All the Best :: Special Sydney Writer’s Festival Event

May 17th 2011

POWER! Are you hungry for it? You’re probably not alone if you’d like a bigger slice of the pie. The amazing talent appearing on All The Best’s live stage show this Thursday will tell you that there’s heaps of it going around. The problem is in getting your plate to the front of the queue.

Speaking of queues, there’s set to be a bunch of them this week as part of the city’s annual Sydney Writers’ Festival. This year’s chosen theme is that innocuous five-letter word that, as ATB found out, countless local people have struggled for throughout our city’s history.

Some of those stories from Sydney belong to Wendy Bacon, Anna Krien and Mandy Sayer; the live talent set to speak with the show’s regular contributors in front of crowds at SWF 2011. One of those inspiring ladies, Wendy, gave Supervising Producer Emilia Terzon her personal take on power to get us excited for this week’s show:

The first time I realised I had power as a woman was… in the 1970s when I first joined the women’s liberation movement. We used to take direct action to establish needed services. For example, Elsie Women's Refuge in Glebe was founded by a group of women just breaking into an empty house, furnishing it, and setting up rosters. This refuge eventually got funding and many more were established, but this and other actions made me feel that, as women, we could act together. We could change the fact that battered women could not leave home because they had nowhere to go.

I remember feeling totally powerless when… I unexpectedly found myself in the back of a paddy wagon on the way to Silverwater Mulawa Womens' Prison in 1971 after a short obscenity trial.

I also feel frustratingly powerless in situations of bureaucratic power, such as in the University. All the old democratic forms through which you could vote to stop or make change were gradually eroded over the last twenty years. Academics passively watch the eroding of quality education feeling they can do anything to stop it.

The most powerful thing in my life… is the idea that you just have to go along with what you are told to do. This is a killer idea. People who get together can often change things: just take the whole inner part of Sydney, for example. The 1970s developers wanted to pull down everything from Kings Cross to the Rocks but a few thousand builders' labourers and residents stopped them by peaceful action of imposing bans on construction. These were called Green Bans.

I strive for power everyday by… by continuing to stand up for the things I believe in and not being intimidated. I do realise that, as a full time academic in a University, I am very privileged and it's easier for me than many others. This however is all the more reason for me to do it.

If I could give any minority group more power… it would be the bottom twenty per cent of income earners in our society. So much of our politics and media is currently geared to relatively high earners. They are hooked on consumption and feel angry with other people like refugees who are less well off than themselves. Right now we are quibbling about whether income earners in the top 20% should lose a few dollars benefit whilst lots of people don't have enough to eat or decent housing. Included in this are students whose studying days are overshadowed by a lack of affordable housing and the need to wor


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