johns and Verena Doyle.

International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievement, raises awareness against bias and advocates action to achieve gender equality. Speakers at the event emphasised the importance of small changes which build upon the achievements of those who have come before.

Daylesford College Captain, Lucinda Lowe spoke at the IWD event and had a sisters’ moment with Bianca Chatfield afterwards.

Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt said the IWD was a chance to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going. She noted that “if you look around this room (the Town Hal) and the Council Chamber, all of the portraits are of men. That reflects the historical situation but since the Shire was established 24 years ago, only 6 of the 24 mayors have been women. Now, in this council, four of the seven councillors are women. So things are changing and the women who will be inducted this evening are examples of how that change has occurred.”

Bianca Chatfield, former Australian netballer, was the guest speaker at the event. She spoke about the incremental changes that she and her teammates worked to achieve during her time with the Australian team both in terms of recognition and remuneration. “The Choose to Challenge theme for International Women’s Day this year is important. You can choose to let your life go by and choose not to challenge and choose to look in the other direction,” she said. “But there comes a time when you have to stand up and fight for change. But you can’t do it on your own. When the people who go before you step aside, you have to be ready to take the next step with confidence that others will carry on after you.”

She also encouraged people like the IWD Honour Roll inductees to keep telling their stories, “because the stories of the past are what drives us into the future.”

MC, Cr Juliet Simpson then told the stories of the women who were inducted into the Honour Roll.

Frances Fiddian was inducted into the IWD Honour Roll for her service to the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia (NMAA). As a young mother she was supported by the NMAA and later became involved initially as a volunteer but gradually increased her involvement to eventually became the national President in 1979. She served on the national executive of the NMAA for six years from 1977 to 1983.

Betty Johns grew up in Old Hepburn, attended Hepburn State School and later trained in nursing at Daylesford Hospital and later the Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. She married in 1953 and had thirteen children. Because of their financial situation, she combined family responsibilities with part-time work in an era without child care non-existent and married women were barred from work in most government and private workplaces. Betty has volunteered for many local organisations including the Daylesford Community Brass Band, the Blood Bank, the MS Op Shop, Hepburn Primary, the Hepburn Football Netball Club, ANZAC and Remembrance Day events, Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens, the Love your Sister campaign and many more. She has more than proved that women are capable of working, raising a family and volunteering in their communities.

Verena Doyle trained in nursing and worked at Daylesford Hospital. She later did a BA (Rural Social Welfare) and worked at the Creswick Hospital while raising a family of three children. Verena has been inspirational in her work with Scouts Victoria and volunteering at the 1st Creswick Scouts. She opened up scouting to girls so that they could enjoy activities that were not then available to Girl Guides. She set up the first Creswick Venturer unit, which was initially an all-female unit, and a number of Venturers have achieved the Queen’s Scout Award. She currently works as the Mataranka Scout Camp in Goldsborough, the only Victorian Scout Camp dedicated to environmentalism.