Between parenthood, study at the University of Sydney, talks around the country and launching my tenth book, I was pretty remiss on blog updates this year. Here’s some of what I was up to:
– My most read blog this year was Manus Island – An Insider’s Report, which helped to break information to the public about the murder of Reza Barati. I owe a debt of gratitude to the brave contacts on Manus Island who risked a great deal to provide me with information for the blog and assist with other reporting, including the unmissable Four Corners report, The Manus Solution.
– This year I was honoured to host a series of interviews at the Sydney Opera House ‘All About Women Festival’ with extraordinary women including Alison Bechdel, Illwad Elaman, Mona Eltahawy. (Next year I will be speaking at the festival on March 8 with Germaine Greer, Rosie Batty, Anita Saarkesian, Jane Caro and more.)
– I launched my tenth book The Fictional Woman at the Sydney Writers Festival in May and toured the country for over four months, speaking at schools, universities, businesses and writers festivals on equality, body image, loss, miscarriage and modern parenthood, women’s representation, gender and what I call ‘fictions’ – limiting stereotypes, myths and tropes, many of which originate centuries ago and are still perpetuated in our oft-repeated classic stories. I also narrated the audio book version for those who prefer to listen to books, and those with visual impairment (It runs at 9hrs 42mins and can be found here.) The Fictional Woman became a number one non-fiction bestseller and started conversations around the country. Thank you so much for your support. When we support books on equality, feminism and humanitarian and social justice issues, particularly by local authors, we make it possible for authors to publish more on the topic and make it feasible for publishers to support issues that matter. Your support makes all the difference.
– One of the many issues I discussed in The Fictional Woman was sexual violence, including some of my own experiences; an issue that connected strongly with people of all walks of life around the nation. I had the privilege of having many readers share their deeply moving stories of survival with me this year, and I also had the opportunity to speak at fundraisers for Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, and at their 40 year anniversary celebration, where I got to learn more about their important work and decades of experiences on the frontlines of sexual and domestic violence in Australia.
– Many viewers also shared their stories with me after I appeared on Q&A at the end of May and spoke publicly about my experiences of sexual assault and rape for the first time, and about the ‘toxic silence surrounding this issue…silence protects the predators. It also shames the victims. It also robs us as a community of the tools to be able to support people adequately when these things happen to them.’ The full program and transcript can be found here.
‘I want the viewers at home to know – some of whom might be going through something of this at this moment – that you will get past this, this too will pass, you are brave, you are strong and you do not need to be silent.‘
This moment in the episode (above) was chosen as the Q&A Highlight of the Night, and was recognised as one of the Top Ten Milestone Moments on the program for the year. I received thousands of messages of support after the program, on email, Facebook and Twitter. I will endeavour to respond to each one, but I realise there are some messages that may have slipped through the cracks. Your messages, sharing and trust mean a great deal to me, and carried me through. Thank you. (As a side note, there were the inevitable online threats after the program aired, but I won’t be silenced. No person, regardless of sex, race or sexuality should be subjected to illegal threats. If it happens to you, know that you have rights. It is illegal to threaten a person with death or rape, or to encourage a person to kill themselves, online or otherwise.)
One thing that really struck me is that when I spoke out this year I was called ‘brave’. This was not my experience at the time of the assaults, or during the trial. I am acutely aware that the level of support I received after speaking out is not the experience for 99% of survivors of intimate violence when it occurs and in the weeks, months, and years that follow, as I wrote here.
– As I mentioned above, I did a lot of talks this year. Highlights included talks on The Fictional Woman introduced by the legendary Dale Spender at the Brisbane Writers Festival, Benjamin Law at Melbourne Writers Festival, Julia Baird at the Sydney Writers Festival, Karen Pickering at Readings, and more. I also had the opportunity to speak at a number of universities including UWA, Deakin and James Cook. In June had the privilege of speaking at my university, the University of Sydney for Sydney Ideas with my doctoral supervisor Professor Elspeth Probyn and fellow PhD candidate Paul Priday. An audio recording (1hr 22mins) is available at this link.
– As UNICEF’s national ambassador for Child Survival I continued to work with UNICEF on a number of advocacy initiatives and fundraisers this year, with 2014 marking 25 years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. One of our biggest priorities was upholding child rights in the face of ongoing conflict, famine, aid cuts and the prolonged detention of children in Australian immigration detention centres. I have great respect for UNICEF’s tireless advocacy for some of the world’s most vulnerable.
– As a family we continued our vintage caravan adventures this year, (and vintage clothing adventures – My second most popular blog was the vintage style blog In Defence of High Waists and Low(er) Shoes) visiting some beautiful Australian towns and even purchasing a second vintage Viscount caravan. Vintage caravanning is a fun, affordable way to take family holidays. Plus, it’s like a charmingly kitsch cubby house on wheels for kids. Little caravan escapes with my family helped me cope this year.
– Thank you.
There are many people to thank for their support year, most of all my friends and family, but I’d also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the many people who have been working on the frontlines of social justice issues all year, particularly Karen Willis and the team at Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, Dr Norman Gillespie and the team at UNICEF, Victorian of the Year Rosie Batty, Police Commissioner Ken Lay, Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison, Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja and Tom Meagher. I salute you. I also salute the countless others who work behind the scenes, unrecognised for their work.
I’ll be honest. 2014 was a very rewarding year, but also a challenging one. I will remember the loved ones lost this year – including our friends Martin Harrison and Stella Young – as well as those who are still struggling in hospital, the brave souls who opened up their painful experiences to me on my tour for The Fictional Woman, the privilege of having a voice, of being published in a very tough market where most authors are out of work, the support from friends and family, my university, my publishers, and you, my readers. Thank you for this privilege.
Wishing you and yours a safe and beautiful holiday season. Bring on 2015, I say. x