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Frances Belle-Parker addresses the crowd at the International Women’s Day in Yamba, on Friday. Images: Lynne Mowbray.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Lynne Mowbray | Around 280 people attended last Friday’s International Women’s Day [IWD] celebrations, which were held at Bowlo Sports and Leisure Yamba. The event which was organised by Grafton, Maclean, Yamba Day and Yamba Evening VIEW Clubs, was their major fund raiser for the sponsorship of their Learning for Life students [LFL], through the Smith Family Scholarship Program. VIEW National Councillor [NM03] Lesley Carroll, spoke briefly on this year’s IWD theme, ‘Press for Progress’ – (striving for gender parity). Other speakers included Karen Curtin – regarding the LFL Smith Family Scholarship Programs and Fleur Yorston – fine arts and interior designer. Guest speaker was Yaegl visual artist, Frances Belle-Parker. Before presenting her own story, Frances touched on her mother’s life. “My mother is Lenore Parker; an amazing woman in her own right,” said Frances. “I can’t begin to share my story without giving you a glimpse into who she is. “Mum grew up on Ulgundai Island. The Yaegl people were moved there (onto the island) when the Scottish settlers first came to this region in the early 1900’s. “Those who grew up and lived on the island recall this time as one of the happiest times of their life; the families all worked together, provided for each other and were a community. “My mum used her life experience as a path to where she is today, as an ordained Anglican priest,” she said. “My earliest memories of wanting to be an artist came from my first butterfly painting in pre-school,” said Frances. “In high school I was lucky enough to have wonderful art teachers surround me to support my talent and desire to be and artist. “Following high school I was accepted into the College of Fine Arts at UNSW. I deferred my first year so that I could work and travel. “One day a friend handed me an entry form to the Blake Prize for Religious Art. Straight away I had a strong vision of a Rainbow Serpent with a tongue forming a crucifix. My mum encouraged me to paint it. “It took me three months to paint this piece which I called ‘The Journey’. To me it represents my journey as a young Aboriginal woman; there is always an underlying strength of our culture and spirituality. Not only does it represent my journey, but many other Aboriginal people’s journey, as well. “In 2000, at the age of 18 and out of a field of 460 leading Australian artists, I won the Blake Prize for Religious Art. I was not only the youngest winner but the first Aboriginal artist to win this prize,” she said. Frances went on to tell of her personal journey and the inspiration behind her art works over the years. Last year, Frances was honoured to be invited to have her art works (along with other Aboriginal artists) projected onto the Bennelong sail of the Sydney Opera House, during the Badu Gili display. The daily illumination at sunset was an experience that explored the ancient First Nations stories in a seven minute projection. Frances said that the experience was mind blowing and like a dream come true. At the end of her presentation, Frances concluded, “In celebration of International Women’s Day let us remember all of the great women who have come before us, all the great women who are here today and the girls who will grow into amazing women of the future.”
L-R Yamba Evening View Club member Barbara Mahoney-Smith, Frances Belle-Parker and Zone Councillor [M03] Elizabeth Birch.
Fine Arts and Interior Designer Fleur Yorston was one of the speakers.
L-R Dancer Alanah Boon and Singer Rachael Noakes provided entertainment at this year’s International Women’s Day (Image: Contributed).
Lilli O’Neill sang for the crowd.
President of the Yamba Evening View Club, Karen Toms.
Beth Organ entertained the crowd.
            Images: Lynne Mowbray.