A Year of Contrast…

At our Annual General Meeting held via Zoom on 14 May,  Club members reflected on what a year of contrast it has been!  We started the year by embracing the world with our celebrations for the Centennial of Zonta International — and ended it in social isolation brought about by the global pandemic.

Kelda Opperman, CEO of the Zonta House Refuge Association was our inspirational guest speaker.  Kelda shared the challenges that she and her team had faced during the pandemic – and how they and their clients were adapting to life with uncertainty, no touching and services provided online.  Members were moved by her strength, care and passion.  In the dark days, she sought counsel from one of the Refuge’s founders, Di Annear, and was encouraged to persevere, persevere, persevere.    At the start of the pandemic, the Refuge was at the end of various funding cycles, and this added to the stress and uncertainty.  However, the team’s perseverance paid off and they are now on track with funding – but can always do with a boost so they can do more!  Donations to the Refuge are always welcome!

For one hundred years, Zontians around the world have said yes to gender equality and no to violence against women.  We have freely donated our time and talents to empower women through service and advocacy.   During this Centennial year, we focused on honouring and empowering women and were:

  • inspired by our awardees; the youthful visionaries and those that had overcome immense disadvantage, violence and poverty, to turn their lives around with education;
  • humbled by the migrant women who bravely shared their stories of adjusting to a new country, culture and language, rebuilding their lives after experiencing horrendous domestic violence, and trying to weave their ways through complex court processes;
  • awed by four of the world’s leading astro-scientists who had been called by the cosmos and who shared their ‘ground- breaking’ research with us in the Planetarium;
  • energized by the special Centennial Australia New Zealand combined districts conference in Brisbane where we launched our club’s centennial history, met the Zonta International President Susanne von Bassewitz and saw Sandra Burns installed as District 23 Governor Elect; 
  • educated by our speakers on training Aboriginal leaders, encouraging CEOs to do more about gender equity, promoting women and girls to do STEM subjects, caring for women at the refuge, honouring women through the WA Women’s Hall of Fame as well as Zonta updates at the Area 3 workshop;
  • entertained at our Quiz Night, and social events;
  • thrilled when Judy Gorton’s article on a hundred years of Zonta was prominently featured in the West Australian newspaper and Ute Schierhorn used her connections to get the club visibility in the newspaper’s popular Inside Cover section;
  • proud when Zonta International’s Centennial was honoured at a special event at WA’s Parliament House;
  • relieved when WA’s pandemic restrictions kicked in and members did not get sick; and
  • delighted when all members embraced the technology so that we could continue to meet online via Zoom.

Our Club’s Annual Report will give you a taste of what our members’ combined efforts have achieved in 2019-20.  Special thanks go to Irvan Stanley and his team at IS Assurance for auditing the Club’s accounts pro bono.

At the AGM, four members were honoured for their Zonta service:

  • Lennie McCall – 49 years (Charter member)
  • Val Gandossini – 10 years
  • Vicky Nazer – 5 years
  • Linda Higgie – 5 years

Members thanked the outgoing 2019-20 Board for giving their time, talents and energy to lead the Club in this memorable year:

  • President:  Carole Theobald
  • Vice President: Val Gandossini
  • Treasurer: Ute Schierhorn
  • Secretary: Vera Riley
  • Directors: Kate Ellson, Tanis Jackson, Emma Stenhouse, and Gabrielle Walker.

Candidates for the 2020-21 Board were announced by Sandra Burns (District 23 Governor Elect), elections were conducted by ‘Tricia Summerfield (Club Parliamentarian) and officers installed by Judy Gorton (Zonta International Director) – with amazing speed. Electronic meetings certainly increase our efficiency!

Congratulations go to the 2020-21 Board:

  • President:  Mary Gurgone
  • Vice President: Ping Teo
  • Treasurer: Ute Schierhorn
  • Secretary: Emily Thomas
  • Directors: Kate Ellson, Val Gandossini, Natasha Kusmuk, and Emma Stenhouse.

The President, Mary Gurgone will receive her badge of office, gavel, and clapping sticks in the coming days.  Members look forward to supporting Mary and the new Board as we continue on our mission to empower women and girls through service and advocacy.

Many thanks go to all Zontians, family, friends, and sponsors for their magnificent support

Open for business – how you can help

The Zonta Club of Perth is still OPEN FOR BUSINESS and we are meeting via Zoom.
Currently, members are focussing on our local projects and advocacy where they can.
You are most welcome to join us at our next Zoom Club meeting by requesting the flyer for the meeting.

