Athletes, community leaders and an erotic filmmaker: 10 women leading the way

Whether it be Gaye Pattison preparing to go live on ABC radio, Sinead Lang (front) flying above the skate rink, or Eliza Ault-Connell at the start line in green and gold, 10 Border and North East women featured in a MAMA exhibition are fearless in their pursuits. Photographer Nat Ord (back) has tracked down women who have paved the way for others. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
Whether it be Gaye Pattison preparing to go live on ABC radio, Sinead Lang (front) flying above the skate rink, or Eliza Ault-Connell at the start line in green and gold, 10 Border and North East women featured in a MAMA exhibition are fearless in their pursuits. Photographer Nat Ord (back) has tracked down women who have paved the way for others. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

Sinead Lang is a 15-year-old scooter rider who gives the boys a run for their money.

In fact, she beat 50 of them in the 2016 North East Skate Park Series as the only female competitor. In a crowd of skaters who don’t know her, Sinead receives the odd sideways glance. But those eyes pop wide open when the Beechworth teen hits the rink and reveals what she can do.

FEARLESS: Sinead Lang started riding scooters as a four-year-old. Now 15, she can call herself a North East Skate Park Series Champion, beating boys aged up to 25 as the only female competitor. She is pictured in Nat Ord's Rise! photography exhibition. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

FEARLESS: Sinead Lang started riding scooters as a four-year-old. Now 15, she can call herself a North East Skate Park Series Champion, beating boys aged up to 25 as the only female competitor. She is pictured in Nat Ord's Rise! photography exhibition. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

Sinead’s competitive streak is something Eliza Ault-Connell didn’t have at a young age – she simply loved sport. The fire came after she survived meningococcal disease and became a wheelchair racer, blazing through 10 national and international competitions in five years. The Albury mum will again don green and gold on the Gold Coast, 16 years after her first Commonwealth Games as a 20-year-old.

STRONG: Albury's Eliza Ault-Connell has made it into the Australian athletics squad for the Gold Coast Commonwealth games. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

STRONG: Albury's Eliza Ault-Connell has made it into the Australian athletics squad for the Gold Coast Commonwealth games. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

At the same age, Gaye Pattison already had years in the media industry under her belt. When she joined the ABC, issues like domestic violence weren’t touched, and there were women’s programs in the morning, because what else were all the housewives doing, right? Gaye was the first permanent female regional program manager in the 80-year history of ABC Goulburn Murray, and 2018 marks her 25th year with the organisation.

BOLD: Gaye Pattison celebrates her 25th year with the ABC in 2018. She is also a community figure, supporting not-for-profit organisations. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

BOLD: Gaye Pattison celebrates her 25th year with the ABC in 2018. She is also a community figure, supporting not-for-profit organisations. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

On the other side of the media spotlight is Morgana Muses. The former Albury resident recently featured on SBS, and a documentary about her is in the works. In 2012 she received the Petra Joy Award for first-time female filmmakers, supporting erotic films made with a female perspective front and centre. Morgana has received international awards for her work.

BOLD: Former Albury resident Morgana Muses' award-winning erotic films showcase the female perspective. Picture: NATALIE ORD

BOLD: Former Albury resident Morgana Muses' award-winning erotic films showcase the female perspective. Picture: NATALIE ORD

These four women – and six others – were brought together by photographer Natalie Ord for her MAMA exhibition Rise!

There’s Albury-raised AFLW star Gabriella Pound, mental health advocate Annette Baker, community and hospitality leader Jodie Tiernan, Wiradjuri elder Aunty Nancy Rooke, Sue Sheldrick – the first female captain of a CFA brigade – and Chiltern champion for the environment Eileen Collins. 

“The main goal of this project was to identify women from our region who are pioneers in their interests and to shine a bigger light on what they’re doing,” Ord says.

TALENT: Chiltern photographer Natalie Ord has photographed the 10 women for her exhibition Rise!. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

TALENT: Chiltern photographer Natalie Ord has photographed the 10 women for her exhibition Rise!. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

They are incredible women and don’t need to be spoken for. Thus, we bring you some of their reflections on International Women’s Day, in their own words.

Tell me about your greatest achievement and what kept you moving forward when the going got tough.

Gaye: There is no one single achievement. I’ve been fortunate to reach many personal and professional goals. Radio has a spontaneity like no other – you are in a privileged position of watching news unfold  almost like it’s history in the making. The listeners allow you into their world and more often than not you make a connection, like that of a good friend. 

Sinead: It was being invited to represent Australia in cross country in the US. The thing that kept me going in tough times was my love for competing.

Eliza: My greatest achievement is becoming a mother. I was told that due to my illness I would likely not be able to have my own children. Being a mum has taught me so much, and nothing I had done could have taught me or prepared me for motherhood. Being the mother to two girls (and a boy), I want to instill in my girls that they are incredible, powerful individuals that can achieve their goals if they work hard. When the going gets tough, I let them see the hardness – there is no shame in admitting tough times – but see the growth this enables and soon the good times will return!

