5 quick questions with Celeste Liddle

31 July 2017

Jessica Abramovic

Jessica is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

The She Leads In-Conversation Series provides Canberrans with the opportunity to hear from women leaders from different backgrounds and industries in a conversational format, followed by a live Q&A session, and networking. Our August In-Conversation event will be with Celeste Liddle and Sarah Burr, centering around the challenges faced by women and Aboriginal women alike, in our communities, society, and workplaces.

Celeste is an Arrernte Australian woman living in Melbourne. She is the current National Indigenous Organiser for the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). Celeste blogs personally at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist and is particularly interested in education, politics, and the arts.

Describe your leadership journey in 30 words or less.

Accidental but driven by passion and social justice. I never expected to be listened to on anything but now that I am, I feel the need to continue on in the hope I contribute to change for the better.

What was (or is) your biggest leadership challenge?

Staying focused in an environment like Australia where every small advance seems to lead to two steps backwards thanks to political change and a deep-seeded culture of historical erasure. The energy needed to continue fighting often runs low.

Why do we need more women leaders, and what difference can women in leadership make in terms of gender equality?

Because in Australia, white middle-aged and middle class men are culturally considered to be the “social default”. Their voices are automatically considered “neutral” and “expert” even though they are rarely either. Women, and particularly women of diverse background and ability, help break down that hegemony and the more women leaders there are, the less pressure there is to assimilate into that unhelpful social default in order to get anywhere.

What book should every aspiring woman leader read?

To name one would be wrong. I believe women should read everything available; from radical and liberal feminist theory, to other political theories, to the fiction writings of women, to anything else that challenges that wealthy white male gaze even in a little way. My own theories have been developed by reading a collection of things, identifying with them due to my lived experience and then adapting them to form frameworks for social change. Choosing to not read something is far more detrimental to leadership in my eyes.

Share with us the best piece of advice you’ve been given

The simple “always be true to yourself”. I was an outcast for much of my childhood and teenage years due to who I was and how I interpreted the world. Both of these things have ended up being assets in adulthood.

You can hear more from Celeste Liddle and Sarah Burr at the She Leads In-Conversation on Wednesday 16 August – book your ticket online today!

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