Here are some activities you can get involved with today:

Birthing Kits at Home
You can now have the materials to make 40 birthing kits delivered to your home – and the kits will be collected after you have made them – so you do not have to step outside.
Visit Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia) for more information. 
We expect over 6,000 women and more babies will die in coming weeks – so the impact you can make is considerable.  If you can encourage support amongst your friends to fund kits that would also be so much appreciated.  Remember that all donations to the Birthing Kit Foundation are tax-deductible.
Making Masks
This video from Czechoslovakia shows how their Covid 19 infection controls are some of the most effective in the world.  In Czechoslovakia it is compulsory for everyone to wear a mask when leaving home and the virologists and microbiologists support this approach.  On the web there are many designs, so have a go at making your own!
Keep breathing, keep smiling and keep taking precautions!

Coronavirus Actions

We are all facing challenging times and it is important that we look out for each other.

Given the speed of actions associated with preventing the spread of Coronavirus, the Zonta Club of Perth will be doing its best to help ‘flatten the curve’.  Our top priorities are to protect the health of our members and the wider community.

Therefore, we have agreed to cancel our monthly club face-to-face meetings and events until further notice.

We are working on how we can continue to further our mission through the use of electronic communication. This is a great opportunity for us all to learn new skills and be innovative in how we help our community.

We all have a responsibility to be sensible in stopping the spread. Washing hands, using sanitiser and keeping our distance—are actions that show we care for each other.

In coming weeks our challenge will be to look out for those in social isolation so they can keep connected. A phone call, an email or a note through the door is all it takes to connect to make sure they are OK.

Hopefully, the precautionary measures will work, the curve can be flattened and our health services will be able to cope.

We will keep you advised when normal club activities are able to resume.  Until then, keep breathing, keep smiling and keep taking precautions.


Early risers at UN Women IWD Breakfast

Zonta International partners with UN Women on our Eid Bi Eid (Hand in Hand) project in Jordan to help Syrian refugees and Jordanian women get sustainable and decent employment.  So with our close association, it is no surprise that, at a local level, members support the UN Women International Women’s Day (IWD) Breakfast.

This high profile event is held in the Perth Convention Centre from 7am and this year attracted around 800 early risers.  UN Women were promoting the global theme of Generation Equality and pushing for more equality especially in education.  We heard about the Second Chance project that is being piloted in 7 countries and Australia.  Second Chance enables women and girls (whose education had been interrupted for various reasons) to complete their studies – and find work.

Half a billion of the world’s illiterate adults are women. This trend has not changed in 20 years. UN Women is actively working to change that.

Attendees were in awe of the stories shared by the panel members: UN Women’s Sonali Hedditch, along with local partners Luz Restrepo, CEO of SisterWorks and Wendy Yarnold, CEO of Real Futures.

Luz was a refugee who sought asylum in Australia from Colombia.  When she arrived in Melbourne, she spoke no English and found herself to be illiterate in her new land.  Within six months she had taught herself enough English to begin teaching other migrants – and in the process developed many tools to help make learning practical and engaging. Wendy focuses on giving a Second Chance to Aboriginal women in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, providing confidence as well as enabling women to learn so they can earn!

Zontians Vicky Nazer, Janice Dudley, Lennie McCall, Agnes Vacca and Carole Theobald enjoyed the morning and met up with Zonta friend, Anne-Banks McAllister.

20200304 IWD breakfast Lennie Mccall carole theobald Anne banks mcallister vicky nazer and janice dudley

Left to right:  Lennie McCall, Carole Theobald, Anne Banks-McAllister, Vicky Nazer and Janice Dudley

Some members may remember that Anne and Carole had previously been convenors of this event, growing it from 100 to over 1000 people in a five year period.  They were delighted to see the event continuing to be well supported – especially as it now has to compete with so many other IWD events!

International Women’s Day is on Sunday 8 March and members are looking forward to hearing who will be inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame this year!  Watch this space.

20200304 iwd breakfast carole theobald janice dudley agnes vacca vicky nazer

Left to right:  Carole Theobald, Janice Dudley, Agnes Vacca and Vicky Nazer catch up at the end of the event.

