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International Women’s Day 2023

One of the greatest joys of Swell is meeting all sorts of people; people breaking moulds, following their passion, creating change or just plain creating. And a lot of them just happen to be women. For International Women's Day this year, we have pulled together a group of brilliant women we've met in the last year.

To celebrate International Women’s Day we’re taking a look back at some of the wonderful women we’ve had the pleasure to meet over the last year. All of these stories (and more!) can be found in the pages of Swell. Here are four of the best!

Lauren Freestone

Artist

Walking into Lauren Freestone’s Newcastle home that she shares with husband Lucas and children Indi and Otis, is a bit like walking into a nature-inspired art gallery. Muted earthy tones and collected mementos from nature fill the rooms, and the only thing as calming as the canvas artworks that spill across the walls of each room is the thick bushland that peeks through the windows at the back of the house. An Indigenous painter, who was raised with brushes and canvases filling her father’s home, for Lauren, art runs in her blood. Her grandfather, her ‘Fafa,’ is an artist who makes Yidaki and boomerangs on Birapi country and her father, Lee Freestone, a celebrated and exhibited artist in his own right, is particularly well known in the Scotts Head area on the NSW Mid North Coast.

Growing up in this small coastal town on Gumbaynggirr country, Lauren says the tight township of around one thousand people, as well as the bush and the beach, filled her childhood with happy memories and art was always in the background. “I was creative and loved art at school and my friends remember coming to my dad’s place and there were paintings, wood carvings, decorated emu eggs and art everywhere,” laughs Lauren. “But dad got really sick a few years ago when his appendix burst. We thought we were going to lose him and that’s what kick started this need to paint deep inside me and to share that with him, so I got a bit more serious about it.”

International Women's Day - Lauren Freestone

Words: Odette Tonkin • Photography: Zoë Lonergan

International Women's Day - Dr Jess

Words: Hannah Mills • Photography: Christian Moro

Dr Jessica Stokes-Parish

Nurse, educator, researcher and social media content creator

Anyone who spends even a small amount of time on social media will know how tricky it can be to decipher fact from fiction, particularly when it comes to science and healthcare. Throw in a pandemic, and you’ve got yourself a barrage of opinions and armchair experts throwing links and ‘research’ left, right and centre. Someone who’s been at the centre of this mind field is Dr Jessica Stokes-Parish.

Dr Jessica Stokes-Parish is first and foremost an ICU nurse who entered the field at just nineteen years of age. She’s also a mum of two, an educator, a researcher and holds a PhD in Medical Education from the University of Newcastle. And if all of that wasn’t keeping her busy enough, Dr Jess is now helping people like you and I navigate the confusing world of science and healthcare in the age of social media – by busting mis and disinformation, one reel at a time. She has even developed a framework to help the everyday social media user feel confident enough to take a step back and examine online information for themselves.

Check our the CRABS framework of credibility in issue 13 of Swell.

Kmac

Floozy Coffee

Combining her self-confessed, headstrong attitude with her love of flavour, Kmac fell down the rabbit hole of specialty coffee to launch Floozy – a coffee roasting business that was born to bust gender stereotypes in the coffee industry and it continues to carve its own path.

Before launching Floozy in 2017, Kmac and her husband Hal ran a café in Merewether, Esther C, which she describes as her foray into speciality coffee. “I always really enjoyed lattes, but I didn’t know how nuanced and diverse the world of coffee was,” says Kmac. It was while running this café, she saw a gap in the coffee industry where women were far more likely to work as a café assistant manager than a coffee roaster – so she sourced a bag of ethical beans and started experimenting in roasting single origin coffee herself.

“People would come into our café and often overlook me as the owner, asking to speak to Hal. It was frustrating for us,” recalls Kmac. When a customer came in and refused a coffee made by a female barista, the idea for a business name emanated from Kmac searching Google for ‘bad words for women’ and chose floozy as her favourite.

Read Kmac’s story in issue 15 of Swell.

International Women's Day - Kmac founder of Floozy Coffee

Words: Emma Lalic • Photography: Dominique Cherry

International Women's Day - Kellie founder of Elation the Label

Words: Odette Tonkin •  Photography: Ellie Bobbie

Kellie Mitchell

Founder of Elation swimwear

Kellie grew up a water baby, swimming competitively and doing nippers at her local surf club, but her appreciation and love of the ocean went next level after taking up surfing at age twelve. “After we’d finish surf club board training, we’d muck around for hours at the beach,” remembers Kellie. “One day, I was at Blacksmiths with Dad, and I asked him for a go of his surfboard. I paddled out and stood up straight away and he was like, ‘Oh okay! I think it’s time we got you a board of your own!’ I was hooked.”

Surfing is now a daily ritual for Kellie, and she tries to head out into the ocean most days, despite the conditions. “Being in the water is so healing for me and I really get in touch with my emotions… it’s like a form of meditation,” says Kellie. “The more time I spent at the beach, the more aware I was of how vulnerable that eco system is and how much rubbish I’d find at the beach. I started thinking of ways I could help to protect it.”

This environmental awareness combined with a pivotal moment whilst working in retail, kick started Kellie’s journey towards creating her own small business. During her time as assistant manager at a nationwide surf company, Kellie was mindful of the sheer amount of waste and packaging she encountered on a day-to-day basis and saw first-hand how the fashion industry can exploit the world’s resources and contribute to climate change. “When we received new stock into the store, everything was wrapped individually in plastic. Brands were releasing new lines every fortnight, contributing to fast fashion and ultimately the quality wasn’t that great,” says Kellie. “I’d always talk about how I would do it differently if I had my own fashion brand and one day my co-worker said to me, ‘Why don’t you give it a crack?’” Swimwear brand Elation was born.

Read about Kellie’s eco swimwear journey in issue 16 of Swell.

We’ve been lucky to chat with so many brilliant women, below are more of the people who have graced the pages of Swell.

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