Justice at the kitchen bench

Published 24 May 2018
Angela Powditch

It was almost 5 o’clock in a small, busy home in Lennox Head on the north coast of NSW.

Angela Powditch, fresh back from a two-week conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York, had swapped the podium of the world’s parliament for the island bench of her kitchen. She was trying to work the magic of a young family’s late afternoon – simultaneously cooking dinner, entertaining her two kids and trying to beat the deadline for a scholarship application.

Head in her hands, the pressure of bills and banks mounting, the 42-year-old Southern Cross law student was about to give up on the scholarship when her seven-year-old son said, “Yes, you can do it Mumma, you can do that.”

It’s the tough moments at the island bench, raising two children to seek a life beyond the realms of her own, that has made Angela a kindred spirit for regional women around the world.

“In that small moment, when you feel the guilt of a parent wanting to do more, a student wanting to learn more and an adult wanting to just have enough money to get by, there is a spark of inspiration,” Angela said.

“After my marriage broke down, I went from a comfortable life to a newfound vulnerability.”

As she built a career in sales and marketing, working first in Sydney, then London, then the Gold Coast, Ms Powditch was searching for new career options. She wanted to give. To help.

She studied a Master of International Health Management, but still hadn’t found her calling – until the breakdown of her marriage turned life upside down.

‘‘It had a dramatic impact on my life,’’ Angela stated.

One year after the separation, she enrolled in a graduate law degree at Southern Cross University – motivated by simply the stinging realisation that she could wait no longer to start helping other people – because in doing so, she could also help herself.

Angela’s tenacity has seen her being awarded six scholarships and she also managed to raise $20,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to undertake a prestigious University of Oxford International Human Rights Law program in the English Summer of 2016.

In March 2018, her story and her passion for women’s rights took her to the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) in New York, where she presented on the topic of ‘e-learning Advances Rural Women’. She also had the opportunity to be interviewed for a documentary where she discussed economic abuse – a gendered issue, where the abuser maintains power over their partner’s economic resources.

“Economic abuse is a serious form of domestic violence used to gain control in a relationship. By limiting the victim’s economic independence it forces them to rely on the perpetrator," said Angela.

This issue affects both men and women, although Australian research shows it affects women at more than double the rate of men.

“My Honours thesis is seeking to shine a light on this issue," she said.

“Being part of a delegation at the United Nations Conference alongside men and women from around the world who were committed to justice and the empowerment of women was simultaneously profound and humbling.

“There were 4000 people from around the world present at the conference, all with the determination to work towards gender equality and empower rural women and girls.

“I felt so inspired, it was just electrifying!”

Now in her final year of law, undertaking Honours, Angela is open to local opportunities which will marry her passion for human rights advocacy and the law.

“Rural women were the priority theme at CSW62 this year and I definitely witnessed a powerful momentum for change. I am hopeful I can advocate for women’s rights, in my future career, right here from the Northern Rivers,” she said.

"The support from Southern Cross has been phenomenal. I truly wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have without their support. I can’t thank them enough."

Media contact: Sharlene King 0429 661 349