Women leading by example

Annette Death.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has long been a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, while also marking a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. The theme for IWD 2024 is Inspire Inclusion, which two leading women in the west know all about as Jennifer Pittorino discovered.

As mum to two young girls, Macedon Ranges councillor Annette Death takes pride in being a role model for them and the next generation.

Annette was elected to Macedon Ranges Shire council in 2020 following a desire to be a “voice for our local community”.

In 2022 she was elected mayor for the first time and was re-elected mayor in 2023.

“I really enjoy being an active member of the community and after talking with different people, I realised these were some real key issues that people were concerned about,” Annette said of her decision to devote herself to local government.

“So I wanted to run for council to be a voice for our local community.”

Her time in local government has allowed Annette to demonstrate that women can succeed in leadership positions.

“I am very fortunate to be in a leadership position as a female because I feel you can lead by example,” she said.

“Being a female, many of my female friends have learned so much about local government through that process, including my children.”

Not many children get to watch their mum at work, but Annette has found bringing her girls, aged seven and 10 to work, a positive experience each time.

“I do think they know a great deal about local government that many other children wouldn’t,” she said.

“They’ve been able to join me at council meetings and come out to events and see me in public speaking positions.

“It’s really motivated them and inspired them to be confident in public speaking and to think about important local issues.”

Finding balance in life can be hard enough as it is, something Annette has experienced being a mum and mayor.

“There are cons that come with being in a leadership position with young children is really the caring responsibility,” she said.

“And also finding the time for my partner, because being mayor many of the events and meetings take place out of hours.

“…So it’s quite a bit of time out of the house in the evenings and on weekends.”

Out of the house at night has come with freedom in other aspects of life. Annette now has flexibility during the day which she has embraced.

“I’ve been available for school drop off and pick up which has been really nice,” said Annette.

“Something I haven’t been able to do in other career roles.”

Annette said the team at Macedon Ranges acknowledge that IWD is an opportunity to raise awareness around gender issues and promote the work that women are doing globally.

“Inclusion is a really important part of the gendered conversation,” she said.

“Particularly around intersectionality and thinking about how we can get people from a variety of different backgrounds and for it and different females from different cultures involved in all elements of our society.”

Annette said she has been fortunate to have been surrounded by many women in leadership roles during her career.

“A highlight for me being mayor, are the other female leaders that I’ve been able to meet,” she said proudly.

“At Macedon Ranges three out of four of our executive leadership team are women and I’ve been empowered by that.”

Learning and growing from other women in leadership roles, Annette has learnt to be kind to herself in her journey.

“Be kind to yourself. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you will make a difference,” she said.

“We can add layers of expectations when we’re in leadership roles around performing well.

“And then being a parent and being a partner it is really important that you acknowledge the great work that you’re doing because you can feel stretched across all those different roles.”

Passion for her community and helping women is something important to Melton resident and chief executive of Djirra , Antoinette Braybrook AM.

Renowned Aboriginal community controlled organisation Djirra delivers holistic and culturally safe family violence services to Aboriginal people who are experiencing family violence or have experienced it in the past.

“Djirra works with Aboriginal people across Victoria who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing family violence, over 98 per cent are Aboriginal women and their children,” she said.

As an Aboriginal woman leading a specialist service, Antoinette is treating IWD as a time to reflect on the lack of inclusion of Aboriginal women.

“There’s a long history of Aboriginal women not being counted or included through International Women’s Day movements and events,” she said.

“For me, IWD provides an opportunity to bring voice, visibility and amplify our unique experiences when it comes to family violence, incarceration and child removal.”

For more than two decades Antoinette has dedicated her time to Djirra, her true passion.

“I have been the chief executive for 21 years, this is my life,” she said.

“It’s not work as such. I always say Djirra is in my blood.”

The past year was a big one for Antoinette, with the launch of a new service in Melton, and the defeat of the Voice Referendum left her with a lot to reflect on.

“Since the failed referendum, I have decided that I’m not going to do things the same as I have done previously, this is a new way for me,” she said.

“I am going to focus on the six million people who voted yes for Aboriginal recognition and listening to us. I remain in the yes. Djirra remains in the yes.”

Looking forward, Antoinette has big plans for the future of Djirra and has faith that young women can follow in her footsteps.

“Through my career, I’ve had many incredible Aboriginal and non Aboriginal men and women support me in my journey to Djirra,” she said.

“One bit of advice is make sure you keep those people close to you, that you trust and who you know want to invest in you.

“Be strong in your culture and identity and never doubt that. Set some ambitious goals which will keep driving you forward.”

IWD will be celebrated at a wide range of locations across the west on Friday, March 8.