October 25 - 31, 2020: Issue 471


Margaret White

The year long 100th anniversary celebration of the formation of Zonta is drawing to a close. Zonta was first formed on November 8th 1919 in Buffalo, New York, by journalist and playwright Marian de Forest who envisioned a network of women working to support each other in establishing themselves in their chosen professional careers in what was a male dominated workforce. In the States women were only just getting to vote and graduate from Colleges, their status and rights were still being determined by men. 

Then and now ‘Zonta Clubs still select, fund and participate in community projects fundamental to promoting women's economic self-sufficiency, political equality, access to education and health care and the elimination of violence against women.’

Unfortunately some of the activities usually undertaken by our local chapter, Zonta Northern Beaches, have been curtailed in 2020 due to Covid-safety measures and at a time when the need for assistance has risen sharply. 

One of their members, and the lady who is front and centre during each annual Birth Kit Packing Day at Barrenjoey High School is Margaret White, shares a few insights into her decades long Nursing career and catches us up on what Zonta Northern Beaches has been doing and plans to do for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

Where and when were you born?

Annandale in 1946

How long have you been in the Pittwater area?

I came here in 1973, moving from a terrace house in Glebe after I married.  All I wanted was trees, Iots of trees! My husband grew up in Chatswood and loved Bilgola Beach and that’s how we ended up down here. I’m very much an Avalon girl. My children grew up here and my daughter and her family live in Avalon. My son and his family are in Cromer.

What is the difference between the Avalon Beach of the 1970’s and today?

When we bought the place real estate agent said we would will have sewerage in 15 months — it was 15 years! We learnt to wait for services we were used to! But we had koalas in our backyard!

For me, space was the thing – it was so different to being in Glebe and going to the city for everything - we had to go there even to buy a pair of stockings. My mother loved the bus trip over the Spit Bridge!

There was  a great sense of community here and I was involved with the Catholic Church and school and Creative Leisure Movement. I was in the initial group setting up of the O-90’s group of bringing elderly people to the community centre for a morning out. 

Currently I’m enjoying U3A and have the role of the Speaker’s Secretary for the Newport Group. 

Since retirement I’ve had the pleasure of spending more time with local women I didn’t have the opportunity to meet while working full-time. 

And well yes-we came here because it was all we could afford! Now!!

We first met decades ago when you were a Registered Nurse at the Avalon Nursing Home – did you go into Nursing after leaving school?

Yes, I was 17 years and 2 weeks old. I trained at the Repatriation General Hospital now Concord Hospital, and did Midwifery at the Mater.

Eventually I went into Aged Care as it suited being close to home.

Which was the most challenging?

Probably working in Aged Care – I have seen so much change. I look at the current Royal Commission into Aged Care and think ‘why did that happen?’  And the answer would lie in that it is now the Aged Care Industry. If you think of the care and support that we gave residents in the 1970-1990’s there’s a distinct difference; if I asked you to make something special for someone (in the kitchen) you made it. Now, the food comes from outside and the owners are saying ‘how much have you made this week?’ – this has become pretty much a money-making industry now, which makes me very sad.

Our families knew the residents and they knew all about us!

We concentrated on the patients as individuals and the care we could give. Yes, of course we had to keep an eye on the budget, but it wasn’t just focused on that. Nowadays, particularly in the nursing homes, the focus is on profit and not care.

You are a member of Zonta Club of Northern Beaches – when did you join?

I was invited to join in 1992 when I was the Manager of Willandra Retirement Village.

Why did you want to join?

Zonta is also an International organisation which has just celebrated its 100th year. So being part of a worldwide movement to advance the status of women through service and advocacy is something I wanted to be involved with. Zonta stands for women’s rights. We advocate for equality, education and an end to child marriage and gender-based violence. 

I was invited, had a look and thought yes, I can give back through this - I had some skills that would come in useful, and it’s one of the best decisions of my life because it has given me so much-great friends, education, a lot of understanding, connected me with other like minded people, and opportunity to see change at a local and international level.

Currently we are planning to spread the message for 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10th, Human Rights Day.

The Northern Beaches Domestic Violence Network – can you share some information about that?

Zonta is a proud member of this network of members from Women’s Refuge, Shelter, Catholic Care, Community Northern Beaches, the Police Liaison Officers, Northern Sydney LHS,  Council and other relative committees. And attends meetings of the Homelessness Forum.

We need to consider why, with a relatively small population, did we need an extra ‘pop-up’ Refuge during the recent Covid lockdowns? The current statistics are just frightening.

