President's Message
A Message From

The National President

Melinda Jones: July 15th, 2020

Thank you very much with entrusting me with this great responsibility – to lead NCJWA as we move into the new decade.
Before I say more, I’d like to acknowledge the indigenous owners of the land, the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation and acknowledge their elders, past present & emerging. Because we are meeting across Australia we meet on the lands of many other indigenous nations and I’d also like to acknowledge their elders, past, present and emerging and to recognise that we are meeting on indigenous territory.

I’d like to acknowledge my immediate past President, Negba Dolev-Weiss and her Vice-Presidents, Di Hirsh & Shirley Glance – all of whom have worked tirelessly for this organisation for many years. Although not remaining on the Board, all three have agreed to provide me with guidance and the institutional continuity required to ensure we move forward together with strength.
I should also acknowledge all the other women who’ve come before me – the known & the unknown. I truly stand on the shoulders of the strong, committed, passionate women who founded and built this organisation and continue to ensure we play a significant role in the lives of Australian Jewish women and in the wider feminist arena.

We live in unusual times. It is over 100 years since the world dealt with a pandemic such as we are living through. It is over 100 years since our borders were closed, since the nation’s work was interrupted, since wearing masks was not just for bandits.
And these times have had an unprecedented impact on women:

  • There has been an increase in domestic violence & abuse. Women are murdered every day and many more live in fear of their lives.
  • Lockdown has meant there has been no escape for the woman and no external outlet for managing the violence
  • There has been an increase in the number of unpaid hours of labour performed by women in the home. This has been estimated as an additional 6 hours a week compared to pre-pandemic times.
  • Women have disproportionately been effected by unemployment and wage reduction. Refugee women, indigenous women and women with disabilities have often been left hungry and without sufficient resources to live
  • Homelessness or rough sleeping continues to be an issue for women – with women over 55 being the group most represented in this cohort
  • The increase in mental health issues across the nation has imposed a significant additional burden on women – both as carers and as individuals.
  • There has been an increase in hatred in many spheres – in racism & antisemitism, directed at people with disabilities and a corresponding rise in misogyny.

We live in a world where

  • Women are targeted with violence and death threats for stating that women only spaces are sacred and that women’s safety depends on this.
  • Women are expected to give birth, across the globe, in hospitals where there are COVID patients and to manage pregnancy in unsafe environments
  • Where there is an increase in human trafficking
  • AND where women’s rights are threatened by the Courts (holding that access to sex workers is both necessary and reasonable), by commercial outlets commodifying women’s bodies into sex dolls (allowing men to practice rape and paedophilia) and by self-hatred (where being a woman is so intolerable that the only response is self-harm and bodily mutilation)
  • It may seem Ironic that while working from home men’s academic output and publications have increased while women are submitting significantly fewer papers than in previous years.

These are just some of the issues we need to be aware of.
But not all is doom and gloom.

  • Women have adapted to the situation and accessed education like never before. We have harnessed the power of the digital age and made it an opportunity not a scourge.
  • Women in Israel have demanded and won the right to sit the same Rabbinic examinations as men. Not accessing this system had disadvantaged women in the workplace, in education and in social status. Of course, this is being fought hard by men – but the gauntlet has been thrown
  • Women in Israel have united to deal with the COVID crisis and beyond. For the first time there has been significant networking of feminist organisations across the country, with women actively drawing strength from each other…
  • And finally, the Black Lives Matter movement is asking people to look at institutional racism and at the treatment of vulnerable people. Racism has a disproportionate impact on women.

So the task for us is set. The responsibility of NCJWA is to inform the community about what is happening to women and by women; to advocate for women within and outside the Jewish community and to be a voice against injustice. The National Board will work to empower Jewish women and to help, in particular, to strengthen the smaller communities around Australia where NCJWA has a presence. We have a responsibility to work with the sections and to help them with their endeavours to work for the rights and equality and for justice and the liberation of women.
It is exciting to be beginning my role as President of NCJWA with a new Board of passionate, dedicated women. With a strong history behind us, we have a great future to look forward to. Every one of you has a role to play as we move forward, and I look forward to collaboration and communication so NCJWA can amplify the voice of Australia’s Jewish women.