#BOSS women killing it in their fields

Anecdotes from women who choose to take up space, be outspoken and command attention for impact and change....

In light of International Women’s Day, Western Sydney Community forum hosts their ‘Voices of the West’ event to showcase inspiring and #BOSS women various industries, walks of life, ethnicities and experiences.

Through their ‘living library’ sessions, guests conversate with influential women and speakers including United Nations Association of Australia President, Dr Patricia Jenkings; and 2016 Woman of the year for NSW, Jen Armstrong. Through their own individual journeys, they have created a positive and impactful life for themselves and others through their work.
Let’s meet them!

‘Living library’ sessions at the event. Credit: Western Sydney Communoty Forum

Meet Rosemary Kariuki-Fyfe, a multicultural community liaison officer for the NSW Police

Credit: Western Sydney Community Forum

Coming to Australia as an asylum seeker in 1999, Kariuki was forced to flee her native Kenya after tribal clashes. She was filled with despair at having to leave her children behind, but used this as a driving force to work harder for herself and her family.

Despite the difficulties she faced in finding a job with no certifications in Australia, she never resolved for the ‘easy’ roles or generic jobs. She knew she had more to offer and refused to settle for less.

“I knew how to fight for myself from the beginning” Kariuki says.
Despite her personal and social battles and barriers, she now supports the NSW police force and links them to minorities and people who speak English as a second language.

Based on her own life experiences, she emphasises the importance of women in power and believing in your own inner voice despite external pressures and struggles.

“When a woman is in power, they pass their voice and message to other women”, she says. She exemplifies this in her work ethic, now helping hundreds of African women settle into Australia from their home countries through her work.

Just as she once battled isolation and despair upon arrival in Australia, she now helps other women work through this and places them under her wing through her career.

Meet Billie Sankovic, Chief Executive of Western Sydney Community Forum (WSCF)

Credit: Western Sydney Community Forum

Prior to her work at the WSCF, Sankovic previously worked in industries such as working with local and state governments, that placed her a lone woman in a room full of high-profile men. Attending meetings, she felt that she was dismissed and belittled as the ‘personal assistant’, or simply ignored.

She admits that it sometimes took her male colleagues to defend and stand up for her in these instances.

“It took their voice to legitimise my credibility” Sankovic says.

Sankovic enabled situations like this to fuel her passion for women’s rights, as well as her own voice. Particularly, she has spent 30 years working across Greater Western Sydney and now leads WSCF to shape policy and services in Western Sydney.

As a voice for representing the people and services in the Western Sydney region, she reminds us that today is our opportunity to bring our collective voices “from the west to the fore”.

Meet Jen Armstrong – founder of her charity + woman of the year

Credit: Western Sydney Community Forum

Jen Armstrong is a living testimony of how small, kind gestures can have great impacts.

It started off when she received a $20 body wash after leaving a place of domestic violence, that sparked incredible change in her life.

Through this seemingly minor gesture by a community network, she started a charity called Beauty Bank, which provides victims of domestic violence with essential toiletries and small gift items. She started off in 2013 by asking her friends for toiletries on Facebook, which grew into distributing over 8,000 bags around Sydney through generous community donations.

This is why Armstrong discourages the “shrug” mentality when it comes to making individual impacts and changes to things happening within your community, the nation and worldwide. Every single tiny thing helps, she adds, emphasising how small gestures can make big changes.

These are just a handful of anecdotes from women who choose to take up space, be outspoken and command attention for impact and change- despite being told or persuaded otherwise. Whilst the day for celebrating women is only held once a year (unfortunately), these women are few of the many examples of females making an incredible impact every other day of the year.



Sydney Fringe Festival expands to Liverpool and Parramatta

The recent addition of western Sydney hubs to the Sydney Fringe Festival, through partnering with Liverpool and Parramatta City Councils, has emphasis...

