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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 5 May 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 5 MAY 2018 9 NEWS Celebrating Easter 2018 with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren (30 family members missing due to travel and other commitments). Calling out sexual harassment in the workplace Varvara Ioannou, founder of the FFTN, is continuing the very important dialogue and giving migrant women a voice in the #MeToo movement ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS Sexual harassment in the workplace is a tough terrain to navigate for victims, and when they happen to be from a marginalised minority, such as a newly arrived migrant or living with a disability, this is amplified ten-fold. Here is mum, with some of her great grandchildren. church Saint Nektarios. Our backyard was large and dad quickly grew vegetables for the family. Our house was constantly filled with visitors, laughter, and good times. Fawkner was truly a multicultural community and we lived in harmony with all our neighbours. On one side we had the Australian neighbours. We couldn't ask for better people. They helped us with the English language and guided us every step of the way. They even convinced dad to purchase a television set to help us learn English. On the other side we had the Italian family. Mum and dad would exchange homemade salami and vegetables over the fence and talk in broken English about their home lands. Further down there was our German neighbours. Once at war with one another now living side by side in peace. We were truly a wonderful community, always looking out for one another and celebrating together. We were extremely happy in our new homeland and mum always called it "paradise". She couldn't understand how anyone would get tired when they didn't have to chop wood and start a fire to cook their meals or keep warm. They don't have to wash everything by hand for they have washing machines nor do they have to go to fetch their daily supply of water. Jobs were in abundance and it truly was the ‘Lucky Country’. We had great opportunities here in Australia and we worked hard and prospered. Mum’s family quickly grew and continues to grow: there are 65 immediate members of her family, with 22 grandchildren, and 27 great grandchildren. Our family has multiplied and we all live in different parts of Melbourne but Fawkner is always home and mum is the heart that draws us together. We lost dad 12 years ago. His dying wish was to be buried in his beloved Greece. So mum and all of us children took him back and laid him to rest where he was born, in a village that he adored and never forgot. Mum, at the age of 98, still lives in Fawkner at the same address. She reads her Neos Kosmos three times a week and spends her time growing her vegetables and looking after her chickens. You walk with her in the garden and you feel peace and contentment. She calms us. Her life has been filled with wars and hardships and yet she is so positive, generous and grateful for everything she has. To this day mum says we are in the LUCKY country and very proud to be Greek Australians. Fawkner is the best suburb in Australia and Australia is the best country in the world. But Greece, our BELOVED Greece is always in our heart and in every fibre of our being. The Greek culture is just one of many that maintains gendered stereotypes, and so when women of the community find themselves in compromised positions, we can often see women secondguessing themselves, and, from habit, we are all often more concerned about accommodating male culprits than calling out unacceptable behaviour. To get the conversation going, and raise awareness about the processes in place to protect victims, and achieve justice, the Food For Thought Network (FFTN) hosted an insightful panel discussion at the Greek Centre on Wednesday evening. Championed by founder Varvara Ioannou and her team, the event commenced with a presentation by Natalie Hutchins MP, who holds a number of portfolios in the Victorian Government including Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. A supporter of gender equal- ity, she kicked off with a personal narrative of harassment while working as a 17-yearold in an Italian restaurant. This was one of many such instances familiar to and shared amongst the women gathered throughout the night. "Of course sexual harassment in any form is unwelcome behaviour because it's often offensive, humiliating and intimidating to women and quite frankly against the law," said Ms Hutchins. "Over the last year we've seen women unite in solidarity and sharing their experiences and demanding that the stories of sexual harassment and abuse at home, in our workplaces, on university campuses, in the public sphere, are dealt with seriously and believed." She touched upon the challenges women face in coming forward, and those in the public eye who are time and time again mistreated by the media, referring to the recent experiences of Melbourne City Councillor Tessa Sullivan who accused former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle of sexual harassment and assault. Minister Hutchins highlighted the use of gendered descriptors such as oversensitive, crazy, seeking attention, and the accusation of being on a witch hunt, all of which, she says, are strategies "to keep women's voices silent". Last month the Victorian Government launched a statewide program 'Respect Women Call it Out', a campaign encouraging men to call out the sexist behaviour of other men, which the minister praised as "a game changer". "It's so extremely important as women in our communities, in our workplaces, in our schools, that we stand up for other women when they come forward and we encourage our male counterparts to do the same," Ms Hutchins urged. To give attendees insight into the legal framework and support available, Senior Associate of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers' Social Justice Program Jennifer Kanis drew from her experiences in the field, and had one important piece of advice for workplaces: "Prevention is better than cure". Ms Kanis said it was vital to have cultural practices in place and policies from the very beginning, if, and most likely when, there is an incident in their workplace. But even before getting to the point of accessing the law, she said it was important to recognise and overcome social barriers that don't permit women to get there, and for them to feel comfortable to approach their workmates and bosses for support, to be able to act as soon as possible on the matter. Jen Hargrave, Senior Policy Officer at Women with Disabilities Victoria gave an eyeopening presentation, giving voice to the experiences of women with disabilities infacing sexual harassment. The fourth and final panellist was Gender Studies academic Professor Hannah Pieterman from Deakin University. She shared her experience of sexual harrassment when starting out as a young economist, and reflected on her reaction at the time to protect the reputation of the perpetrator. Fast forwarding to 2018, she praised the #MeToo movement, and its important role in raising awareness about women's lived experience, and in providing a crucial platform to share their stories. It was encouraging to see an audience made up of women of all ages and from all walks of life, including young women from Alphington Grammar who engaged with the presenters by putting forward their own concerns, one of them being the societal aphorism of "boys will be boys". Responding to this and adding to the discussion, was Federal Member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou MP. A former educator, she said it is important as part of the overall approach to turn part of the attention to young boys, and to listen to their experiences, to find out what makes them tick, and work through it as part of an inclusive education program in moving forward. "Until we start to understand the behaviour of boys and why they do what they do, and understand the peer group itself that they are shaped by largely, I think we're missing out on a big part of our broader understanding. And if we don't have that understanding we're not going to be able to respond in a way that will bring about long-lasting change," Ms Vamvakinou said. Each guest was treated to a pair of stud earrings, as a welcome gift upon arrival, lending itself to the general sentiment of the night, one of inclusion, support and understanding. To find out more about the Victorian Government’s ‘Respect Women Call it Out’ program, go to vic.gov.au/familyviolence/ family-violence-support.html The event was well attended by women from all walks of life.
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12 May 2018