Your Voice Conference

On February 22nd, the Fitzroy High School Feminist Collective held its sold
out ‘Your Voice’ conference for 300 secondary students at RMIT University.
The conference — programmed for and by students — was the first of its kind
in the country. The idea for the event began to bloom almost two years ago, in
response to a growing demand for the ‘Femco’ to visit or be visited by other
schools for advice on how to start a feminist collective.

We kicked off the day with a beautiful Welcome to Country by Uncle Ian
Hunter, followed by a performance by some incredible First Nation dancers.
Vice Chancellor of RMIT’s School of Education Belinda Tynan then addressed
the congregation, before keynote speaker Clementine Ford spoke skilfully to
the conference’s key themes of ‘Uniting, Empowering and Disrupting’.

The conference consisted of three sets of four parallel sessions, featuring
everything from workshops run by Clem on the alternatives to ‘toxic
masculinity’, to panels on ‘Women in Leadership’, ‘Feminism as a Person of
Colour’ and ‘Feminism and the Queer community’, to sessions on self-
defence (run by FHS’s own Riley Moloney), feminist ‘Sex Ed’, ‘How to Start
Your Own Feminist Collective’ and Mindfulness. The atmosphere on the day
was magical: there was a powerful and positive sense of community and
togetherness, which was one of the key aims of the conference.

The Feminist Collective put in a mammoth amount of work to pull the
conference off, but it would not have been possible without the unflagging
support of school leadership & our school council, and our ongoing
collaboration with respected Deakin Uni academics Deb Ollis and Leanne Coll
(‘above and beyond’ doesn’t even get close). We would not have had a home
without RMIT lecturer Emily Gray’s advocacy for our work, and the generous
contributions of our region’s Respectful Relationships team (especially Project
Lead Brigitte Walker & volunteers on the day Charlotte, Collette and
Maryanne) were invaluable. Our generous team of unflappable event
volunteers, drawn from our friends and family, did everything from ‘bribing’
RMIT students to print accurate door signs to attending merch stands for
hours on end. We are indebted to you.

A very special thanks must also go to Adrian Wood & Beci Orpin, who
donated their valuable time to design our fabulous conference poster and tote
bags respectively, to Emma Koster & Barb Jennings for their years of support,
and to Continental House in Hepburn Springs who enabled access to their
lovely digs for our planning camp in 2017. We’d also like to thank Floral
Architecture, a business run by two young women in Fitzroy who donated
both their time and profit to provide beautiful arrangements for our volunteers.
Femco members Reni L-P and Eve F (and Eve’s
incredible parents Rebecca and Conor), whose enthusiasm and dedication to
the conference was unflagging, Yasmin A, our brilliant MC for the day, are also due a special & heartfelt thank you.
The day was, in the words of Eve, ‘a triumph’.

If you would like to purchase one of the Femco’s exclusive Beci Orpin
designed conference tote bags ($20) please contact Briony O’Keeffe via
email: brionyo@fitzroyhs.vic.edu.au

In the meantime, stay tuned as the 2019 FHS Feminist Collective hatches
plans for its next big project!

Briony O’Keeffe