"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."
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. The late Aunty Joan Hendricks acknowledged the traditional owners and custodians of the land. 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. The inclusion of our indigenous community members and local school girls 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 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 back by popular demand the engaging Kathleen Noonan returned with a short new segment 'And another Thing'. This was the beginning of a very popular ongoing involvement in our forums for Kelly and Kathleen.
Since then we have hosted many forums with varied formats, including a high tea and afternoon nibbles.
Our speakers have been many and varied, including comedienne Jean Kitson, TV personality and women’s crusader Tracey Spicer, surgeon Dr Kellee Slater, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, refugee and racial advocate Prudence Melom, psychologist, sociologist and reporter Hugh Mackay, forensic biologist Kirstie Wright, Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Taylor, engineer Diane Ames, Indigenous Elder Charles Passi, survivor and inspiration Donna Thistlethwaite, and 2017 young Environmentalist of the Year Murrawah Maroochy. We have been aided by Murri Elder Karen Dorante as guest MC.
We have been entertained by wonderful choirs and talented musicians such as Astrid Jorgensen, Audra McHugh, the Combined Catholic Girls’ Schools Choir, Emma and Tony Dean, Sam Treby and Adelina Martinez, and Soul Song Choir.
Since 2014 we have extended an opportunity for a broad range of charities such as The Good Sams Foundation, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, L’Arche, Murri Sisters and Micah, to be involved in the event benefitting from the funds raised from raffles and giving them exposure and involvement with event attendees.
Now into 2020 and we have been halted in our tracks – along with the rest of the world.
But 2021 is an exciting prospect so watch this space!
Carol – “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."