Member Of The Month

Jo Kirk: ‘We Can All Be Change Makers, No Matter How Small The Change Might Seem.’

Introducing the co-founder of the Red Rocketship Foundation and one of Melbourne's leading philanthropists.

By Becky Hansen

Member Of The Month

Introducing the co-founder of the Red Rocketship Foundation and one of Melbourne's leading philanthropists.

By Becky Hansen

Our February Member Of The Month, Jo Kirk, is the co-founder of the Red Rocketship Foundation, a not-for-profit which is focused on supporting women’s empowerment, education and health programs. In combination with this valuable work, Jo is also a member of Women Moving Millions and has pledged to give $1 million to organisations who empower and support women by 2020.

After working with Refugees and people seeking asylum for 11 years as a nurse, Jo was frustrated with the lack of support families seeking asylum had in Melbourne. From this frustration the Asylum Seeker Kids Project was born. Since the project began in 2015, over 70 families have been involved in kid-friendly events around Melbourne that encourage independence and exploration.

Jo is passionate about supporting the rights of women around the world, as well as people who are seeking asylum. Jo joins us today for a Q&A that will leave you feeling inspired, questioning the status quo and motivated to make change.

What are you reading at the moment? If you’re more of a podcaster, what are you listening to? I’m not much of a podcaster, but I love a good read and I feel like I’m always trying to read more. I’m just finishing ‘New Power’ By Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms and can’t wait to start ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama.

What is a quote/motto you live by? For years I have a quote of Harriet Tubman on my email and it still resonates with me. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Who is the most remarkable woman you’ve ever met and why? Over the years working with Refugees, I have met so many remarkable women it is hard to pinpoint it to one woman. Everyday when I was working for Medecins Sans Frontieres in a refugee camp on the Thai Burma border I met women who had experienced things I can never even imagine surviving. Story after story of violence against women and girls and women doing everything they could to get themselves and their families to safety.

Why did you join Future Women? I joined Future Women to be a part of a community of women lifting up and supporting each other.

How does the Asylum Seeker Kids Project support asylum seekers and their families? The Asylum Seeker Kids Project provides a safe, supportive and welcoming environment for families that have recently left detention. The events are staged at numerous child-friendly places around Melbourne accessible through public transport to encourage independence and exploration. Families quickly gain confidence and a support network as their children play with other asylum seeker and volunteer’s children. Fathers are welcome, but it tends to be mostly women supporting women sharing their experiences as parents and supporting each other in their everyday parenting struggles.

 

“To maintain my drive to advocate for change I remind myself this is about people’s lives. People just like me, just like my sons, my family and my friends and everyone has the right to live their life in safety.”

 

The topic of asylum seekers and migration more broadly is often politically charged and divisive. How do you maintain your drive to advocate for change in this challenging environment? It’s true that the topic of people seeking asylum is politically charged, but to maintain my drive to advocate for change I remind myself this is about people’s lives. People just like me, just like my sons, my family and my friends. Everyone has the right to live their life in safety.

You must encounter heartbreaking stories from families you work with. Amongst all this, how do you maintain positivity at work? What is your support network? I mainly talk to my friends over a coffee or a glass of wine!

You started your career as a registered nurse and have since moved into a number of different workplaces and industries. What are the skills that helped you navigate the transition between roles? To be honest, I have found career transitions have always provided some hurdles and times of self-doubt. I have found being organised, doing my research, asking questions, listening, and acknowledging I’m always learning has really helped.

What tips do you have for FW members who are considering a career change? Once you have made up your mind about a career change, go for it and try not to question your decision.

What can members of the Future Women community do to support asylum seekers? Be informed and don’t be afraid to talk about the issue of people seeking asylum, especially in Australia. The harsh policies we now have in this country can be changed, there are more compassionate ways and the more we speak up, the more support for change we have, politicians will have to take notice. On a practical note, support businesses that employ people seeking asylum such as the cleaning and catering social enterprises run by the ASRC. Just giving to a foodbank, is a really easy and really essential way you can support people seeking asylum as well.

What are your thoughts on the unfolding crisis on the US/Mexico border and Trump’s wall? The hardening of the treatment of people as they cross borders and seek safety globally is frightening and unfortunately Australia has the lead the way on these harsh policies. I can only comment in relation to what we have experienced here and once these policies and physical barriers like Australia’s mandatory detention system (or walls) are in place, they are very hard to dismantle. These systems are cruel and we need to find more compassion.

You have one piece of advice to give to ambitious women that want to make change. What is it? We can all be change makers, no matter how small the change might seem, just do it! Like Paul Kelly sings, “From Little things, Big things grow!”

The future for women is…. Women recognising each other’s strengths and working together for a better future for all women. 

We can lift each other up…. By listening and respecting the diverse voices of all women and girls.

I’m most fulfilled when…. Contributing to real social change, such as bringing my sons up to be good men.