International Women’s Day | Q&A With Gemma Hallett, Chair Of The Board At Minus18 - Havaianas Australia

International Women’s Day | Q&A With Gemma Hallett, Chair Of The Board At Minus18

We are celebrating International Women’s Day by shining a spotlight on Gemma Hallett, the Chair of the Board at Minus18 Foundation, Australia’s leading charity supporting LGBTQIA+ young people.

Here’s what she had to say…

Question 1: Tell us about yourself and your role at Minus18?

I’m Gemma and I use she/her pronouns. I am the Chair of the Board at the Minus18 Foundation, Australia’s leading charity supporting LGBTIQA+ young people. We lead change and build social inclusion through life-affirming events for young people, digital resources, and education for the whole community. Outside of my volunteer role with Minus18, I am a lawyer specialising in employment & discrimination law, I live in Melbourne, and I’m a big fan of indoor plants, politics, baking and getting fired up about equality.

Question 2: Tell us about your Minus18 journey and how you got involved with the charity?

When I was 21 and working a casual job at Monash University, I was approached by my colleague and mentor, another passionate young person who was already on the board. He encouraged me to join the Minus18 Board because I was someone who had a curious mind, wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions, and was passionate about LGBTQIA+ young people. In hindsight, these are some of the most important qualities a board director can have.

My response at the time was, ‘what’s a board?!’. I was flattered to be asked but felt intimidated. I wondered if as a young queer woman, I had what it takes to be a board director. But it made all the difference to have a supportive mentor who helped me see how my skills could contribute to Minus18’s mission. When I researched more about what boards do – setting the strategy, risk appetite and financial sustainability of an organisation – I realised this was a great opportunity to volunteer my unique skills to a cause I felt passionate about.

Five years later, I am now the Chair of the Board. As Chair, my role is to foster a collaborative, supportive team of volunteer directors to make collective decisions in the best interests of Minus18. The role lets my skills shine and challenges me every day. I’m lucky to be supported by a brilliant board and staff team.

Question 3: How do you feel about the Havaianas x Minus18 partnership? What does the donation do for Minus18?

We are so stoked to have Havaianas supporting our work. Over the last few years, LGBTIQA+ charities including Minus18 have faced many challenges which have changed how we traditionally fund our work – not least COVID-19! Partners like Havaianas help us find new ways to fund our life-affirming work.

It’s important to us, and the broader LGBTQIA+ community, that organisations we partner with ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to inclusion and celebration of LGBTQIA+ people.

By donating to and raising awareness of Minus18, Havaianas is directly helping us run more in-school workshops training teachers on LGBTQIA+ inclusive language, develop more resources for parents with queer kids, and connect more LGBTQIA+ young people across Australia.

Question 4: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

For me, International Women’s Day is about reflecting on how much progress has been achieved for women’s rights, and how much there is left to fight for. It is an important reminder that women with privilege (because of their skin colour, class, education, appearance and more) are who we’re most likely to see represented in the media and in career success, but they don’t represent the struggles of all women.

International Women’s Day should remind us that Australian trans women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are almost 20 per cent more likely to suffer multiple instances of sexual harassment than other women. It should also force us to reflect that Australian trans women are twice as likely to experience being repeatedly sexually assaulted than other women. And that 37% of transgender women report that they have experienced verbal abuse, and 89% of transgender youth were rejected by their peers. We can and must do better for all women, including trans women and women of colour. 

Question 5: What would you say to young women today who are aspiring to be leaders like yourself?

As a young woman, you might underestimate how your unique skills and experiences can help you drive change. Ask your friends, family, mentors, and colleagues what they think you’re great at. Then think about how those skills might help an organisation, a person, or a community in need. Now more than ever, you have the potential to make a difference – don’t let self-doubt stop you.

Question 6: What is your favourite motto/mantra that you stand by?

Do what you love, and do what you’re good at, and you’ll land where you’re supposed to land.

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