Women as Agents of Change – Queens Birthday Reception

On Tuesday 14th June I had the absolute pleasure and honour of speaking at the Queens Birthday Reception in Government House Adelaide.

Each year His Excellency the Governor Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce and his lovely wife Mrs Liz Scarce host a reception in honour of the Queen’s Birthday. The reception takes its theme each year from that of the Queen’s Commonwealth Day Message (HM The Queen’s Commonwealth Day 2011 Message) and a guest speaker is invited to address the Reception before all of the guests are invited to explore the public rooms of Government house with delectable food and drink.

This year I was that speaker and I find myself in very good company with last year’s speaker having been Professor Tanya Monro, Director, Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, The University of Adelaide. I can freely admit to feeling very out of my depth – in fact I ‘Googled’ examples of the correct dress code just to be sure I wasn’t completely under or over dressed for the occasion!

I had a wonderful night and my speech was well received, the Governor and his Wife are really genuinely lovely people and I feel very honoured to have been personally requested by the Governor as this year’s speaker (The Governor heard me speak earlier this year @ Government House & invited me based on that experience).

Attached below is a copy of my speech.

His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC CSC RANNR, Governor of South Australia & Mrs Liz Scarce with little old me in the middle!

Hello & Welcome.

I’d like to thank his Excellency and Mrs Scarce for inviting & welcoming me here today and I’d also like to acknowledge the Honourable Gail Gago, Minister for the Status of Women & the Honourable Michelle Lensink, Shadow Minister for the Status of Women and all of you here tonight.

I’d also like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we meet on today and pay my personal respect to our elders past, present and future.

This morning I was driving from my home just outside of Monash, through the scrubland towards Lameroo and it was just at that time of morning as the sun starts to stretch itself out across the land. The Riverland and Mallee is a truly special place – much of the landscape isn’t the picturesque images we capture on calendars or postcards of Australia. It’s mostly scrub dotted with some farmland and yet I was struck by how beautiful it was and how lucky I felt to be able to see and experience that particular moment in time. I feel very lucky about a lot of things.

I feel lucky to be here and able to speak to you today. Lucky to be healthy and safe and to have a voice. Lucky to be a woman living in the country I do and the time I do. A lot of hard work has been done all over the world for many years before I came into the world. Hard work that wasn’t done for me but still is what has enabled me to be standing here today and I feel very grateful to be me, here and now. But I don’t want to talk about the past. I want to talk about the future.

Life gets busy, we all know this. Sometimes so busy we become stuck on survival mode living only in the here and now. And yet each day what we do here and now today contributes to what our tomorrow will look like.

I probably wouldn’t define myself as an ambitious person, my answers to questions like where do you want to be in 10 years time are probably incredibly vague. To some they mark me as a person who will never ‘achieve’ anything. And maybe they’re right. And maybe they’re not.

I don’t have a plan about where or what I want to end up doing in the future. Instead each and every day I make choices and take actions that reflect the kind of person I want to be. Yet even then I can’t exactly articulate what that goal is – who is the person I want to be?

The kind of person I want to be is a difficult thing to define – sometimes it changes although it’s deeply embedded in the values and worldview I hold so the changes are subtle and happen over time but it’s complex and dynamic – yet I’m always building it, I’m always creating it with every action I take or don’t take I continue to be myself and I continue to become myself.

I want to be the kind of person that offers something meaningful to the world. The kind of person who experiences life as frightening, confusing and painful but as deeply, deeply precious and worth my effort.

And so this leads me again and again to reflect on the world I’m living in– how do I live in the world? What do I offer it and what does it offer me?

I believe deeply and absolutely that our job as women – women as agents of change cannot be just to create a more equal world for the generations of women yet to be born.

Our job must be to create a world that values all people regardless of gender, sexuality, diverse ability, cultural or ethnic background or age. A world where being equal doesn’t mean being treated the same– if I begin here and you’re here and we are treated the same we won’t end up equal – but a world where each child, boy or girl is given the equal opportunity to embrace the world in the way that is most right for them.

A world where every child and every adult has the opportunity to make the best use of their talents and knowledge and is able to experience themselves as a precious and worthwhile being.

I believe that this vision can be achieved. Through both big actions and small. As I said, each day I make choices, choices about the kind of person I want to be, choices about the kind of world I want to build .

As women in this country and in this time we have the capacity to reach out to those around us in big ways and small. We have the capacity to advocate for and ourselves create equality and change through our networks and resources, through our votes and our buying power, our jobs and our voices. But I want to leave you with some smaller things to think about – things you can perhaps do tonight or tomorrow or next week.

I’ve been very lucky and blessed to have some amazing women and men come into my life at pivotal moments – moments when things seemed pretty dark. These men and women didn’t sweep away my problems for me or re-write my history – they saw me.

And in seeing me they saw something worth nurturing. This is something each and every one of us can do every day – look for people who need nurturing and offer them our time and our love. We can remember what it was like to be afraid, unsure, nervous and offer words of encouragement to a new employee, a child on their first day of school, a girl at the bus stop. We can smile at passers-by on the street. We can smile at ourselves when we catch our reflection in a shop window or passing tram.

What I’m saying is – we can be kind and we can be generous with the most precious gift each of us has to give – our time. I’ve always liked that quote ‘Remember that everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle – be kind to them’.

This is a small thing. A tiny thing. To be kind, to give a moment of your time to smile or offer words of encouragement.

But it is something that can have a far greater impact than you may ever realize.

I was 17 when I became a parent and one of the greatest gifts my father ever gave me was a simple gesture. I was deeply afraid of my parent’s disappointment and anger as I told my parents I was pregnant. My father reached out a hand and placed it on my wrist. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t do anything else. But it was enough.

Being an agent of change doesn’t mean you have to change the whole world by yourself today. Being an agent of change means each and every one of you has permission to be a catalyst. To be a new beginning or a fresh set of eyes for someone else. Being an agent of change means re-discovering the kind of world you want to live in, the kind of person you want to be – and all the passion you had for that vision before the world said it cannot be done.

It can be done.

Change does happen.

Once upon a time women were not allowed to vote….a lot has changed.

Thank you.

4 responses to “Women as Agents of Change – Queens Birthday Reception

  1. What a beautiful speech, alysha. I’m glad you posted it here (I know this is late, but I followed a link from your comment at the plain jane blog about the book of everything).


  2. I just stumbled apon your speech by accident and I just wanted to say that I found it to be very moving. Wish I could have been there to hear it in person! We share a common drive – to make a difference. It is good to be reminded of how many ways we can do this.

    – Tanya Monro


    • Thanks Tanya. I felt very honoured to be asked to speak at all. I’m glad you connected with what I was saying. Would love to hear about the work you’re doing too. Feel free to email me. 🙂


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