Food For Thought Network was founded by Varvara Ioannou and celebrates a decade of inspiring and educating women. Ruby Assembly enjoyed an interesting evening at the Multicultural Hub, as FFTN launched its Inspiring People Series. This blog documents some of the terrific ideas thrown around by three unique and inspiring women.

Jill McCabe, Director-Office of Women’s Policy & FFTN Founder Varvara Ioannou

The conference was opened by Jill Mc Cabe, who is the Director at the Office of Women’s Policy. Her role is to promote and increase the participation of women across the workforce, as well as to encourage financial independence and literacy. Jill has extensive industrial relations and union experience too. Jill opened the conference by briefly discussing International Women’s Day, and taking a moment to reflect on what has been done for women… and what remains to be achieved. She reiterated that networks such as Food for Thought Network are important in encouraging participation from women of all cultures and ages in the workforce.

The first speaker for the evening was the elegant and beautifully spoken Nigisti Mulholland who hails from Eritrea originally. Nigisti spoke about how education in her home of Eritrea and then Ethiopia was not valued for females. Nigisti says she always had a desire for education and knowledge,a nd was one of only a few girls that went to school. She claims Palestinian freedom fighters as her inspiration, as Nigisti eventually became a guerilla freedom fighter for four years. She had to flee to Soudan, despite not wanting to leave her family. In the Soudan, Nigisti’s nursing training was put to use by the Save the Children Fun where she acted as a midwife. She also met her Australian husband in Soudan, whom she moved to Melbourne with in 1982. Nigisti said that when she came to Melbourne she ‘had nothing to fight’ so she went to University to continue her learning. Nigisti wants to keep addressing inequalities in the Australian migrant community, and told us about how isolated the experience is for many who cannot speak or read english.

Slightly blurred, but ever so lovely – Qantas Pilot and all-round good chick Lynda Morakis.

Next to the podium was Lynda Morakis, long term FFTN member. Lynda spoke about her traditional Greek childhood, and her desire from an early age to know everything about aeroplanes. Lynda describes her parents as traditional (desiring her to marry and be a good greek mother), but nonetheless very interested in her becoming educated and independent. Once out of highschool, Lynda started flying ‘on the sly’ – racking up education fees to fund her desire to become a pilot. When she ran out of money, she managed to secure a BHP Cadetship in Port Hedland. Lynda was posted here for 3.5 years in an industry that was anything but inclusive of females. She worked on offshore rigs with a mostly older male crew. Eventually this cadetship allowed Lynda to finish her flying training and become a pilot for Qantas. She has two great achievements which have coincided – the birth of her 8 month old baby Daniel, and the beginning of her training to become a A330 airbus captain. Lynda feels that life is ultimately what happens to you while you’re making plans.

Cute as pie, future London Paralympian Michelle Errichello

Last to speak at tonight’s forum is Michelle Errichello. FFTN is sponsoring Michelle’s bid to run in the upcoming London Paralympic Games. Michelle’s story is one of overcoming adversity. When only 25 her leg was entirely amputated in a car accident. Although Michelle had never really loved sport, after she was told she might never walk again she decided she wanted not only to do that… but to run! She also wanted to walk down the aisle on her own, and dance her wedding waltz – this she achieved only 9 months after her amputation. Amazing. She has also broken records for running in both the 100 and 200m categories.

In all, a very enjoyable conference with very thought provoking discussions from a diverse group of women.

Your roving reporter for the evening at Ruby Assembly, Iolanthe. Dresscode? Feminism ain’t dead yet.