PEOPLE WE MEET
I was born in Armidale, NSW and grew up on a small sheep farm. One of the recurring themes at my Catholic school was social justice. One time a former student came to talk to us about her experience living in Uganda and how she raised money through her family and friends to help send some girls she knew to school. Out of that she eventually recruited enough volunteers and donors to build a school, which is still going. That inspired me to think about the world outside of my town and want to do something to help people. I went to university in Brisbane and studied politics and Indonesian language. In my second year, I got involved in student activism when Australia joined the coalition to declare war on Iraq. I attended the huge protests to try and stop that. They are still some of the largest protests I have ever been to. In my last semester I went to study in East Java, Indonesia. I lived in a house with Indonesian students and attended classes at the local university. I made some great friends. It was eye-opening how friendly and warm everyone was to me. People I just met would invite me over for dinner with their families and I realised how in Australia we are much more reserved. When I got back I moved to Hobart for work and got involved in environmental activism. I joined in the campaign to stop the Gunns pulp mill, which would have polluted Bass Strait and destroyed native forests. It took many years, but the project was eventually shelved. It taught me how powerful a united community can be when it stands up to corporate interests.
I moved to Wollongong four years ago and began working for independent newspaper Green Left Weekly. During my time there we began experimenting with an online news channel. We realised that we could reach more people through video than through traditional print media. At that time, Wollongong writer John Rainford approached me about an idea he had to make a documentary about Wollongong's history - from strikes in the coalmines and the Pig Iron Bob dispute, to the current battle to stop coal seam gas. He originally wanted to do an oral history project, but then saw potential for it to be turned into a film. At first I was sceptical. We only had experience making short YouTube videos, and I did not know how we would manage to make a documentary. But together John and I started filming interviews, and I thought that even if it didn't go anywhere we could at least put these interviews on YouTube. Luckily, John was more persistent and teamed up with film editors in Sydney who turned our interviews into the documentary Radical Wollongong.
We launched the documentary last year and it got a great reception. I learnt so many stories about the city I was living in. Many in our audiences had the same reaction, they had no idea about the incredible events that have happened in Wollongong, but it is important that we remember them. The film we are working on now is to tell the story of the campaign for women to win jobs at the Port Kembla steelworks. I couldn't believe that in 1983, the year I was born, women were still being refused work there. There was a real boys' club culture that BHP did not want to touch. It took a courageous group of women to change that. They took BHP to court and tested the new anti-discrimination laws, and won after 14 years. Some of the women went on to work at the steelworks for more than 20 years. Their case set a precedent and forced a lot of workplaces to make changes. It meant that younger women like me didn't have to face the same level of discrimination at work.
It is such an inspiring story, with all of the elements of a great movie which is the reason we want to make a feature film, not a documentary. The team behind Radical Wollongong is working on it, and the script is being written by Robynne Murphy, one of the original women involved. We launched the Jobs for Women project in Thirroul in May and the response from people has been great. Lots of women who were involved in the campaign have got in touch to give us input and suggest people we should interview. We have already raised $15,000 and are trying to make the $25,000 target by the end of June. To raise money we are holding a screening of Radical Wollongong at the Thirroul Community Centre on June 20 at 3pm.