Review of Zonta’s Centennial

Zonta operates in a two year cycle called the biennium.  The 2018-20 biennium is very special as it celebrates the 100th year of the founding of Zonta on 8 November 1919.  In the last six months the Zonta Club of Perth has celebrated the Centennial in many ways including:

  • Our Club Awards Night where Shakila Rathnayake became the inaugural recipient of our Women in Technology Award, Kimberley Wilde received the University Education Award, Taylah Thompson received the Yvonne Burgu Education Award and Paris McNeil received the Young Women in Public Affairs Award;
  • Establishing the Awards Alumnae – with  Gabrielle Walker successfully tracking down many previous awardees;
  • The Awards Night hosted by Perth Northern Suburbs club where Eloise Ireland was awarded the Area 3 Jane M Klausman Women in Business Scholarship and later went on the receive the District 23 level of the award;
  • Calling the Cosmos where Zonta took over the SciTech Planetarium to showcase the inspiring work of women scientists and celebrate 100 years of Zonta – some attending in historical dress. Hosted by former WA Chief Scientist, Professor  Lyn Beazley, members and guests were enthralled with the presentations made by Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, Dr Katarina Miljkovic and Dr Ellie Sansom;
  • The publication of the Centennial edition of our club’s history that was launched at the Combined Australia New Zealand Zonta Conference in Brisbane by the Zonta International President, Dr Suzanne Von Bassewitz;
  • Our bottle and bars Quiz Night at Next Gen in King’s Park that raised valuable funds and showcased Zonta’s work; 
  • The State Reception at Parliament House, hosted by the Minister for Women’s Interests, Hon Simone McGurk MLA;
  • Our Centennial Night Celebration on which a worldwide Zonta-thon was held to raise funds for Zonta’s International programs;
  • Club President, Carole Theobald’s, radio interview describing the history of our club;
  • Zonta International Director and club member, Judy Gorton’s, opinion piece in the West Australian highlighting Zonta’s Centennial and our work locally, nationally and internationally;
  • The 16 Days of Activism with social media messages and the splash of orange as members walked on the Silent March through Perth’s streets to end violence against women; and
  • The end of year Christmas Party at the President’s home where we brought frying pans and household items for Starting over Support and launched the new Donation Cards in Centennial colours.

Our meetings have included some excellent speakers including Rishelle Hume AM and Anjie Brook (Board member and CEO of the WA Aboriginal Leadership Institute), Kalien Selby (A/CEO of Sci-Tech), Tania Cecconi (Executive Officer, CEOs for Gender Equity), as well as survivors of domestic violence who bravely shared their stories.

We have welcomed our new Centennial members;  Nastasa Kusmuk, Ping Teo, Lan Tran, Sue Parlour and Helene Jaccomard and have more prospective members waiting in the wings.

Our club is proud of all of its members, and especially so of:

  • Judy Gorton who has been travelling the world as a Zonta International Director and reminding us of our international affiliations; and
  • Sandra Burns who became the District 23 Governor Elect at the Brisbane Conference and is currently in Chicago for her Governor’s training.

Members have been enjoying the summer break and the next meeting is on the earlier date of 6 February.  At this meeting members will explore how we will Walk the Talk of Zonta in 2020.




Quiz Night Success

This was a night of fun, generosity, and teamwork!

Alex Naoum did an outstanding job as our quiz master!  The questions were a great mix of general knowledge, science and music – there were many scratched heads and lots of laughter!  Gabrielle Walker was his ‘off-sider for the night, marking papers and keeping score with a smile. With the quiz, raffle, money squares, bottle coin toss, heads and tails – there was plenty to keep everyone occupied.  The auction turned into a bit of a comedy double act with Carole Theobald and Sandra Burns doing their best to encourage higher bids for the cause.  Their tactics worked well with over $1,000 being raised amid much laughter!

In total, we raised just over $4,000 – a magnificent effort!

When it came to generosity – Next Gen was magnificent.  They provided the venue (under the historic Royal Kings Park Tennis Club grandstand), some great membership packages for prizes and generally did everything they could to help our worthy cause.  A huge thank you to Liz Parlour, Ryan Maxfield and the Next Gen team for their time, effort and making things happen.

So many Zonta members supported the event by selling tickets and donating  ‘bottles and bars’, that were used to make the prize hampers.  On the night, all the prior planning paid off with members working together to set up the prizes, games, signage – and clear up at the end of the night – great teamwork!

All proceeds go to Zonta’s projects to help women achieve their full potential.

Zonta says YES to gender equality and NO to violence against women.


Photo:  Gabrielle marks the papers and keeps score!

Reflections from Brisbane

Photo L-R:  Karen Groves, ‘Tricia Summerfield, Sandra Burns, Dr Susanne von Bassewitz (Zonta International President), Judy Gorton and Carole Theobald

In September, all eyes were on Brisbane for the Zonta Combined Australia New Zealand Centennial Conference where around 750 Zontians from four districts gathered at the Brisbane Convention Centre for a packed program on all things ‘Zonta’. Seven members from our club attended the Conference.

