Jennifer Gough is a Health Promotions Officer at the Women’s Centre for Health Matters, and Project Manager for Women With Disabilities ACT. Through her work, Jennifer promotes the health and wellbeing of women in Canberra, and advocates for better health outcomes for women in the long term.
I caught up with Jennifer to find out what makes her tick, where her year is headed, and what she’d like to see change in terms of progressing gender equality.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I was a wild bush child (still am) with a family who loved adventure, creativity, laughter and entertainment. My mum, in particular, encouraged in me a lust for knowledge, a deep respect and alignment with feminism and a fierce passion for battling inequality. My parents worked so damn hard for my brother and me to be individuals and to grasp the opportunities that came our way.
My university days were a perfect intermingling with my loves: arts, community and gender. My majors were Art History and Curatorship and Gender, Sexuality and Culture. From then on, pretty much everything I’ve been involved with combines these three elements in some way, shape or form. This includes gender based policy and project work for local and national peaks, farming in the wilds of California and studying costume design in London.
Before and after university I travelled to all sorts of places. Mostly I have travelled alone. This is important to me as independence and risk feels critical to my survival. I like discovering places, and having offbeat experiences. This often comes with opportunities like Couchsurfing and WWOOFING.
The last year or two has been a quietening period for me as I’ve had some hefty battles come my way. Over the last few months things have settled and I am more focused. I feel a gearing up for exciting times ahead.
You work at the Women’s Centre for Health Matters – what’s your role there?
I’m a Health Promotion Officer. This entails many things! We’re all about systemic advocacy, so I undertake health promotion projects, as well as researching how the lived experiences of women in Canberra affects their health and wellbeing outcomes.
I’m also a Project Manager for Women With Disabilities ACT. At the moment I’m working on a very valuable project which brings together a huge diversity of lived experience narratives from women with disabilities in the ACT.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Everyday I get into the nitty-gritty of what makes women’s health and wellbeing tick. I come into contact with women from all walks of life whose stories help us advocate for better services and supports in the Territory. Their willingness to share is always such a blessing. I also get to work alongside passionate and witty women whose creativity and fierce intellect inspire me.
How long have you been in Canberra? And is there something you find always surprises you about this city?
I was born in Canberra but then transplanted to a hobby farm on the outskirts of the little known gold mining town of Captains Flat at age two. I’ve dipped in and out of Canberra on adventures far and wide and I’ve had short stints living and studying abroad.
I’m back here now but I always have wild adventure in my heart. So who knows where I shall be headed next.
Perhaps the most surprising thing I find about this city is that people still have hang ups about it. I’m not going to lie; I’ve suffered them too in the past. However, there is so much goodness to be had in this city. It’s laid out for us in the eating scene, the institutions, the open spaces and all the top notch folks that call this place home. One of the projects I’m working on currently, Women of Canberra, has also confirmed this for me.
What’s something you’re excited for in 2015?
So there are two things here which I cannot possible contain. First, after a stint faffing about and dealing with various bits and bobs, I’m restarting my masters in Gastronomic Tourism through Le Cordon Bleu. Through this I’ll be working towards combining my passions for culinary delights, adventure and community in one shiny package.
Second, my partner and I just booked a tiny trip to Tasmania to attend the Dark Mofo festival at MONA. My heart beats wildly when I think about. I’ve been to MONA before and the quality of that institution is hard to rival.
If you could make one change for gender equality, what would it be?
Wow – I think my head just exploded. There is so much to be changed! I guess one of the many things that I would like to see in our world is a better understanding of sex and gender. I remember how powerful it was to learn that being a woman was by and large socially constructed. By acknowledging that culture and history are actually more confining than our physical bodies, we would be one step closer to a more equitable society.