What is The Women’s Parliament

The inaugural Women’s Parliament was held in Adelaide in October 2017. The aim of the Women’s Parliament is to bring together women from diverse backgrounds and sectors to discuss ideas, develop an alternative political vision and implement an agenda for change.

The motivation for the inaugural event is to deliver a series of outcomes and actions for the 2018 South Australian State election that could provide solutions to South Australia’s current challenges. It aims to harness the power of bringing women in a room together to problem solve and also come up with innovative and ambitious new ideas.

The Women’s Parliament is an independent event and is not aligned with any political party. It is a project based initiative which runs on a modest budget and receives no funding, sponsorship or donations.

The Women’s Parliament at Open State

The inaugural Women’s Parliament was held during Open State in October 2017 and brought together women from diverse backgrounds and sectors to debate ideas and implement an agenda for change. It was held on Thursday 5 October 2017 (as part of the Open State event) at the Bradley Forum, Hawke Centre, University of South Australia.


Susan Mitchell at The Women’s Parliament. Photo courtesy Jennie Groom.

An independent and not-for-profit initiative, The Women’s Parliament called for expressions of interest from women across South Australia to highlight the issues and priorities facing women in this state.

With over 50 expressions of interest received, 3 strong themes emerged with 13 women shortlisted and invited to speak to their issues in short and succinct 3 minute speeches.

1.Housing Availability and Affordability
2.Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence
3.Work and Workplace Equality

Open State is an annual festival of collaboration, innovation, ideas and enterprise with an aim to position South Australia as a leader in democratic reform, business and community innovation.

The Steering Committee

The Steering Committee is a voluntary group of women brought together by Event Organiser Julianne Pierce to shortlist the Issues submitted for discussion at The Women’s Parliament. The Steering Committee members are:

Farrin Foster
Farrin is a journalist, writer and is currently Editor of CityMag.

Liz Forsyth
Liz started her career in health and rehabilitation, but developed a strong interest in community development and social justice and a particular interest in the role employment plays in community engagement and personal well- being. With a love of diversity and challenge her career has enabled her to work in multiple leadership roles including 13 years establishing and running an innovative employment service for people with disabilities and three years as CEO of a large community service in the Northern Territory. Liz has been CEO of YWCA Adelaide for the last four years, a role that indulges her creativity whilst providing the challenge of creating real change for women and girls through advocacy and services. She is also currently the Board chair of DACSSA, a disability advocacy service.

CeCe Hylton-Dei
I have a Social Work background and have been volunteering/working with refugee and migrant youth and culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) for almost seven years. I am currently working as a Community Support Worker, engaging with CALD youth around issues pertaining to health and wellbeing – mainly in the area of sexual health. I am passionate about being an agent of social change especially through advocacy on an array of social issues pertaining to migrant and refugee groups, women and children.

Gaelle Mellis
Gaelle is an award-winning theatre designer, maker and collaborator. Seen as a cultural leader within both the disability arts and mainstream arts sectors she is currently the Creative Director of Access2Arts, a progressive and innovative disability-led arts organisation based in South Australia. She also works as an access consultant and her work with the Adelaide Festival saw them win a 2012 ABAF Access Award. Gaelle was awarded an Inaugural Creative Australia Fellowship, Australia Council of the Arts and created Australia’s first performance incorporating ‘aesthetic access’, the award winning Take Up Thy Bed and Walk. In 2013, Gaelle was invited by the Theatre Board of the Australia Council as one of 15 women filmed for the Woman in Theatre exhibition that celebrated the fabulous women of the contemporary Australian theatre scene. In the same year, Gaelle was included on the SA government’s Women’s Honour Roll. Most recently she designed the world premiere of Ancient Rain starring Irish chanteuse, Camille O’Sullivan, and iconic Australian singer-songwriter, Paul Kelly for the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Claire O’Connor SC
Claire O’Connor SC is a barrister with Villeneuve Smith Chambers. Claire specialises in Human Rights, Women’s Issues and Coronial Litigation.

Professor Irene Watson
Pro Vice Chancellor: Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy/Professor of Law (University of SA)
Professor Irene Watson is the Pro Vice Chancellor Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, and Professor of Law with the School of Law, University of South Australia Business School, where her teaching and research focuses primarily on Indigenous Peoples in both domestic and international law. Professor Watson belongs to the Tanganekald, Meintangk Boandik First Nations Peoples, of the Coorong and the south east of South Australia.