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SUNDAY PROFILE: Kelly Banister helping women in NR's post flood

The Lismore App

Kate Coxall

24 July 2022, 3:46 AM

SUNDAY PROFILE: Kelly Banister helping women in NR's post flood

Kelly Banister is the General Manager of Lismore Women's Health Centre. Kelly has supported Lismore Women through a Pandemic and now a double-Major Flood Climate Disaster, all within the space of just over 2 years. This warrior for Women has a lot behind her, and we have her story to share.

Kelly grew up in the Sutherland Shire and spent a lot of time with her Grandparents in Kurnell, where she enjoyed riding horses, a passion she shared with her Mum.

An only child, she lived with both Mum and Dad, and told us "back then you could have a horse and enjoy that lifestyle without needing to be a wealthy person. I think in those days we lived in one of those egg shaped caravans, and my bed was where they had the dinette, and so that would get packed down in the morning, so we could have breakfast".

"Both my parents worked, Dad, Barry was a Boiler Maker and Mum, Helen, well before she had me she wanted to be a Jet Pilot, so she and her girlfriend went to enlist and were told 'don't be ridiculous', you can be a secretary or a nurse, they looked at each other and said 'well we don't want to be either of those things, so we're not signing up', and that was the end of that."

"So I was brought up with that sense of how unjust discrimination is and what women are told that will stop them from doing things that of course, we can do".

"So we left Sydney when I was 10 and moved up to the Northern Rivers. We moved up to Wardrop Valley, which is just south east of Murwillimbah. So beautiful. Oh, it's gorgeous.

We moved there on to small property 40 acres. And so did my horse Topaz, it was an original farmhouse and so it had the veranda around three sides and French doors. Every room, I was like I was in heaven. No, it was just amazing. And so the in the morning I'd wake up and look out and there was Topaz, our horse with his head over the railing, looking in through my bedroom door. Good morning.

I went to a local school, the Fernvale School from year 5, for 2 years".

"I went from a school in Sydney that must have had 1000 kids in it, Miranda North, to this school. And that was two rooms. And one of them was the classroom and the other was the the teacher, teacher's office and library combined. And a medical room when they used to have the vaccination, people would come around, so it was quite, quite extraordinary to this kid".

"They used to have at the local community hall, which sat on the ridge between Fernvale and Wardrop Valley, a card night, once a month, I think it was Euchre. They'd play and so my parents taught me how to play Euchre. And so we'd go and, you'd play in a sort of, you'd move around and you'd beat your neighbours and stuff. And the first time I went, I won a prize, because I came last out of everybody. I won a frozen chicken. And then the last time I went, I won a prize because I came first in the Women's (dad had gotten lots of training in beforehand so I didn't embarrass him again) and I won a prize, and it was a frozen chicken, and I thought that was just perfect".

"It was quite a different lifestyle. So, I was up here until I was 16, I went to Murwillumbah High School, and then left because there weren't many opportunities work wise at that time, that must have been '79 I think. So, I went back to Sydney, got a job in a bank and wasn't particularly happy. Came back and my parents had split up. I worked on the Gold Coast, I could get the only other job I could get, which was in a bank again, It wasn't suitable.

My father had a business, it was a secondhand timber yard. It was like a demolition, secondhand timber yard, so I ran the office. While he and his partner would go down with the truck and pull places apart, they'd bring it back and then I'd de-nail all the timber, stack it at the back of the yard and then sell it, also on the side, I did a scrap metal business. You had to be a bit creative. So it was Kelly's Scrap Metal".

"When I was 20, I went traveling overseas for about five years. It was incredible and it was after I came back from that dad was living in Queensland and mom was living in the States, so I thought I better get a bit serious and get a trade or something, some learning or further education behind me. That's when I went to QUT to study a Communications Degree, Majoring in Journalism".

After Uni Kelly worked creatively in media until moving to Tasmania. After working for a number of years in Rural and Regional Health, she was engaging in her real love as a long time activist for women. Kelly became the CEO of Australian Women's Health Network (AWHN) where she worked with Women leaders and change makers across the country, notably into the parliamentary boardroom with Julia Gillard, Penny Wong and Tanja Plibersek at one stage, a day Kelly says "was exciting, can you imagine?"

Image: Women Leaders- Penny Wong, PM Julia Gillard, and Tanja Plibersek with Kelly and colleague from AWHN

The AWHN then lost funding with a change of Government, so became a volunteer organisation once again. Kelly came to a friends Commitment Ceremony in New Brighton, and decided her heart was here in the Northern Rivers and relocated for good.

After working in community services for Daisi, she began her role as the General Manager for Lismore Womens Health and Resource Centre (LWHRC) in June 2020, smack bang in the midst of the global pandemic.

Since supporting the community with fit-for-purpose and dynamic program design since the floods, Kelly has managed to secure some funding for the next 3 years to have an outreach service offer support to women impacted by the floods who may need case management, support with mental or physical health or just some time with a support worker to check in and aide in their recovery.

"What we really need is a space set up, ideally in perpetuity, for Women of the Northern Rivers, where we can access continuous and adequate funding and support women to have access, full access, to services they need. We know that when women are supported, communities thrive, as women are at the centre of most family's and care responsibilities, as well as many volunteer organisations and community support services".

Kelly is determined to see the LWHRC funded and continuing to service the needs of the community, offering a safe and well held space for all women. It's definitely a warm and inviting space to enter, and if you would like to know more about the flood outreach service, you can find that in our story: Flood support for all women, coming to you!

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