60 seconds with Kristine Olaris

Kristine Olaris Cropped
Environmentalist, politics addict and CEO of Women’s Health East

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Lots of walking! I am doing a 6 day walk in Tasmania in February (Cradle Mountain) and need to get fit. I love walking so it is really a good excuse to do lots.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
I would like the power to shift political will. There are so many important issues that we could solve if our politicians would just commit to them. A just and humane approach to refugees and asylum seekers, effective action on climate change and a commitment to a sustained, coordinated approach to the prevention of violence against women are just a few.

What’s your favourite word in the English language? Why?
I love words that I like the sound of, and that feel good in your mouth! When I was young I toyed with the idea of collecting matchboxes or stamps, not because I thought that was interesting, but because I could say that I had an interest in phillumeny and philately!

What’s your favourite word in any language? Why?
I have an Ethiopian niece and nephew so know a few words and phrases in Amharic. A favourite is ameseganallo which means thank you. I like it because although it is very long it is easy to pronounce.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?

My cultural background is Macedonian so while I copped lots of racist comments when I was young, it seems it is acceptable to be Macedonian these days! There are many newer groups of immigrants to discriminate against! However as a woman, from an immigrant background, with a partner of the same sex, I have faced my share of discrimination over the years. Sadly it is almost commonplace. I think the thing that has changed over the years is that I am more confident to challenge people who are being discriminatory. It can be quite exhilarating.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
I think that having an immigrant background makes life more interesting. It means you have a diversity of cultural traditions, stories, experiences and ways of thinking that you can draw on in your everyday life.

Do you have a song/music that inspires and motivates you?
I am a big fan of lots of styles of music – but if I want something to inspire or motivate me I would usually go for something loud and gutsy. Early PJ Harvey remains a favourite.

What could you never be without?
My glasses! I usually try to carry and old pair with me if I am away from home because I am petrified of being without them

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
The importance of acting on climate change now (or preferably yesterday). This is the most urgent public health challenge we have and it needs our immediate action.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because…”
We need feminism because gender inequality is alive and well and is one of the most powerful influences on women’s health and wellbeing; because Australian women still earn 20% less than men and are less represented in all aspects of our society; because 1 in 3 women over 15 have experienced physical violence and 1 in 5 sexual assault and because we are still debating a women’s right to make her own decisions about her sexual and reproductive health. We need feminism because the world would be a much better place if women from diverse backgrounds were equally represented in areas of influence across our society and everyone had equality of choice and opportunity. I could go on…how much space do I have?