Around 600 women are expected to attend a special event in Brisbane in May which seeks to celebrate women’s stories, facilitate conversations and build stronger communities.
The Circles of Life Women’s Forum, to be held on May 14, is the brainchild of Carol MacArthur, a past pupil of Lourdes Hill College, Brisbane.
Carol said the annual event, now in its sixth year, has become a popular gathering for women of all ages and from many backgrounds to hear the stories and insights of speakers from diverse walks of life. Each gathering also features entertainment from some of Brisbane’s best musicians.
“I think that the success of the Forums is due to the community loving the opportunity to be involved in something that is personally beneficial and at the same time inspiring, and it’s locally established and presented in the community,” said Carol.
“As a community we love to hear stories of life in all of the different facets – highs, lows and achievements, and we love to feel like we are in the personal space of the speakers.
“I also think the involvement and support of popular local identities Kathleen Noonan [from The Courier Mail] and Kelly Higgins-Devine [from ABC Radio] is wonderful for Circles of Life. They are both very proud and keen to be involved, and their involvement gives Circles of Life a great profile in the community.”
Good Samaritan Oblate Peita Ward has attended the last three Circles of Life Women’s Forums and said she would “definitely” be attending this year.
“The Women’s Forum is an amazing event,” said Peita, a teacher at Loreto College, Coorparoo.
“My colleagues at Loreto and I love going to it. There’s always a real buzz during the evening and it is a great credit to Carol and her hard-working team who put it together and ensure its success year after year.”
Peita said that every Women’s Forum she’d attended had been “different” and “excellent”.
“The speakers sometimes are unknown to the general public, but their life stories and achievements always make for compelling listening. Carol always chooses speakers from different backgrounds, but they always hit the right note with the audience,” she said.
Peita remembers her first Forum experience in 2015 which included Dr Kellee Slater, a leading Brisbane liver transplant surgeon, Dr Kirsty Wright, a forensic biologist specialising in missing persons and disaster victim identification, and Prudence Melom, a young refugee and winner of the 2013 ABC Heywire Award.
“The calibre of these speakers and their messages ensured I would return each year after that. I have not been disappointed!” said Peita.
Speakers for the 2018 Women’s Forum include Murrawah Maroochy Johnson and Hugh Mackay, who will explore the theme “Our Land”.
Murrawah is from Wangan and Jagalingou country in Central Queensland. She is a spokesperson, community organiser and campaigner for the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Family Council who are fighting to stop the Adani Carmichael coal mine proposed on their traditional country. In the last few years Murrawah has received a number of awards for her work, including the 2017 Bob Brown Young Environmentalist of the Year award and the 2017 Ngara Institute Activist of the Year award, which she received jointly with her Uncle, Adrian Burragubba.
Hugh is often described as Australia’s leading social researcher. A psychologist, social commentator and prolific writer of both non-fiction and fiction, he will publish his nineteenth book this month, entitled Australia Reimagined: Towards A More Compassionate, Less Anxious Society. Hugh has received honorary doctorates from a number of Australian universities for his extensive research and contribution to Australian society, and in 2015, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.
Kathleen Noonan, a columnist at The Courier Mail, has been involved in the Women’s Forum since its inception, and will return again this year. In a similar style to her long-running weekly column “Last Word”, Kathleen will share some of her insights in what has become a regular segment for the Women’s Forum, “And Another Thing!”.
Peita Ward said she always looks forward to hearing Kathleen’s “often gritty and brutal observations about the injustices in this world”.
“She includes touches of wry humour and insight and always leaves us thinking. She challenges us on how we too can make a difference in the lives of others and the steps we can take to right the wrongs we come across in our everyday lives,” said Peita.
Like Peita, Good Samaritan Sister Ursula O’Rourke has attended many Circles of Life Women’s Forums and is looking forward to going this year with her community of sisters.
Ursula said Carol’s capacity to make connections with people from all sectors of the community and encourage them to get involved is a significant factor in the event’s success.
“It’s grown like topsy, the whole thing. She’s got a very good team around her,” said Ursula.
“She’s got a great gift I think for enabling people… She taps into such a diverse group of people. Some of them have been past pupils of Lourdes Hill [College] and some have been those she’s known through the [broader] community. It’s a really diverse group.”
Carol is grateful for the support of many women who have generously given of their time and talents to make the Circles of Life Women’s Forum a reality. In particular, she refers to the support of the Good Samaritan Sisters in Brisbane.
“I’m terribly grateful to those women who have encouraged me, and it’s that encouragement that’s got me to where I am, really. They’ve had faith in me and they still have,” said Carol.
“I got a message from one of [the sisters] the other day. [It was] lovely. The little one or two-liners can just kind of make you last the distance a bit longer and that’s what makes the difference. And a lot of that’s come from the Good Sams to me.”
Money raised from raffles at the 2018 Circles of Life Women’s Forum will be donated to the Good Samaritan Foundation, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, L’Arche Australia and the Murri Sisters Association Inc.
The evening will begin at 7:00pm on May 14 at the Greek Club, South Brisbane. Tickets can be purchased at https://charitydos.com.au/do/21613 or at the door. For more information visit Circles of Life QLD.