Saturday June 24 was a sunny day in Central Park, New York, where 60 or so Aussies joined us for our second annual AWNY Picnic in the Park.
Take a peek at the fun we had in this video produced by Aussie, Emma Cillekens. Emma interviews some of our picnickers (including one American) along with AWNY Committee members who organized the event. Our President Belinda ‘BJ’ Jackson speaks about the benefits that Aussie social and cultural groups in New York like ours can bring.
In the words of Aussie woman in New York, Belinda Paladino:
You miss that feeling of home, and sort of, what you’re used to and what you know and sort of your identity. So when you can come across a group that can relate to you and understand you, as you are, I think that’s really refreshing.
On a beautiful spring morning, on May 3rd, AWNY’s patron Mrs. Kerry Minchin kindly invited a small group of AWNY members to connect, network and mingle in the outside courtyard of the Australian Consul-General’s residence at Beekman Place. It was a lovely morning tea, filled with Aussie delights surrounded by new spring flowers, sunshine and engaging conversation.
After countless lamingtons, Tim Tams and cups of tea, Mrs. Minchin, wife of the Consul-General, The Hon Nick Minchin, asked the guests to gather around, as she wanted to highlight an important issue that is lacking for the Australian community in New York. She brought attention to the fact that Australia did not have any kind of space or building in New York City that could be used for events, to showcase Australian businesses or to fly the Aussie flag. The Beekman and Sutton Place areas are populated by buildings from countries from all over the world, which expatriates can call a home away from home and where they fly their flags proudly and hold events as appropriate. Mrs Minchin is on a mission to create an Australia House in NYC and asked for AWNY support.
The main question from attendees was how could we get involved to assist this campaign. Mrs. Minchin asked if AWNY members could advocate their support through different social media platforms. She hopes that Australians in New York can lead the charge once they head back to Australia. We will keep you posted as how you can further support this cause!
Belinda Jackson, AWNY’s President extended a very big thank you to Mrs. Minchin for the Consul-General’s hospitality and for opening their home for many AWNY committee meetings and get-togethers.
From the Australia Women in New York community, we wish all the best to the out-going Consul-General and their family.
To see more photos from the event, check out this Facebook album.
Written by Kate Lee, Workshop moderator and AWNY Committee member
As I walked through Times Square to the rehearsal studio for our AWNY workshop, I got that NYC buzz – a heady mix of excitement and wonder as I make sure I don’t tread on or brush against anything that will make me want to burn my clothes later.
Our studio space was small. It had scuffed walls and hadn’t been swept for perhaps a decade. I peeped into the spacious, airy room next door. The one with the polished floor and windows on two sides. I thought we’d booked this one. The large one with room enough for 15 people? No, you booked 703. Oh. Grit and grind of New York indeed. I arranged the space and put slips of paper on the table by the door. These were for people to write the challenges they’ve experienced in this city. I should have written, ‘separated by a common language.’ Later, I would use these slips for our improvisations. As people began to arrive, the familiarity of the accent, the sense of humor and that sun-shine-like Australian openness lit-up the room. It awes me all the time, the stories of women in New York. From one- to twenty-plus-years living here, each of us had different why’s, who’s and how’s of being in this city.
The workshop began by orientating ourselves in the space and to each other. Classic drama games such as mirroring and molding our bodies are great for this. The aim is to turn off the analytical brain and ‘tune’ ourselves to our own reactions as well as those who are in the room. We then created a series of tableaux that reflected images and feelings of New York life – finances, dating, confidence and speaking up at work. We then moved into the main activities known as Image Theater and Forum Theater. These processes come from a very well-known Brazilian practitioner called Augusto Boal. His ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ is famous for its ‘spect-actor’ – the notion that the spectator is not a passive observer of the dramatic action. Rather, they become active participants by co-creating, directing and changing the outcomes. This means anyone can join an improvisation and try out different ways of getting what they want.
There is never a straight, nor clear outcome in these processes. In seeing one’s situation enacted in front of them, not only is a person’s feelings validated, but also the group becomes an active mechanism in supporting their process of addressing the challenge. Rather than thinking through a problem, participants get to physically see – and embody – solutions and new ways of being. There are no answers, but the rich discussions that follow draw from the collective knowledge of the group and remind us that we are not alone.
Act Like a New Yorker wasn’t about acting like a New Yorker. Rather, it was acknowledging the challenges that we, as Australians, encounter in this city. And by drawing from the experience of the group, we can see these challenges from a different perspective and perhaps find new ways of addressing them.
On Wednesday, February 15, AWNY welcomed Australian philosopher and author, Skye Cleary, and Australian feminist, journalist and author, Rachel Hills, as panelists for a frank and fearless discussion of love, sex and romance in the city that never sleeps commits, or so it might seem.
Moderator Monica McCarthy of Impact Hub tapped into the malaise many of us feel around February 14, kicking off the discussion by asking whether we are happier now that we can choose who we love. Cleary picked up on the necessity of freedom, both to choose a partner and within a relationship, quickly dispelling the idea that a relationship needs to be long to be considered successful. Instead, she argued the need for ‘authentic love’ – a love that encompasses mutual respect for the liberty of the other – is more important than the duration of the partnership.
The discussion moved to sexual liberation and sexual attractiveness. Hills quoted Dan Savage as she unpacked the conflicting expectations on women to be simultaneously moral and ‘good, giving and game’. She emphasized that while sexism towards sexually liberated women still exists, the research shows that, to a large extent, men and women want the same things in the bedroom.
The panel also explored the idea of dating in New York, particularly the challenges that come with creating, building and maintaining relationships in a city where the pace of life and sheer number of options can shorten our attention spans. When we can simply ‘swipe right’ and move to the next face we may overlook the work required to take a relationship from casual to committed. Dating today has its own set of rules which are also culturally specific – learning to navigate these can be challenging, especially for Australians where our cultural differences can add a layer of complexity.
Joe’s was a great venue for the end of year AWNY Mums and Dads drinks; suitably festive and very cozy.
We had a lower than anticipated turn out, I suspect because the drinks event fell on the coldest day of the year so far. However, many of us braved the chill and there was still a great mix of members, old and new, and between us we represented most states in Australia.
Possibly slightly too much wine was had for a Thursday night but there were a lot of laughs. Thank you for sharing in such a fun night to those who came.
Looking forward to our next catch up slated to be a long brunch in Feb 2017 so stay tuned!