The recent addition of western Sydney hubs to the Sydney Fringe Festival, through partnering with Liverpool and Parramatta City Councils, has emphasised the importance and potential of Sydney’s west for young creative-minded people.

“It’s about building a festival that suits your city.” Kerri Glasscock has a lot to crow about. As festival director and chief executive officer for the Sydney Fringe Festival over the past five years, she’s overseen its transformation from a collection of sporadic events marketed together into the largest independent arts festival in the state. This year has seen the biggest, most ambitious program to date and audiences have responded in kind.

This success in part comes from an honest self-acknowledgement. Sydney is not Adelaide or Edinburgh, where a range of international creatives can successfully monopolise a city small enough to be traversed on foot. Sydney Fringe, by odd contrast, is a markedly local affair. 80 to 90 per cent of the acts performing throughout September are based here. Artistic hubs are established across different locations including Chippendale, Darlinghurst and Kings Cross.

Starting in 2017, the move to bring Sydney Fringe Festival to the western suburbs was part of recognising the barriers for performers who don’t live in the inner city. “Instead of expecting artists to come into the city to perform, we should enable and empower western Sydney artists to perform on their own home turf,” Ms Glasscock said.

“While Sydney Fringe Festival started in the CBD and the Inner West, we are Sydney’s Fringe Festival. We aren’t the inner city Fringe Festival. There is so much more to our city than the ten-kilometre radius around the CBD,” she added.

Every Friday throughout September, the Parramatta CBD has hosted a range of western Sydney artists. These have included Serwah Attafuah who is most well-known as the guitarist from the uncompromising Aboriginal metal band DISPOSSESSED, along with the Hills District DJs from the Bodega Collective and the scrappy Aussie hip-hop duo Slim Set.

In Liverpool, the Fringe has taken over Northumberland Arcade and the Macquarie Bistro for six nights from September 20-22 and September 27-29. The lineup has been curated by Nisrine Amine, a co-founder of the Parramatta Actors Centre. It only took her two days to fill the program, after drawing on her existing network in the local community. It’s fair to say they’ve provided, with excellent acts performing including comedians Lauren Bonner and Kevin Jin, indie roots singer-songwriter Theodore Kidd, and slam poets Elliot York Cameron and Emily Crocker.

Cultivating the local artistic community in Sydney’s west is seen as part of broadening the conversation of keeping creative minded people in Sydney. Ms Glasscock has been at the forefront of working with regulators and politicians, advocating year-round for the local creative scene. She openly acknowledges that life for a young creative trying to cut their teeth in Sydney is incredibly difficult, due in part to high commercial and residential rents, and the overall cost of living.

Part of changing this, she says, is seeing the potential in Sydney’s west. “Liverpool is fantastic. It has more affordable housing, more affordable commercial leaseholds and a supportive council that wants to activate their community.”

Ms Amine agrees, and argues that breaking down the imagined border between inner and greater Sydney is an important part of continuing to build a creative community. “First, you have to strengthen the community itself by encouraging and empowering young creatives. The second step is integration, instead of seeing western Sydney as separate. If events like this keep being a novelty, then it won’t become part of the norm,” she said.

“I don’t want people coming out to the Liverpool Hub to think anything different to if they were leaving a venue in the Cross or in Surry Hills. I just want them to come and watch the way they’d watch any other show.”

Ms Glasscock’s tenure as Festival Director ends in 2019. Despite her realistic attitude to the challenges of pursuing a creative career in Sydney compared to other capital cities, she retains a unabashed passion for the potential of the city.

“What’s great about Sydney is that we have so many people from different places. The largest portion of our population in greater Sydney weren’t born here. They come from regional, inter-state, overseas, different places. That’s what makes this city so exciting,” said Ms Glasscock.

“Yes, people come to Sydney to take a photo of the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge, but they want a Sydney experience that comes from all the culture that bubbles underneath. They want to find those secret spaces, see local stories and hear local voices. That’s the real potential of Sydney.”

Story by Toby Hemmings