Our District 23 Governor, Jane Adornetto, had a serious accident on her way to the conference and had to be hospitalised.  Jane is making a good recovery, but it was sad that having spent the last couple of years organising the event with the Governors from the three other districts she was not there to share the fruits of her labours.  Our own club’s Sandra Burns was the Lt Governor and capably stepped up to cover for Jane.  Carole Theobald (D23 photographer) was tasked with taking as many photos as she could so that Jane would not miss out completely. These photos may be viewed from this link.

What were the highlights from the Conference?  They included:

  • the fantastic opening ceremony: flags, anthems and a Hakka!
  • the grace of Dame Quentin Bryce sharing her insights and signing her books
  • the engaging presentation by Dame Therese Walsh that featured her standing on a washing machine as a girl!
  • AE Fellow Dr Airlie Chapman flying her robotic drone on stage
  • Prof Lisa Harvey-Smith, STEM ambassador, explaining how gender inequality in design results in women being more likely than men to be injured in a car accident, work in buildings that are too cold for them and have difficulty taking photos one-handed with mobile phones
  • the panel discussion exploring child marriage
  • those amazing YWPA awardees sharing their stories – the future is in good hands…
  • the open forum with the Zonta International President, Dr Susanne von Bassewitz and four ANZ District Governors
  • presenting International President, Dr Susanne von Bassewitz with a copy of our club’s history book – she loved it! (see above)
  • the fellowship, the dinner, the marketplace, the laughter!

We learned so much from other clubs…  heard how some invited local women to be individual members, were inspired by some of the local service projects and saw some amazing fundraising ideas in the marketplace.

If you have not been to a district conference or an International Convention, put it on your bucket list today…   The Zonta International Convention in 2020 will be in Chicago from 4-8 July.

Quiz Night: Friday 18th October, 7pm

Screen Shot 2019-09-17 at 11.08.05 pm

Join the Zonta Club of Perth for a fun Quiz night next month with the support of Next Gen Kings Park.

When? Friday 18th October 2019, 7pm – 10pm
Where? Next Gen Kings Park, RKPTC Pavilion
21 Kings Park Road, Kings Park WA 6005
What? An evening of fun, fellowship and support for projects and scholarships improving the lives of women and girls.

Tickets: $20pp, bonus points for teams of 10! If you don’t have 10, no problem, we’ll make team up.

Nibbles provided on the tables and there will be a bar available to purchase drinks from.

Book now! Buy your quiz tickets here, https//www.trybooking.com/BFCHW

Any questions, please let us know via zontaperth@gmail.com

Support the WA Women’s Hall of Fame

The WA Women’s Hall of Fame recognises, promotes and celebrates the achievements of Western Australian women, past and present.  It was established in 2011 during the Centenary of International Women’s Day when the first 100 women were inducted at a special event held in the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

In 2012, a Roll of Honour was established to honour women who are no longer with us.  Today, nearly 200 women are in the Hall of Fame and Roll of Honour.  

The Zonta Club of Perth has been a strong supporter and was one of many women’s groups inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

Since its inception, the Hall of Fame has relied on Lotterywest and the Department for Communities for financial support.  To ensure its longevity the Hall of Fame has developed a Sponsors Prospectus to attract ongoing sponsorships from more diverse sources.

Can you please help the Hall of Fame find sponsors and share the Sponsors Prospectus with organisations that would like to promote gender equality in WA?

Did you know that you can become a member of the WA Women’s Hall of Fame Inc?  For more information visit the WA Women’s Hall of Fame website.

Questions from the Cosmos…

Photo L-R:  Dr Katarina Miljkovic, Dr Ellie Sansom, Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, Professor Lyn Beazley, AO

Cosmos Calling on 15 August was a wonderful night at the SciTech Planetarium that celebrated the ‘cutting edge’ of science being undertaken right here in Western Australia.

Professor Lyn Beazley was an excellent MC, keeping the session engaging and highlighting the role Australia has had in space exploration.  She set the evening up describing the early days when Aboriginal people’s movements were guided by the position of the ’emu’ in the Milky Way.  She then went on to describe Carnarvon’s critical role in the final ‘go or no go’ decision to land men on the Moon and the current day where we are on the threshold of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) becoming a reality.

Our three speakers were outstanding:  Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, Dr Katarina Miljkovic and Dr Ellie Sansom.  Together, they literally bring a world of knowledge to WA – having studied extensively overseas and now all collaborating on international teams.  We are so lucky to have such bright, passionate, inspirational scientists here in Perth.  They are all excellent science communicators, clearly guiding us through their work and the importance of it.

