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Lisa's take on International Women's Day

10 March 2021
Lisa O'brien holding hand up to celebrate International Women's Day.

As part of our series to acknowledge some of our great women leaders at MCM, we caught up with Lisa O’Brien, Senior Manager Youth And Family Homelessness Services to chat about International Women’s Day (IWD) and what inspires her most.

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

It’s an opportunity to pause and reflect on all the amazing things we women have achieved so far – but with the hope of doing more. I’d like to think we think about this every day, but the day specifically makes us take stock and think about what we still can do because we obviously aren’t there yet.

Which women are you inspired by and why?

My mum Pat and my two grandmothers are/were strong independent and passionate women. They never let life get them down and overcome any adversity that came/comes their way. When each of my three children was born, I bought them two books about inspiring women: Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Emmaline Pankhurst, Ella Fitzgerald, Dolly Parton. We’re a big musical family – my partner is a skilled musician. We have music on all the time and we go to gigs (COVID appropriate of course). Dolly Parton stands out to me – she came from a background of true American poverty and became a superstar, not just in music but in the humanitarian work she does. People so often focus on the way she looks – she goes with that and then spins it around to make a deeper point to use her influence to be part of great change.

What taboos related to the theme of women do you wish were broken?

All of them! As we look at recent headlines – family and domestic violence, sexual assault/sexual abuse, child brides, these stand out as issues we must improve. A recent book I read and a movie I watched had some of these themes, and they have really got me thinking. With two young girls I’m thinking more about those issues – and around trust, trusting yourself, the ability to be yourself but ever being aware of the often negative perceptions people create about women who are strong.

What other women in your team or across MCM/HHA do you find inspiring?

At MCM I am lucky to work with so many amazing women. I’m currently building a new team having just left a role job sharing with Zoe Vale, who is a talented leader. Christine Bone supports me amazingly. I’m very fortunate to have Molly O’Shaughnessy as a mentor and previous Manager. I’ve been extremely lucky to job share with another amazing woman Janelle Thomson for a number of years during my time at MCM. Most recently I’ve taken a lot of time out of Robynn Daley, Kath Dale and Catherine Abrahams days – more extraordinary women. There are many, many others - ultimately every single woman on the MCM Leadership team, all are an inspiration. All the team leaders, the case managers - everyone is here for a good reason – because they care. Our CEO Vicki Sutton is always pushing us toward innovation, modern practices like outcomes framework, different and better ways to make a difference. It’s a pleasure working for an organisation lead by strong people.

What more could Australia be doing to create equal opportunities for women?

We need to first acknowledge we’re not there yet – women are still very underrepresented in politics and private industry. Women can be so good at being care-givers and not climbing the ladder because we are good at being the people on the ground doing important work. We need to promote mentoring, create programs, put money into each industry to promote women while allowing them to be carers.

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