Guest speaker Fay Jackson encourages women to use their vulnerability to help others.
Guest speaker Fay Jackson encourages women to use their vulnerability to help others.

Use trauma, vulnerability to help other women

IN ANTICIPATION of today's International Women's Day, women from all walks of life gathered on Friday in Lismore to discuss mental health, sexual violence and gender equality in Australia.

The theme of Lismore's 2020 International Women's Day Luncheon was "an equal world is an enabled world", focusing on mental health and the effects of trauma.

Guest speaker Fay Jackson, the chief executive of Vision in Mind and deputy commissioner of NSW Mental Health, encouraged attendees to own their trauma and use their vulnerability to help others.

"We can take whatever happened to us and offer it in the services of our sisters," Ms Jackson said.

"One in three women have experienced sexual abuse and that can affect them through their entire lives."

Ms Jackson recalled a former conversation with a young asylum seeker, who along with her children, became a victim of weaponised rape in a time of war.

In sharing her own experiences with raw and defiant honesty, this woman learned for the first time that such things could happen in Australia and that she was not alone in her suffering.

"She now felt at home here," she said.

"Change can only happen where there is discomfort. Together we must amalgamate our strength and change culture."

"We soften language to make it more palatable. Let's call it what it is. Rape."

Ms Jackson also recognised that we were better at acknowledging trauma in some areas than others.

"We've recognised this so easily when it comes to the trauma of events such as Auschwitz, but cannot seem to do the same for Aboriginal people and women.

"Most mental health issues have trauma at the base."

A metaphor for trauma and healing, Ms Jackson referred to the Japanese art of Kintsugi the technique of repairing broken pottery using gold, silver, or platinum. The idea behind this technique is to show that the most valuable part of something can stem from the cracks.

"Whatever has happened to you, you can use it to empower those around you," she said.

"You are the gold."