Top 10 moments of 2017


As we begin the new year, all of us at WHISE are excited to continue the work that supports the health and well-being of women in our region.

2017 was a year of significant change for women. It’s important that we reflect on the shift that has taken place last year and look at the progress we’ve made in society, so we can improve on the work we do for our community of women and girls.

Here’s our top 10 for 2017:

1. The march that unified the world

In January last year, 5 million women and men of all backgrounds came together in solidarity to send a powerful message that women's rights are human rights.

The Women’s March was about standing with vulnerable groups across the world to fight bigotry and division, the largest coordinated protest in U.S. history and one of the largest in world history. It was a reminder to Australians that some of the ideas we find so offensive (i.e blatant sexism and misogyny) in the US are alive and well in our own parliament and politics, too.

WHISE attended the march in Melbourne along with other Women’s Health Services and hundreds of other activists to advocate for women’s rights.

The Women's March in Melbourne.

2. Women’s voices growing stronger

Since allegations of sexual harassment and rape against Harvey Weinstein surfaced in mainstream media in October by Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and a growing list of others, it sparked worldwide conversation about sexual misconduct, encouraging others to come forward with their stories.

In the wake of this scandal, journalist Tracey Spicer announced on Twitter that she was investigating the behaviour of powerful Australian men in the media. She didn’t expect the deluge of tweets from women that ensued, revealing a string of sexual harassment and bullying claims against 90s TV personality, Don Burke.

These high profile cases are causing a ripple effect in our community, where women feel like their voices are finally being heard. It seems that we have only scratched the surface and 2018 will see more cases come to light.

Harvey Weinstein and Don Burke. Photo: AAP

3. #MeToo

The wave of women speaking out about sexual harassment against powerful men in the media has evolved into the powerful #MeToo movement, which gained international attention in October after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet.

The hashtag, which was originally created over 10 years ago by community organiser, Tarana Burke, was tweeted nearly a million times in 48 hours by women and men sharing their personal stories.

The tweet has since generated more than 61,000 replies and more than 22,000 retweets, becoming a viral hashtag, which spread to Facebook and Instagram. As a testament to the bravery of people coming forward with their experiences, Time magazine recently named the social movement as the most influential "person" of 2017.

Our hope is that the conversation continues to shine a spotlight on the magnitude of sexual assault and harassment experienced by women worldwide and that perpetrators are held to account.

4. Equal pay for equal work

Making headlines in 2017 was the shock departure of respected journalist and TV presenter, Lisa Wilkinson from Channel Nine program, Today, putting the gender pay gap back on the agenda.

It was reported that ‘despite several months of negotiations, Nine refused to pay her as much as co-anchor Karl Stefanovic’.

According to 2016-17 workplace data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the average annual full-time pay for female employees is $26,527 less than men’s, showing us that we still have a long way to go to bridge this gap.

While we think it's a sad end to Lisa's career at Channel Nine, we applaud her for taking a stand for the pay gap that exists between her and her male co-host. Thank you, Lisa, for knowing your value and not accepting anything less. We’re sure that 2018 will be a successful year for Lisa with her new role on Channel Ten’s The Project.

Lisa Wilkinson. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

5. Preventing violence before it occurs

We work to prevent violence against women, so we feel it’s essential to highlight the Victorian Government’s Primary Prevention Strategy: Free from Violence, launched in May. The time for change is now, and the commitment from the Victorian State Government to address this urgent human rights issue is reflective of this.

Free from Violence looks at preventing violence before it occurs. It aims to ensure that every Victorian is aware of the drivers of violence, including harmful gender stereotypes, and what needs to be done to address them.

6. Wonder Woman smashing records

2017 was the year we welcomed Wonder Woman to the big screen.

In its opening weekend, the record-breaking movie made more than $US100 million, the biggest opening by a woman director (Patty Jenkins). It also became the biggest live-action box office ever by a woman director and is now the highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time at $US821.749 million worldwide! To top it off, Gal Gadot, the actress who plays Wonder Woman, is the highest-grossing actress of 2017.

We think this is no mean feat and something definitely worth celebrating. It aligns well with the motto we live by: “She needed a hero so that’s what she became”.

Wonder Woman. Photo: Warner Bros.

7. When Harry met Meghan

The rise of Meghan Markle’s media profile in 2017 got us a little excited at WHISE.

Meghan, a fearless feminist fighting for equal rights and a woman of colour will be joining the Royal Family, after the announcement of her and Prince Harry’s engagement.

Now that’s a refreshing change for the Monarchy! We’re sure that Meghan will be using her powers for good, as she steps into this influential domain.

8. Mothers getting on with the job

In May, Australian Greens senator Larissa Waters made world headlines by becoming the first woman to breastfeed in Parliament. She also made parliamentary history in the same year when she breastfed her baby while moving a motion in the Australian parliament. And why not? Kids need to eat and mothers need to work!

It’s fantastic to see mothers like Senator Waters, our new Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek and Kate Ellis paving the way for women and parents in parliament.

Larissa Waters feeding her daughter in parliament. Photo: Mick Tsikas/AAP

9. Improving the sexual and reproductive health of all Victorian women

This year in March, the Victorian State Government released the FIRST EVER sexual and reproductive health key priorities.  It’s important to recognise this milestone, as Women’s Health Services have been driving the need for a statewide strategy for a number of years and this document has put sexual and reproductive health at the forefront.

The strategy will look at fertility support, reproductive choices, sexual health and endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and menopause.  This is timely for WHISE, as we are in the process of leading and coordinating a regional sexual and reproductive health strategy.

10. Women in sport

2017 was a game changer for women’s sport in Australia. It was the year that saw our first ever national AFL women’s league, the rise of the Matildas to number 4 in the FIFA World Rankings, Australian female cricketers helping to secure a record pay deal and the Jillaroos winning the Rugby League World Cup final.

It’s so heartening to see the overwhelming support from the community for women’s sport and brilliant that young girls will have role models in the sporting arena they can look up to and aspire to be like.

Check out the 10 most influential women in Australian Sport in 2017

Tayla Harris of the Demons. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images