“When we overemphasise a boldness that is public and upfront but don’t value the boldness of the everyday we actually short change the majority of women,” Ms Hollis said.
Ms Hollis spoke on International Women’s Day theme for 2017 “Be bold for change” during a well-attended lunch that was organised by the synod’s Gender Equality Committee.
She pointed out that although it had an earlier precedent dating back to 1908, the contemporary incarnation of International Women’s Day as adopted by the UN began in 1977, meaning that like the Uniting Church it is 40 years old.
Ms Hollis said our understanding of male and female is firmly instilled in all our public and private lives.
“Our perspective of gender and how we understand ourselves as men and women is in the air we breathe, it’s in the houses we’re raised in,” she said.
She argued that since colonial days, the Australian identity has been defined by male roles and heroes, such as stockmen, masculine workers or sporting champions.
“The sense of who we are as Australians has been very much formed by male images and male figures,” she said.
However, she said that in her personal journey she was influenced by a female university lecturer and a woman minister who by just doing their jobs demonstrated a type of boldness that allowed her to imagine herself in ministry and leadership.
“So much of boldness for change is like that, we don’t always notice the impact we have on others. But when we are willing to step out, when we are willing to live into our dreams, when we’re willing to take up roles that we want and are appropriate the impact on other people around us can be unimaginable,” Ms Hollis said.
“We’re allowing other people to imagine themselves taking on opportunities.”
This is part of creating a supportive social environment for change.
“We can all be bold for change if we’re surrounded by a community that encourages boldness,” Ms Hollis said.
She said that the boldness of women often happens in the private sphere, which means it is overlooked.
“There is a certain boldness in just keeping going, in living your life by refusing to be beaten by that thing that troubles you and cause you distress,” Ms Hollis said.
She said that for women living in places where their lives are overshadowed by violence, deprivation or cultural norms that dictate a domestic station, even undertaking education can be considered bold.
“These are the bold, bold acts that will change our world,” she said.
When asked whether the church and Australian society has made progress on women’s equality and Ms Hollis took a historical perspective.
“Have we come a long way? Hell yes,” she said.
“We have achieved mighty things, mighty changes … That’s not to say that we haven’t got some work to do.”