Natasha’s work with the Murchison Widefield Array (the precursor to the SKA) showed the Cosmos as a place of beauty.  Thankfully, she persevered to paint the whole Cosmos in ‘radio colour’ (not just focus on a part of it) and wow doesn’t it come alive! The darkness of space is only due to our inability to see what is really there – and when the non-visible wavelengths are coloured it all looks so beautiful.  The colours even showed up the ‘Cosmic Corpses’ – what a great expression!  Over one million people have viewed Natasha’s TED talk – have you seen it yet?

Katarina’s personal ‘life on Mars’ involves her listening for things that go bump in the night (and day) on Mars.  On her project with NASA’s InSight mission, she is monitoring the seismic activity on Mars. If an impact or volcano causes a movement on the surface – she wants to know about it.  Why? So she can find out what lies beneath the surface and discover if Mars has a centre that is ‘soft or hard-boiled’.  It was surprising to learn how many probes and landers are now on Mars – all doing different things to help build our understanding of this ‘near neighbour’ planet.  A lasting image was the InSight lander taking a ‘selfie‘ of itself on the very flat Martian landscape.  This was a selfie on another planet – blows the brain!

Ellie admitted that liking both arts and sciences at school, she found it hard to make her career choice.  This became more difficult when a career questionnaire revealed she was suited to a career as a ‘chimney sweep’ – but luckily for us, she discovered geophysics and now works with the Desert Fireball Network!  In a world-first, images of WA fireballs were projected onto the Planetarium’s dome.  It was fascinating to see the beads of light showing the trajectory of the meteorites.  There are 50 cameras around Australia now monitoring the skies for fireballs and the images are spectacular.  The cameras can also monitor the changing orbits of satellites.  The Desert Fireball Network proactively found partners in other countries to create a global Fireball Network.  You can become part of this just by downloading an app!

The panel discussion was lively, but painted a disturbing picture of science today and raised many questions.

What has science done for us?  This ‘chestnut’ of a question was easily answered through looking at the things we take for granted every day.  Without radioastronomy, we would not have Wi-Fi.  Wi-Fi was an Australian invention that involved the CSIRO.  The Apollo landings gave us memory foam, miniature cameras (that we now use in mobile phones) and the computer mouse. Without science, there would be far less innovation and in today’s fast-moving world we need innovation to create jobs.

Why do we make life so hard for our scientists? The team explained that they work under short term contracts, have to have the begging bowl out every few years to secure funding and, are easy prey to political cost-cutting exercises (just think of the recent decimation of the CSIRO).  It is no wonder bright minds may look to other careers.  Scientists are clearly the unsung heroes of our economy. 

Is an academic career in STEM harder for women?  It appears that at the lower levels of academia, no.  However, rising to higher levels in academia is still very hard for women and this is reflected in the stats that show the higher up you go, the fewer women there are.  

The discussion highlighted the need to get more politicians interested in STEM and encourage them to learn more about the benefits of research to the economy.

It became clear that we need to promote STEM widely so more women and girls take an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Politicians respond to their communities; if more people take an interest in science, so will politicians.  We need to start with ourselves, be well-informed and spread the word.

What is the secret to collaboration in science?  All of the speakers are part of international collaborations and pointed out, ‘from space there are no borders…..’

The SciTech staff were wonderful – Acting CEO Kalien Selby welcomed everyone during the pre-show drinks and canapes and Leah Kalameris provided an illuminating narration during a special scene-setting planetarium show developed especially for the event. This was followed by the Capturing the Cosmos show that focussed on the Australian Sky Mapper and SKA projects using some amazing special effects.

Carole Theobald, Club President, welcomed everyone to this special Zonta Centennial event and provided an introduction to Zonta and its work.  She dressed as a suffragette to celebrate the fact that besides being Zonta’s 100 year anniversary, it is also 100 years this week since women in the USA obtained the right to vote.  Judy Gorton, Zonta International Director, provided a heartfelt vote of thanks to the speakers and audience, explaining how funds raised will go towards Zonta’s service and education programs.

So many members (and partners) contributed to this successful event – and our thanks extend to them and the fabulous audience, who dressed up as the past, present and future to celebrate Zonta’s Centennial!




Photo L-R:  Carole Theobald, President of the Zonta Club of Perth with Judy Gorton, Director of Zonta International at the Calling the Cosmos: Space the Next Frontier event held at SciTech Planetarium, Perth to celebrate the Centennial of Zonta International.