Annual General Meeting 2015

Wrap-up by Karin Holzknecht, Communications Worker

Debate_panel_2015The wonderful debaters and MC Nelly Thomas. Photo by Sally Camilleri

Thank you to everyone who came along to Women’s Health West’s Annual General Meeting for 2015, held on Wednesday 18 November at Footscray Community Arts Centre.

We were very proud to look back on our achievements of 2015 and to launch our annual report and the new strategic plan. Congratulations to all the deserving staff and to departing board member, Peta Olive, who were awarded for their hard work, positive attitudes and length of service.

Following the business of the annual general meeting, we hosted a great debate (as per our tradition) on the topic Feminists must unite against racism. Part of the fun of the debate is that some speakers are required to take sides on the statement that they don’t necessarily condone. MC Nelly Thomas introduced the topic and facilitated the debate with charm and aplomb. You can watch the whole thing on Youtube, or cut out the in between bits and watch shorter videos featuring each speaker. We also published a Storify of the event.

Kon Karapanagiotidis speaking ‘for’ the topic

First speaker for the affirmative team, Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, argued that feminists must unite against racism by saying that for feminism to reach its full potential, it must recognise the profound importance of race. When mainstream feminism stands alongside its sisters of colour, Muslim sisters, refugee sisters, in solidarity and as equals, “that is the most unstoppable force you could possibly ever imagine”. As Nelly Thomas summed up: “Feminism is the shit”.

Tasneem Chopra speaking ‘against’ the topic’

First speaker for the negative team, Tasneem Chopra, Chairperson of both the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights and Lentil as Anything, argued that feminists should not unite against racism, saying that conflating issues of feminism with racism only serves to confuse the issue: “If we decide to merge these issues, we’re doing exactly what ‘they’ want us to do. Merge and diminish”.

Karen Jackson speaking ‘for’ the topic

Second speaker for the affirmative team, Karen Jackson, Director of Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit at Victoria University, argued that feminists must unite against racism by talking about the many ‘bands’ of feminists out there, and the potential for these groups to unite against racism. She said feminists are “creative political engineers” who can of course unite, save the day and push back racism.

Celeste Liddle speaking ‘against’ the topic

Second speaker for the negative team, Celeste Liddle, author of the blog Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist and the current National Indigenous Organiser for the National Tertiary Education Union, argued that feminists do not need to unite against racism, because feminism isn’t even united on its own goal yet and the strength of the movement is in it being a space of vibrancy and discussion. She also spoke about the nuances of racism meaning its not a single scenario feminist can unite against. Nelly Thomas summed up: “A united feminism would be boring”.

The debate ended with a vote by popular applause, which went to the negative team. Who do you think won the debate?