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International Women's Day Fundraising

We were honoured to have once again been selected by The Drinks Association as their charity partner for their annual International Women’s Day event, which is hosted by their Embrace Difference Council.


Isabella Harris (2018 Scholar) was invited to speak at the lunch, where she captivated the audience with her story of the challenges she had faced growing up and how Women’s College provided both a haven and platform for her growth and development into the incredible young professional woman she is today.

 

The event raised over $12,000 for the Katrina Dawson Foundation. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Drinks Association and its members, as well as the industry Embrace Difference Council. We are incredibly grateful for their support.


You can read Isabella's inspiring speech below:


Good Afternoon,


Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, I ask you to herald it as a marker for our collective commitment to creating opportunities for education and knowledge to inspire inclusion for not only women but all marginalised peoples. As we hear Fiori’s inspirational story today, we are reminded that storytelling is central to our human connection and that these connections build relationships that can empower and heal.


Thank you Nikki for that lovely introduction and for inviting me to this event today. As a current ambassador and previous scholar of the Katrina Dawson Foundation, I want to acknowledge the instrumental impact the foundation and Katrina’s family have had on my story through their endeavours to champion young women to flourish. Over the course of my journey, the Katrina Dawson Foundation has become so much more than an organisation to me - they are extended family. To bring context to why I have been invited to speak with you, it is important for me to share some anecdotes of my story, which will also reference my experiences of domestic abuse and its impacts.

I am here today as a female, woman, scholar, feminist, designer, storyteller and a victim-survivor of domestic abuse. I am also here today because I, in the words of Isaac Newton, “have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Giants who have inspired me, lifted me up and supported me on my journey.


Whilst my story is unique in its own right, it is also unfortunately not dissimilar to that of many women and children locally and globally who experience domestic abuse and live in fear every day. And whilst I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been born and raised in a regional town with a strong and generous community, the fact is that, in the face of domestic violence it presented many real and challenging problems, such as minimal access to support, no emergency housing and physical isolation from family and friends. At the age of 13, my mother and I were able to forge a new life for ourselves in our regional town, but the results of this trauma affected my health. I developed multiple autoimmune diseases which impacted my mobility and daily cognitive functioning, endured high levels of pain and regular hospitalisation, often hundreds of kilometres away from home. The unseen mental and physical illnesses, as a result of these experiences, continue to journey with me today.


When I left my hometown of Mudgee in 2018 to attend The University of Sydney to study architecture and become a resident of The Women’s College, I teetered on a vulnerable edge - one of trepidation and excitement, but above all, one filled with potentiality and opportunity. The Women’s College turned out to be a very special space; a place of understated purpose, an enabling space of personal and academic growth, of connectedness and friendship. It was a place of welcome and inclusivity, as it’s philosophy focuses on where you are going, not where you have come from. When I reflect on my time at The Women’s College, I do so with deep gratitude, as there is something quite enchanting about the corridors and the stories they hold of the generations of women, who have created the wonderful narrative, tradition and culture of the college and what it represents; that being together we can achieve great things and I feel privileged to be part of that narrative.


Arriving in that space, at that time, was the direct result of not only my dedication and work, (yes, I did have a part to play) but of the support of my giants; my grandparents, migrants who took great risks to create possibilities for change - my mother, Kate, who has modelled strength and resilience every day despite the adversities we faced. She is the most incredible woman I know. She prepared me for a life of hard work and kindness and encouraged me to dream big. She is the reason I am the strong, healing and determined individual I am today. She envisioned a future for me filled with opportunity, beyond the life we had. The reality was that while she was able to give me enduring love on that journey, she was unable to financially support me taking that next step in life - moving to Sydney and attending University.


And the Katrina Dawson Foundation made it happen. Their continuous work and determination to be change makers for young women, supported behind and in silence by generous donations, has built a family legacy that shifts motion to action. Action that has been life changing for many. The generous financial support I received through scholarships over my time, enabled me to reside at The Women’s College and the moral support and skill development I received through the mentoring programs, particularly my mentor Samantha Sayers, has been invaluable in navigating my journey.


The Katrina Dawson Foundation has created a community of inclusion and security whilst facilitating personal growth and independence. Over the past seven years, I have attained diverse goals, which have exceeded my imagined expectations through the opportunities and tools the foundation has provided. Amidst the Dawson family’s own personal tragedies over the years and in celebrating the life of Katrina, these giants have selflessly summoned personal courage to pave an equitable road for me toward success, lifted me up high beyond my world to view the possibilities ahead and provided an inspirational legacy of hope to strive for personal and professional success every day.


We all have a story to tell, and I acknowledge that the spaces of my story may not resemble the same beginnings for all of you or the same view from where you are sitting today, so I ask you to focus on what brings us here together today - the collective commitment to action to create and inspire inclusive opportunities for healing and learning for women. We are reminded that our stories are never independent endeavours - we all have stood on the shoulders of giants. When we embrace connections, it presents an opportunity to be a giant; to share knowledge and skills, create opportunity through generosity and build strength for someone else to navigate whatever lies ahead. Let us always be reminded to be giants to others, the creators of empowerment, for all women we encounter, wherever that may be.


Thank you.




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