Extract from The Bali Speech – International Women’s Day 2003

And so to Bali – where do I start to tell you here this morning of the courage of the women involved in the emergency response after the bombing and those now rebuilding their community step by step, day by day?

Courage is often a word synonymous with racing into burning buildings or protecting your children from physical threat. And there were certainly many acts of enormous courage in the immediate aftermath of the bombings – these should never be left unacknowledged and all possible accolades should be accorded those who displayed such courage.

But, there were other, quieter acts of courage just as effective, just as resolute.

One of the most striking images in the immediate days following the bombings was the televised footage of schoolgirls – some as young as 13 or 14 years – working as volunteers in the morgue, shifting bodies and body parts as needed.

Take yourselves back to your own adolescence and imagine carrying out such tasks. And yet these young women were uncomplaining despite the makeshift conditions, despite the oppressive heat, despite the enormous emotional trauma in the environment surrounding them.

And they were not the only volunteers who assumed tasks that they could never have imagined assuming during their lifetimes. Let me tell you of three remarkable women – Rosa Norita, Viebeke Asana and Teresa Allen – two for whom Bali is home and one who will now always have a home in Bali.

Rosa Norita is a granddaughter of a Japanese general who led the invasion of Indonesia during World War Two. And, if ever the strengths and talents of her forbears were needed, they were needed with certainty in the immediate aftermath of the Kuta bombings.

My favourite image of Rosa is a photo published in a Balinese newspaper. It shows a woman rushing through the corridors of Sanglah Hospital, her arms filled with an enormous load of medical supplies. Rosa had gone to Sanglah after hearing of the bombing, assessed the number of wounded arriving there and immediately set about collecting additional medical supplies from pharmacies throughout Denpasar, Kuta and other nearby areas.

Nor was Rosa satisfied with just this contribution to the disaster response. She worked tirelessly as a volunteer at the hospital, assisting with patient and family care wherever required; located families across Denpasar, Kuta and Sanur to advise them of family members killed or injured in the blasts and liaised with government and other officials to address the needs of the wounded and their families .

Rosa then flew to Jakarta an spent an entire day knocking on the doors of Indonesia’s captains of industry, raising 60 million rupiah within twenty four hours for distribution to affected Balinese families.

I met Viebeke Asana at the first meeting of NGOs held to coordinate the longer term recovery strategies following the bombings. Viebeke heads Parum Samigita, an NGO focussed on community development in partnership with the Kuta Legian Banjars.

Like so many others, Viebeke and her colleagues volunteered immediately to assist at Sanglah Hospital. However, even at this point, Viebeke was planning the forward strategies to deal with the expected economic and social dislocation that would inevitably arise.

Under her leadership Parum Samigita raised and distributed funds to those families whose source of income was lost due to death, injury or unemployment. This was not simply a response to the enormous tragedy affecting each family but part of a wider strategy to ensure that social and political unrest did not follow the trauma of loss.

My final snapshot is that of Teresa Allen, an Australian burns nurse. We met at Darwin Airport while waiting to board the Garuda flight to Denpasar. I was surrounded by the fifty seven tea boxes of supplies donated by Darwin residents and businesses within 48 hours of the bombing.

A woman who I have never laid eyes on before approached me and introduced herself. Teresa had travelled to Darwin as a nursing consultant for a travel insurance company after injured survivors arrived at Royal Darwin Hospital. With the announcement by John Howard that the federal government would meet all medical costs for injured Australians, Teresa found herself suddenly without a job. She then simply bought herself a ticket to Denpasar in the hope of linking into the aid movement under way in Bali, offering her expertise in burns nursing to Sanglah Hospital.

Through the networks of Rosa Norita, we were able to convince Sanglah Hospital management to utilise Teresa’s skills in the wards. Teresa continued working in Sanglah for over four weeks. And when her support was no longer needed by the hospital, she took her expertise to the villages of Bali as part of an outreach team established by expatriate David Webb at Bedugal.

Teresa then spent another month travelling on the back of a motorbike with an interpreter – treating villagers who had been injured but fled to the safety of their homes and patients discharged from hospital who required follow up care and advice.

So, when I think of Bali now, it is these three women I think of. Ordinary women going about their lives in such different ways before 12 October 2002. And yet, they each epitomise the enormous courage and resolve which women show when confronted by disaster and trauma. Ordinary women who, when required, do extraordinary deeds.

And they are the face of all women who contribute to the international aid movement. They are, and will probably continue to be, unsung when the books are written and the documentaries made. In the words of the Reverend Kristina Peterson: ‘When such women have access to the tools of change, those tools will not be put down until the job is done’.

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