The Northern Beaches Domestic Violence Network is promoting White Ribbon Day on Friday, November 20. Throughout the peninsula and schools this year we are asking everyone, since normal events cannot take place, to dress in white – wear white t-shirts, armbands, and spread the word. 

We are accountable for our actions! 

Zonta  works with the Refuge, the Shelter, and Community Northern Beaches in supporting the needs of their clients; - kitchen and school starter kits, study grants-service and advocacy!

Zonta Study Grants – what are these?

One of things we really like to do is support local students through study grants. Girls in Y10-12 at local high school who parents are experiencing financial difficulty are financed for books, laptops, uniforms, major works.

Some students completing Year 12 are living away from home, and they have needed a lot of help, so extra costs are involved in supporting them to complete their studies. Every case is an individual one and is met as such.

A short Course for a Woman at the Shelter or Refuge can allow her to enter or re-enter the workforce-independent and empowered!

One woman at the Shelter requested to do a particular Computer Course; we thought she could get a cheaper one at TAFE but she knew this was the particular one she needed and while she was actually doing the Course was offered a job.  

Years later they come back to tell us how we helped them to get to where they are today.

The Zonta Breast Cushion Project – what’s that about?

This is a project we’ve done for almost 20 years. This is  a worldwide Zonta project where beautiful silk cushions made by members are given to women and men post breast surgery. These are distributed to all hospitals and given on our behalf by the Breast Care Nurse.

The Birthing Kit Packing Days, one of which takes place annually at Barrenjoey High School, and seems to get bigger each year – who are these for?

This is another Zonta endorsed project. Unfortunately we are not able to pack this year. Kits cost $5 each and our fundraising has been very curtailed.

In basic terms, a Zonta club raises a set amount of funds to obtain component items from KIT International. An assembly day is set and the components delivered to the coordinator. On the day, the agreed number of kits, usually 2000, are assembled, packed for shipping and delivered to the carrier to send them to their destination. 

This initiative was originally one that began with the Zonta Club of Adelaide Hills (in Zonta International District 23). The birthing kit was designed specifically to be a cost-effective tool to promote the ’7 cleans’ in childbirth in developing countries.

The contents are intended to promote hygiene in childbirth and thus prevent the most common causes of related infections. They contain items for the birth itself (e.g. plastic sheeting, soap & disposable gloves), for the baby (a blade to cut and string to tie the umbilical cord) and to prevent common post-natal infections (e.g. gauze to clean the baby’s eyes).

Once assembled, the birthing kits are distributed by the project organisers with the help of NGOs in a variety of developing countries (who train local women to be birthing attendants and in the use of the kit). 

June 2019 - BKPD - Zonta photos

Zonta Northern Beaches is still meeting costs to fund these various projects though – how are you fundraising in 2020?

Fortunately we did celebrate International Women’s Day this year. The Annual Breakfast in March 2021 is planned and booked-fingers crossed. Unfortunately the annual Advocacy Dinner, won’t go ahead, and so that is a big loss of revenue.

We will be holding the annual Trivia night. This year it will be a combined Zoom one with Rotary as they too have been unable to do many of their fundraising events.

So we have set up a fundraising appeal.

Zonta Club of Northern Beaches Fundraising Appeal. To donate click on this link: https://www.mycause.com.au/page/234955/zonta-club-of-northern-beaches

You can follow the Zonta Club of Northern Beaches on Facebook.

Website: zontadistrict24.org/d24-clubs/area-1/northern-beaches

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/ZontaNorthernBeaches

Your career as a Nurse has set you up to undertake caring about others in many ways,  you are always 'womanning' the entry table at the BBQ at Newport’s annual Australia Day festivities - where does it all come from, nursing, or?

(Laughs) I think it goes back further than that. I grew up with very little but we always had to share what we had; I think it was instilled in me very early. I grew up under the wonderful influence of Sydney Legacy. Their motto is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” Then the Nursing followed. I think it’s just who I am. 

Are you a Grandmother now?

Yes, – I am the grandmother to 6 boys. 3 in Avalon and 3 in Cromer - perfect! We don’t do pink!

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?

Looking out my lounge room window and looking at all the trees in Stapleton Reserve because all I see is trees, no housetops, nothing, just trees.

My other favourite is Clareville Beach; I walk there very often.

What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?

My son gave me a little plaque once that reads;

‘If it is to be it is up to me.’


2019 Pittwater Women Of The Year: The Zonta Club Northern Beaches

Photos by Michael Mannington, Community Photography