The founder of Circles of Life, Carol MacArthur,

 had an idea early in 2013 to start a forum which would bring together the community to listen to stories from inspirational and motivational women.  

It also enabled people to simply meet and to have a chat!  Thus, the Circles of Life commenced with its aim of bringing together the community to help celebrate our achievements, to push through adversity and to realise the personal benefits of contributing to our community - to find and feel comfortable with our place in the circle of life. 

 

On 1 May 2013, the inaugural Brisbane Women's Forum demonstrated this resourcefulness at several levels: We heard from three speakers;

 

  • Di Fingleton (former Chief Magistrate),

  • Kathleen Noonan (Columnist The Courier Mail) and

  • Professor Cindy Shannon (Pro-Vice Chancellor Qld Uni)

 

They shared their experiences of triumph in the face of adversity but were especially effective because they were women from the local community who everyone could relate to and identify with. Aunty Joan Hendricks (Mother of Professor Cindy Shannon) acknowledged the traditional owners and custodians of the land. From the outset it was important to include the indigenous community in the women’s forum night, as it is the core from which we build. In attending to the community focus of the event, local girls’ colleges were invited to assist with welcoming and ushering, and to provide musical entertainment. This was an essentially important aspect of the coming together of the project.

 

Despite no advertising budget, 650 people attended the forum – across all ages from all over Brisbane - with standing room only. There was an incredible energy in the room. People found the theme, 'The Resourcefulness of Women in the Modern World', accessible and inclusive. It spoke to them. This created a cocktail of goodness that left people asking for more. So more we gave them.

 

On August 27, 2014 The second Women’s Forum was held at Lourdes Hill College, where the guest speakers were:

 

  • Suzy Wilson (Founder of The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Queensland Local Hero of the Year 2014, Owner of Riverbend Books and Tea House),

  • Mary Rose MacColl (Novelist and columnist QWeekend Magazine) and

  • Rhianna Patrick (ABC Radio, Indigenous Radio)

 

Each shared their stories of the resourcefulness in their own lives. The MC for the evening was the fabulously and encouraging ABC radio presenter Kelly Higgins-Devine and Aunty Joan Hendricks acknowledged country. By popular demand the engaging Kathleen Noonan (Last Word - The Courier Mail) returned with a short new segment 'And another Thing'.

 

Keeping focused on the community, in 2014 we extended an opportunity for a broad range of charities such as The Good Sams Foundation, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, L’Arche and Micah, to be involved in the event, these charities benefited from the funds raised from raffles on the night and facilitated charities an opportunity of exposure and involvement with event attendees. Our theme for the forum was coming together as a community, to listen, to learn, to care, be enlightened and to support – “Helping Disadvantaged Women and Children on our Community”.

These evenings have provided a platform for women in the local community to connect with each other in a warm environment and celebrate all our individual triumphs and laugh at our stumbles along the way. It fostered a conversation that supported success without resentment. It also facilitates the opportunities for both charities and attendees to connect. The evenings have been recorded and plans have been forged with Kelly for segments to be played on ABC radio. From the research we have carried out we know that the community is both energized and excited at the prospect of more Women’s Forums, so more we are giving them.

 

I am amazed by the response of the wider community to the Women’s Forum and I am encouraged by the enthusiasm of previous speakers to continue their contribution to future Forums, particularly the support of Kelly Higgins-Devine of the ABC and Kathleen Noonan of the Courier Mail. I am extremely proud to collaborate with Suzie Wilson and Joan Hendricks in support of their fabulous contribution to the Indigenous community."

"Sometimes, when you plan something, it takes on a life of its own and becomes much, much bigger than just a sum of its parts. That’s what happened back in 2013 when the small seed of an idea for a women’s forum was formed."

Carol MacArthur

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