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I walked into a supermarket toilet a few years ago to find a woman who looked just like me washing her hair in the sink.

Our eyes met.

Catastrophe does not discriminate; mongrel misfortune can befall any of us.

She’d long thrived. Things turned tough.

She managed, most of the time, by house sitting or staying with friends. Sometimes, though, there was nowhere but the car.

Those times, the supermarket toilet was where she had to wash her hair.

The thing is, there and then on that day, her greatest concern was to reassure me she was okay. She was worried about my feelings and wanted to reassure me so that I might not judge her.

Voices raised in indignation driven by data and fuelled by humanity are calls to action. But without action, they fade, impotent, as plaintive wails into darkness.

Many long to change the world, make it maybe just a little bit better and fairer.

A really good way to do that is to remove barriers to opportunity and independence. Training and employment are opportunity in action and create financial independence, a thing long denied in so many ways to so many women.

And if you add peer support to subsidised training and a job, you get women, some of whom might have faced disadvantage not of their own making, striding side-by-side along the path to independence and opportunity to explore life with liberty and security. It’s not much to ask.

It is huge to have. And it can be done. I know that because we are doing it in Melbourne and across regional Victoria.

I experienced quite a bit of circumstantial challenge as a child, and I also experienced the change that can come from being mentored, from being given a go.

In 2019, not long after walking into that supermarket toilet and walking out of that super-market legal suite, I set up WomenCAN Australia.

For more than three decades, I had been a successful corporate lawyer.

WomenCAN collaborates with employers and vocational training organisations to provide women with access to subsidised training and a job.

Everyone wins, including taxpayers – as the model helps people move from Jobseeker to becoming taxpayers.

It provides support to a lot of women who have migrated to Australia, sometimes fleeing violence and injustice, sometimes in more gentle circumstances.

Imagine, if you will, women who have been prevented from ever spending a single day in school. Imagine women who were orphaned young and never provided opportunity, let alone nurturing.

What my colleagues and I have found is that through the type of collaboration WomenCAN Australia has built, people are getting better outcomes at a lower cost. We plan to take it far beyond Victoria.

It should be tried in other places. Hundreds of women have been trained and employed through this. It transforms lives and fuels the community and the economy.




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