Young Women Transforming Power Structures: Great Ydeas Innovation Breakfast

18 April 2019

On Wednesday 10 April, YWCA Canberra welcomed over 120 people at Ainslie Football Club for the 2019 Great Ydeas Innovation Breakfast. The Breakfast was not only a fundraiser for our housing initiatives but an announcement of the 2019 Great Ydeas Small Grants Recipients and a celebration of World YWCA Day.

World YWCA Day (held on 24 April) honours the worldwide YWCA movement and recognises the 25 million girls and women united and fighting for change. This year’s theme, ‘Young Women Transforming Power Structures’, focuses on how young women can achieve equality by shifting the patriarchal and dominant hierarchy that can control our societies.

At YWCA Canberra, we are proud of how our work reflects this theme. Our organisational value ‘courage’ says that we are dauntless, innovative and resilient as we transform power structures. As a proudly feminist organisation, we challenge the status quo to benefit every person, through the innovative services we provide for women, including female-identifying and non-binary people, girls and families. This includes children’s services, youth services, personal and professional training, women’s leadership, advocacy, community development as well as housing initiatives, which was the fundraising focus of the Breakfast.

Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Violet, began the event with a heartfelt Welcome to Country. Aunty Violet reflected on the responsibility, saying “we all have to take care of the land we eat, breathe and work in for future generations.”

Chief Executive Officer, Frances Crimmins then formally welcomed guests by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land and paying respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

In her opening remarks, Frances focussed on the current housing climate saying that the crisis facing many Australians is disproportionately affecting older women and driving them into homelessness. As a society, we need to address the unique needs of women to create a housing safety net and a community network. We need to consider the additional disadvantage for groups of at-risk women face in accessing housing and homelessness services. This is central to the successful delivery of housing options.

Women are not a homogenous group, and as such housing and homelessness services need to reflect the diversity of their needs throughout different stages of their lives. Several groups of women experience high rates of housing insecurity and homelessness, specifically older women, women with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and single parent families headed by women. Older women often do not meet the eligibility criteria for many traditional and affordable housing models, placing them at significant risk of homelessness.

YWCA Canberra houses provide older women with a safe option which meets their specific needs.

On the back of the revenue amendment bill passed by ACT Legislative Assembly 21 March, YWCA Canberra will be launching a new charitable property management service. It will provide an immediate and long-term impact on people who are experiencing housing stress and it will change lives for the better. This service will leverage private investment for the provision of affordable rental housing and will seek to reduce pressure on public and social housing. The model, which already exists in other states, is successful because it allows property owners who lease, or want to lease their properties to claim tax concessions, irrespective of the affordable housing rental rate.

Our keynote speaker was Felicity Reynolds, CEO of the Mercy Foundation from 2008 until 2019. She re-focused the Foundation on the issue of ending homelessness, through supporting structural change and encouraging the use of evidence-based approaches to link people experiencing homelessness with housing and housing support. Felicity spoke passionately about the housing crisis in Australia and the failure in the current system, with funding being funnelled into crisis care rather than supportive housing. She said, “We can never solve the problem if we only focus on crisis services; we currently have zero supply of supportive housing.” While crisis housing care is imperative, more resources are needed to provide stable, permanent supportive housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness – it’s a no-brainer.

Felicity highlighted the negative and inaccurate perceptions of people experiencing homelessness, such as ineptitude and personal fault and blame rather than society’s failure. She discussed how the roles women were forced into in the past directly link to the current housing crisis older women are facing today. Felicity said, “In the 60s we made women resign when they got married, in the 70s we made them resign when they got pregnant…they were never in a position to create independence.” She ended her address by putting a challenge out to the room: for Canberra to end homelessness in the next five years.”

We then heard from Caterina Giorgi, a 2014 Great Ydeas grant winner and Co-Founder of For Purpose, a professional development, coaching and advisory service for NFP professionals. Caterina shared her experience working with the not-for-profit sector and the personal impact of hearing the experiences of people who cannot afford to live, Caterina said, “the first feeling I had after hearing those stories was sadness. Then I was really angry. This shouldn’t happen to anyone in our country and in Canberra. Then, I got busy working with not-for-profit organisations to create change”. Caterina touched on the resources Canberra has, such as immense wealth, policy expertise, world-leading universities and strong not-for-profit sector, that can create the change the housing sector needs to see to end homelessness.

Caterina shared her positive experience of Great Ydeas, and the validation she felt when her idea was shared with amazing women and rewarded through her successful grant. Through Great Ydeas, Caterina has been able to build For Purpose and create the change she had always envisioned.

Now in its ninth year, the Great Ydeas Small Grants program has supported 60 Canberra women to pursue a professional development opportunity, pilot a project, kick-start a business idea, or address a need in the community.

We are thrilled to announce that the following seven women were successful in securing a 2019 Great Ydeas Small Grant to make a meaningful impact in the Canberra community:

  • Saba Awan, for her project On the Ground
  • Rosalind Moran, for her project Living Letters
  • Katherine Guerin-Smith, for her project Sexy Health Social Hour
  • Sophie Holloway, for her project How You Bin
  • Kate Crowhurst, for her project The Money Bites, supported by CBR Innovation Network mentoring idea to impact workshop series
  • Vendulka, for her Musical project, supported by EY Great Ydeas Creativity Grant
  • Jennifer Robertson, for her project WeiJenTech, supported by Microsoft Great Ydeas STEAM Start-Up Grant

Read more about these incredible grants on the Great Ydeas page of our website.

Thank you again to everyone who attended the 2019 Great Ydeas Innovation Breakfast and donated to support the YWCA Canberra housing initiatives. We are delighted to announce the breakfast raised more than $5,000. Photos of the event are available at our Flickr album.

If you could not make it to the event but still want to show your support for our work, you can donate to our housing fund via our website.


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