In June of this year, at the beautiful Waihi Beach, a group of one hundred smart, inspiring and supportive women came together to make some magic.
This time round it was the Bay of Plenty’s turn to host the Women Who Get Shit Done Unconference - a collaborative event that brings together the awesome power of womankind by connecting and inspiring Kiwi women from a wide variety of backgrounds. The weekend camp does things a little differently to your average conference, with an open agenda set by the attendees. It’s a time for women to share their own experiences, battles, passions, and skills - and it’s flickin’ awesome!
We’ve been a proud sponsor of the WWGSD Unconferences since 2016, providing scholarships to selected attendees. Amanda Lowry, of Tauranga, was the scholarship recipient for this year’s Bay of Plenty Unconference, and we chatted with her recently to see how she found the event.
Welcome to the Flick blog, Amanda! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hey, my name is Amanda Lowry, and I’m a 45-year-old mama to my two gorgeous girls, Lola (8) and Ziggy (4). My amazing partner of 15 years is Gemma - she’s the glue that holds us all together, and I’m so happy that she chose me. I’m Maori, Pakeha, a mumma, and a partner. I’m competitive, sporty, political, driven, committed, funny (or so I think). Oh yeah, and disabled.
What have been the major influences in your life?
Four years ago, at Mount Maunganui Beach, I dived off my surfboard and hit the bottom. I broke my neck, rendering me a tetraplegic: I’m now paralysed from my neck down, with only 14% function. At the time, Ziggy was only six days old. Prior to my accident, I was a kite surfer, surfer and paddle boarder - I spent as much time as possible in the ocean, and I cycled everywhere with Lola between my arms. I’d just completed my masters degree in Social Science through Waikato University, was tutoring sociology and was ready to embark on a PhD.
And how has the accident influenced the path you’re on now?
These past four years have been a massive journey of discovery for my family and I, as we come to terms with my new body and my new life. I have to think about life in a different way. It would be really easy to turn inward and stop living when you’re impacted by an illness or accident, but that’s not an option for me! I’m not that kind of person - I have kids, and I’ll keep fighting to be the most that I can be. I play wheelchair rugby, which I love with all my heart, and I’ve just been accepted into the Paralympic development squad for swimming. I’m seeing a gold medal in Tokyo 2020! As well as that, I’m also on the board of Parafed, an organisation which is partnered with the Paralympics and that creates sporting opportunities for those with physical disabilities. Sport can change disabled peoples lives: for me, wheelchair rugby makes this crazy journey okay. I’m part of this fabulous Wheelie community, my kids get to see their Mumma being super competitive, and they get to hang out with other kids who have parents in a chair. Sport helps my family make a new normal.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
We’ll be the mothers of two teenage girls, and we’ll be 55… so probably knackered! They’ll be going through puberty when we’re going through menopause… can you imagine? Avoid our house! But I think my life will be back on track by then. I’ll have mastered this crazy body. I’ll be back making beautiful food (food is my love language - I’ve had surgery that repositions tendons to give me some hand function, and it’s been tough watching other people, who don’t love food, cook for my family. Gemma says that when she sees me back in the kitchen she’ll know the balance in the universe has been restored!). Professionally, I’ll be back teaching or involved in something that lets me use my skills to help others.
What great things do you want to have achieved, and what causes will you be fighting for?
An Olympic gold! I’d quite like to be a Wheelblack too (that’s NZ’s national wheelchair rugby team)! And I’ll always fight for those without a voice; I’ll never stop fighting against inequality.
If you had the power to change one thing about life in NZ, what would it be?
I want all New Zealanders to have security: security that they can afford to pay the rent, put food on the table, and have their kids go to school in warm clothes. Security that those kids can attend schools with great teachers and ample resources. I believe that security would begin to undo - and prevent - the intergenerational costs of deprivation.
Let’s talk about the WWGSD Unconference - why did you want to attend?
Because it was an Unconference! Who wouldn’t want to hang with a whole bunch of female movers and shakers for a weekend?! There were no agendas, it was led by the attendees, and it was a space where we got to talk about things that mattered to us.
What did you gain from it?
The participants were great sounding boards for ideas, with everyone bringing a different skill to the party. It was an amazing opportunity to pitch commercial ideas, debate community issues, explore the creative and the artistic, and to share our personal journeys. We’re all now connected through the WWGSD alumni, which means attendees have access to more than 600 women as a resource. And that makes us an unstoppable bunch of women who will get shit done!
And, last of all, what do you feel was valuable about a group of like-minded WOMEN getting together?
I loved that the event was entirely women-centred. There were women from all different walks of life, bringing their own, lived experiences to the table, and we could discuss everything from our perspective: the glass ceiling, pay equality, how women in male-dominated industries have to work that much harder to gain credibility, how to get more women into positions of power, and how to bring about systemic and institutional change! On the lighter side, there was great kai, and so much laughter, singing, and celebration of the mana wahine within. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend. Thanks, Flick!
Keen to read more about the amazing women who get shit done? Meet Steph, our Christchurch WWGSD Unconference scholarship recipient.