Allira Potter: “This Is How I Overcame Barriers to Become Empowered — and How You Can Too”
Growing up as a First Nations woman, I was born with less privilege than some. Raised by a single mother, the imbalance in opportunities was something you really noticed, even from a young age. But this was life as I knew it, something I accepted without much thought.
For me, gender inequality in Australia became noticeable in high school, particularly in sports classes, where male students were assumed to be stronger, more athletic. In Australian culture especially, we tend to link this with being more powerful and worthy of respect. We are a nation of sports lovers, after all.
Gender Imbalances I Saw in the ‘Real World’
The gender imbalances I observed didn’t end when I graduated. Finishing high school to start working in the hospitality industry, I started to notice the widening gender gap.
Compared to others, Australia’s hospitality industry holds lots of opportunities for women, but I mainly worked back of house, as a chef — where it’s the opposite.
The idea that “men can do it better” is deeply ingrained in so many workplaces and it makes it really difficult for women’s voices to be heard. This extends to so many work environments; from kitchens to boardrooms, chefs to CEOs, there is not enough representation or equality for women at present.
While there is still a long way to go, it’s encouraging to see leaders within male-dominated fields, even high-profile sports organisations such as NSW Rugby League, announcing that closing the gender pay gap is a high priority. NRL CEO Andrew Abdo recently followed suit, vowing to improve female inclusion across all levels of the game.
But there is still a long way to go, and it can be a domino effect. When paid more than women, men don’t have to worry about working a second job (as most professional women athletes do), so their opportunities compound while the other gender’s wilts.
I saw this first hand growing up when my mum was working three jobs just to put food on the table. If she was male, the pay from one job probably would have sufficed.
How I Use My Voice For My Community
I’ve always been a pretty headstrong, opinionated and outspoken person. When I started to realise there was a serious crisis affecting Australian women and their opportunities in this country, I wanted to use my personal experiences and voice to make a positive change.
When I was younger, I didn’t know I could use my voice to champion for change. Knowing what I do now, though, I’m proud to use my digital platform, and voice, for positive impact.
As someone who identifies as non-binary, and as a Yorta Yorta person, I know that gender is only part of the picture. First Nations women and other women of colour, women with disabilities, LGBTI+ people and other marginalised groups face a range of extra barriers.
I’m an ambassador for CARE Australia, and the work is really important to me, because gender equality is about fighting for the rights of all genders, not just women. An equal future should be one where we respect everyone’s views, regardless of their gender, cultural or sexual identity.
As a trained Reiki practitioner and meditation guide, I have an insider’s perspective into how extremely white-dominated the wellness space is. My goal is to decolonise the industry and challenge the ‘whitewashed’ narrative that has formed over time.
I’ve recently been able to generate awareness among non-Indigenous practitioners, which has been really well received. For me, the bigger picture is educating people around cultural roots and traditions.
There is a lack of understanding in Australia about Indigenous culture and I hope education and awareness can create a foundation for change. It comes down to preserving culture and being respectful of past traumas, so we can create a more inclusive future.
The Work I Do For ‘Her Circle’
I’ve been supported by so many amazing women in my support network, who have become such an important part of my journey. I know firsthand the power of uplifting each other.
The ‘Her Circle’ campaign is all about celebrating women as change-makers, connectors and mentors who drive change for themselves and for those around them. Uplifting those in your circle and community to empower one another means a lot to me personally.
The initiative is based on the ‘multiplier effect’ — evidence shows that when one woman escapes poverty, she brings four others with her. This is really meaningful when you think about the fact that although women are more likely to live in poverty, they are also the answer!
The campaign lets us shine a spotlight on women and how when they are given the opportunity to lead and participate in the decisions that affect them and their communities, everyone benefits.