Morgana: As a mother, I have to say that having my two girls has honestly been my greatest achievement in life. I just knew I needed to create a brighter future for them, which meant that even in my darkest moments I kept going with the hope that they would have the freedom to choose the life they wanted.

Is there a person who has been a mentor to you? How have they contributed to the woman you are today?

Gaye: I have strong resilient women all around me, from my amazing mum, sisters and nieces to friends. I’ve learnt that as a collective we are stronger when we support one another and challenge the status quo. Each person that comes into your life can teach you something about yourself and about the world, you just need to be open to ideas and look for opportunities to learn. Locally we have also got some great female leaders and they have all been inspirational and mentors in their unique way. I’m grateful to live in a community that has the calibre of people we do.

Sinead: My mum and dad have been my biggest mentors because they both encourage me to do the best I can do and follow my dreams.

Eliza: When I made the Commonwealth Games team last week, one of the first people I contacted was marathon mum Heather Turland. Heather won gold in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. I was recovering from meningococcal disease at the time and found her to be such a strong role model, who turned out to inspire me once again as an athlete and then as a #motherracer. 

Morgana: There are lots of women who contribute to my journey everyday, but the two that stand out for me are Candida Royalle and Petra Joy. Candida for paving the way for sex-positive content and Petra Joy for encouraging me to pursue my creative direction.

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What impact does patriarchy and rigid gender roles have on your life? 

Gaye: We all have a part to play in making sure we are a tolerant community which values others’ opinions and beliefs, but also values the person. We still have a huge way to go on the issue of domestic violence – no one should experience any form of abuse, verbal, physical or otherwise. There is also still a considerable difference between men’s and women’s wages – these are challenging barriers to overcome. But with a spotlight cast upon these issues in the media, it can be the start of an empowering moment; for instance what’s unfolding with the #Metoo and #TIMESUPNOW movements. There has been a real call to action. But what is heartening, is to see is it’s not an ‘us versus’ them, but a collective approach. I’ve got great male role models, especially my Dad. He is our biggest cheer squad when it comes to equality, but he’s also a realist, as am I. We know it takes a collective conversation to continue to keep the progress happening. 

Sinead: When I was younger I sometimes got told I couldn’t do something because I was a girl – that made me want to achieve it more – for example playing football. I push myself to achieve the highest standard I possibly can, and to tell younger people that they can do the same.

Eliza: In our house my husband and I very much share rolls and support each other. I also like to say behind every great woman is a great man. I believe women need to be each other’s cheerleaders – support women to women (and also men need to support men).

Morgana: Ever since I was a child, moving from Coober Pedy to Sydney to start high school, I have felt the pressure from my family to conform to what was considered to be ‘a good woman’, which I dutifully complied with. A novel experience that sticks out for me was when I was working in the banking sector during the 1980s, I found myself face-to-face with the (low) expectation of what a woman could achieve, and happily surpassed it by a mile. 

What are you most motivated to change about society’s treatment of women? How can people work towards progress?

Gaye: We matter. Think about the women in your life – we take on many roles from nurturers to carers, to confidants, and being career and family-focused – give us the credit that we do make a difference in your life, as you do in ours. Everyone has a part to play and contribute in our lives and community. We should share in one another’s success and support one another when things don’t go to plan. If you see something that’s not right, you say something. Your voice matters and you have a right to be heard. Together we can make a difference to any issue we face if we collaborate. 

Sinead: Women can achieve anything they want if they put their mind to it and work hard at it – so can men.

Eliza: We know there is still so many issues affecting women – the beautiful thing is now so many of us are standing up to create change. STEM male-dominated jobs, domestic violence, and even down to menstrual products still being taxed, are issues that we need to keep talking about and chipping away at. It really grinds my goat to think a Tampon carries tax yet Viagra doesn’t? I love that politicians like Tanya Plibersek are standing up in Parliament and trying to create change on matters like this.

Morgana: For me it's creating space for older women and older bodies to be shown in erotica with dignity and respect. I want to ensure that as women age, become mothers and move into the 40-plus demographic, they are entitled to retain their sexualities and not be ridiculed or made to feel invisible. In the past five years of creating ethical erotica that offers an alternative to mainstream pornography, I have slowly been chipping away at ageism and sexism. By showing a very truthful representation of 40-plus sexuality, I have been able to connect with audiences around the world who seem to find my story and my work to be valuable. I think if you want to make a difference, you just need to start small. I started by making one film for myself, and it ended up winning an award and starting my career. You can make big waves with just one step in the right direction. 

  • Rise! runs until Sunday, April 8 at MAMA. There will be a free meet the artist session from 11am on Saturday, March 24.