SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Zelda D'Aprano: Local Hero

Click image for greater clarity

'Don't be too polite, girls. Don't be too polite!' That was the advice of Zelda D'Aprano, women's rights warrior, on receiving what proved to be one of her final awards - an Honorary Degree from La Trobe University last year.

Zelda died in February at 90 and today was the occasion of the celebration of her life in the packed town hall of the 'People's Republic of Brunswick'.

Click image for greater clarity

At the town hall I learned that this modest working class woman, who had been full of fear in 1977 about publishing her autobiography (above), had been nothing short of a dynamo. She had been a communist and foundation member of the Women's Liberation movement here in Melbourne. She was an impassioned Unionist, and as such the subject of the iconic image, in the tradition of the British Suffragettes, of a woman chained to the railings of the Commonwealth Building. Zelda was the recipient of numerous awards for her achievements over her lifetime and had mentored and inspired generations of young female activists. All this and I had known so little about her!

I came to Brunswick to honour her because we had briefly crossed paths three years ago, and she had always stayed in my mind.

The occasion of our meeting was the 'Inspirational Women of Yarra Awards' for International Women's Day 2015 held in another town hall - this time Collingwood. I was there to support my friend and fellow activist against the dud East-West Link, Rosie Elliott. But the East-West Link turned out to be not the only dud that day. At this point I am going to heed Zelda's advice and not be too polite:

For one thing, the MC of the Awards was the Yarra mayor, who was male, which seemed a most inappropriate choice for an IWD event.

Also even though the list of nominees read like a Who's Who of exceptional local women, none of them was given the opportunity to speak. As I put it back then in my post (and in my complaint letter later to the Yarra Council): 

Click image for greater clarity

The nominees, handpicked as they were by their communities, and embodying the richness of multi-cultural Yarra, remained an utterly untapped resource. I was intrigued to read about the variety of their preoccupations and contributions in the programme, but as they or their delegates were never given the opportunity to speak,  I went away from the event none the wiser.

 Zelda D'Aprano, pictured above with Rosie, was one of the nominees. She was a leader in the Women's Liberation Movement and played a central role in the fight for equal pay in the 60s and 70s. We were only treated to a brief taste of Zelda's wise and feisty observations when she spoke from the floor. What a missed opportunity!

Click image for greater clarity

Click image for greater clarity

It was because of that missed opportunity back then that I was thrilled to hear all about Zelda's astonishing life from people who admired and loved her today. But there was another reason too that brought me to Brunswick.

Zelda reminded me of my mother, Pat Perry, who was only 3 years older and died last May. Mum was also a highly intelligent woman from working class Carlton, who had to leave school early to go to work. She was a Communist in her youth and volunteered as the first female Air Raid Warden during WW2. She too always worked hard on behalf of women, including a long stint as Treasurer for the Women's Electoral Lobby.  

With my mother's anniversary imminent, I was very comforted today to learn more about Zelda, another woman I greatly admire. Both of those 'ordinary' women lived extraordinary lives. 


Blogger Unknown said...

I know Pat was extraordinary and it sounds like Zelda was cut from the same cloth. It is fantastic and so important for our daughters and sons to be surrounded by such 'ordinary' women!

10:00 PM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

Hear hear! And thank you for your comment. Here's to ordinary women everywhere.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Zelda and Pat, both missed but with inspirational lives to be celebrated.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

Thank you so much for your comment! It means a lot.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Lindab said...

Thanks Sue, a wonderful tribute to your mama and Zelda is indeed a woman you’d want to name one of your girls after eh? Wow. May what she stood for live long and proud and ever adapting towards progress.

2:13 AM  
Blogger RosieMay said...

A great story,told so well, weaving threads together of our lives. Thanks Sue. Vale Zelda RE

2:35 AM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

Thank you Linda and Rosie. You are 2 extraordinary women yourselves!

5:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home