Monument(al) change for Queensland!
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 6, 3 September 2021, page no.13
Queensland school student Malia Knox has big plans to fix the gender disparity in public places across Queensland. Together with her mum, QTU member Kelley, she has lobbied and campaigned and created a movement that is growing in momentum and support.
Malia's FemaleFaces4PublicSpaces campaign is calling for action to address the huge disparity between men and women when it comes to who is honoured with monuments and statues in our parks and squares.
She is pushing for monuments to incredible Queensland women like Jessica Watson, Aunty Recheal Daley, Quentin Bryce and Ash Barty and so many more.
Earlier this year, Malia was invited to Parliament to give a speech. This is what she said:
“My name is Malia Knox. I am nine years old. Last year, I started a campaign to get more statues, pictures and plaques of women in public. The campaign is called FemaleFaces4PublicPlaces.
It all began when I was at Sherwood Aboretum Park and read out all the names that were engraved on the plaques on each tree. I asked my mum why these names were on the plaques and my mum told me that these were important people back from 1925 who had the honour of planting the trees. I asked my mum why only two of the trees that I counted were planted by women and the other 72 were planted by men. My mum told me that things were very different back in 1925 and women didn’t get as many opportunities to achieve the things they do today. I then said, but it is 2020 now and I know lots of amazing women who have accomplished so much and done so many remarkable things for our country; where are the trees planted by these women?
Since then I learnt a lot more about this issue. Did you know:
- Only 3 per cent of statues in Australia honour real women
- There are only three statues of real women in Brisbane
- In Australia, there are more statues of animals than there are of real Australian women.
I’ve also learned a lot more about the amazing women we could be honouring. My favourite book has become “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls”, where I read about Molly Kelly and Jessica Watson.
I also read a children’s book about an extraordinary Queensland woman called Aunty Recheal Daley. She dreamed of being a train driver as a little girl but was told she never would because women couldn’t drive trains. But she never gave up and worked hard to get the job. I was lucky enough to meet Aunty Recheal. I listened in awe as she told her story about how she fought for fair maternity conditions and female staff toilets. She even asked her boss to think about what it would be like for him to have to wear women’s clothes when she advocated for female uniforms.
I don’t want to be a train driver but I do want to be like Aunty Recheal. I want to do something no-one has done before. The more I learn about Queensland women like Emma Miller, Abbigail Allwood and Lillian Cooper and their strength and courage, the braver I feel.
They say seeing is believing, and I don’t want young girls like me who are constantly seeing important men to start believing that only men are important. Girls my age need to be seeing strong female role models. Imagine if there were statues of some of these women in public? You wouldn’t have to go to a book to know about them. You could find out on a trip to the park. People would have conversations with boys and girls about these women and why they are important.
By reading about these women, learning about them and most importantly SEEING these women, I feel inspired by them. They give ME courage. The courage to keep fighting for what I believe in. I also ask that all of you find your courage, the courage to start breaking the bronze-ceiling; to demand equal gender representation in public places in the form of statues, pictures and plaques. Young girls like me need to SEE strong female role models, to learn from their stories and their strengths, to inspire us about who we are and what our potential is.”
How to help
Malia is currently trying to secure a new statue of Brisbane-born NASA scientist Abigail Allwood for outside the Mt-Cootha Planetarium. Statues for Equality and Women in Technology has agreed to partly fund the statue, but an extra $20,000 is still needed.
You can help via Malia’s gofundme page (https://www.gofundme.com/f/abigail-allwood-bronze-statue). You can also apply to join the FemaleFaces4PublicSpaces Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/260444371845722.