As part of QPAC’s partnership with Health and Wellbeing Queensland, we recently hosted a boardroom lunch in our Lyrebird Restaurant in the lead up to International Women's Day. The event was an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the women of Queensland and reflect on their achievements during such a challenging year.
Speakers included Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young OA; nib Group Group Chief Medical Officer and Head of Clinical Innovation Dr Mellissa Naidoo; and Merino Country and Queenslandher CEO Kerrie Richards. Each woman spoke about what leadership has looked like for them in a COVID-19 environment.
Following their insights, MC Jillian Whiting facilitated a discussion in response to the question: how can we support women in leadership in the next 12 months, personally or professionally? The group discussion will help contribute to the development of Health and Wellbeing Queensland's Women's Strategy.
Guests were also treated to a performance from Queensland Symphony Orchestra Violist Nicole Greentree.
We spoke with Chief Executive of Health and Wellbeing Queensland Dr Robyn Littlewood about how 2020 highlighted the contribution of women and girls to our society, and how creative practice influences health and wellbeing.
Q: Tell us about the conversations happening now between QPAC and Health and Wellbeing Queensland.
A: Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld) have been delighted to be a part of a new and exciting dialogue with QPAC about how we can better support our most senior Queenslanders, our vulnerable Queensland children and families.
Not only are we talking about great content ideas and truly innovative ways to impact, we want to capture and share the learnings through a strong research and evaluation program which is critical in providing the depth of understanding in the social impact of all of our work. Whether delivering creative art, delivering performances or providing wellbeing programs, the ability to capture the outcomes most relevant for our Queensland communities in supporting a wellbeing agenda is priority for both organisations and a key component of our collaborative discussions. There is so much potential for all Queenslanders emerging from such an opportunity. I am so excited and delighted to be involved.
Q: How has the past year highlighted the contribution of women and girls to our society?
A: Women and girls have always been strong contributors in shaping the culture and society that is unique to Queensland. This past year has been no different. Leading public health experts, vaccine developers, science communicators, business owners, school students, industry and not-for-profit leaders have all contributed to how we have responded to the changes experienced over the last 12 months.
At the same time, we know that women have been greatly impacted by COVID-19, and have done it tough this past year. Australian women are experiencing poorer wellbeing in response to COVID-19 compared to men. Almost all women we surveyed for the Queenslandher campaign found 2020 challenging.
Women give a lot to others, every day. They make up the majority of the healthcare workforce, placing them on the frontline of a pandemic. In Australia, three quarters of health professionals – our health heroes – are female.
Women also shoulder more unpaid care work, spending 64 per cent of their average working hours each week on unpaid work compared to 36 per cent for men.
Women earn on average, $251.20 less than men each week. The national gender “pay gap” is 15.3 per cent and it has remained stuck between 15 per cent and 19 per cent for the past two decades.
In 2015-2016 the average Australian woman was reaching retirement with an average of $113,660 less superannuation than the average male. As a result, women are more likely to experience poverty in their retirement years and be far more reliant on the Age Pension.
With COVID, women are shouldering even more inequity and impact. In a survey of 13,829 Australians during the first month of COVID restrictions, Women were more likely to be experiencing clinically significant symptoms of depression (Female: 26.3%, Male: 20.1%), anxiety (Female: 21.8%, Male: 14.2%), and, were becoming more easily annoyed or irritable (Female: 63.1%, Male: 51.4%).
Much of this is compounded for priority groups of women, including our First Nations and Gender and Sexually Diverse populations.
For these women, equity has been even further eroded by COVID.
The progress we’ve made in Queensland, and globally, to improve this gender equity gap are steps all Queenslanders can be proud of. We stand on the shoulders of giants and appreciate the incredible challenges women before us have faced to support our agenda. However, research reminds us that we didn’t start at the same place.
When we look to 2021, we need to consider the ways in which we re-build together. That must remain our focus.
Q: What are some of the ways creative practice influences health and wellbeing?
A: The relationship between creative arts and wellbeing is strong and growing. There is a body of good quality research that demonstrates how the arts sector improves anxiety and depression. We also know that creative arts can be used as a vehicle to build capacity in personal wellbeing, and even as a teaching tool in schools for explaining non-arts-based curriculum.
A recent HWQld publication highlighted the strong relationship between music and wellbeing. Music therapy has been a recognised profession since the 1970s and is now used by clinical teams in hospitals and healthcare centres throughout Australia and globally. Music therapy is now an accepted form of a preventive wellbeing strategy used in physical, neurological or cognitive rehabilitation.
2020 was hard. 2021 is a year of significant recovery. Now is the time to take time back to truly replenish. One of the most simple, pleasurable and evidence-informed ways we can all improve our wellbeing is to listen to music. Fully. Deeply.
How can we strengthen this work and what offerings will be available to access? That’s what Health and Wellbeing Queensland together with QPAC are talking about; with the specific focus of our vulnerable populations. This work is cutting edge and Queensland is leading it. We are building our wellbeing agenda for all Queenslanders to unit and recover. Together.
We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.