Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland; Rebekka Battista with son Isaac; Lismore City Council general manager Shelley Oldham.
Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland; Rebekka Battista with son Isaac; Lismore City Council general manager Shelley Oldham.

3 of our most influential women talk of coping with COVID

IN AUGUST last year we revealed our top 50 Most Influential Women on the Northern Rivers.

It was a stellar line-up and got plenty of traction in the community.

But who among them could have peered into their crystal ball and predicted only a few months later we would be in the grip of a worldwide pandemic, which shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

We know women are a resilient bunch and so The Northern Star decided to circle back and check in with three of the women who made our top five Most Influential list to see how they were coping with COVID-19 and provide the rest of us with their insight and tips. Her is what they had to say:

No 1 Rebekka Battista - THE name Rebekka Battista is synonymous with charity fundraisers, community events and - why not - good fashion choices.

But behind the smile and the glamorous frocks worn at charitable events, there is a person with a strong sense of community, based on her solid Christian beliefs and her love for her family and the Northern Rivers.

 

Our Kids fundraising co-ordinator Rebekka Battista gets preparations for the Our Kids Winter Ball well underway. Photo: Marc Stapelberg
Our Kids fundraising co-ordinator Rebekka Battista gets preparations for the Our Kids Winter Ball well underway. Photo: Marc Stapelberg

 

Mrs Battista is the Our Kids fundraising co-ordinator, an organisation she has been working with for closing in on 20 years.

Through her fundraising efforts, Our Kids has purchased so far $1.8 million worth of equipment, including new technology for the special care nursery, children's ward, emergency theatres at Lismore Base Hospital, and hospitals.

More recently Mrs Battista has been recovering after donating a kidney to her son, Isaac.

1: How are you coping personally with the COVID-19, how has it impacted on your, friends, family and loved ones?

COVID-19 has been interesting for our family, at the beginning of lock down Isaak came home as he was living in Sydney as he in the vulnerable category with the transplant. It was great to have him home for seven weeks, the house was full.

For me there been a big impact with our work and our church, and having to adapt and navigate through the many changes and restrictions has provided lots of challenges and opportunities. It has been an interesting season and a season of learning. It has provided me personally with time to heal from the transplant which my body really needed.

I have seen an increase of people not doing well due to so much change and uncertainly and the season being long term. I feel we will may have a long term mental and emotional effects from this season in our community and we aren't prepared.

2: Are you working from home or office and how has social isolation/distancing impacted you and your work?

As Our Kids is part of NSW Health, and our office is in a secluded area of the hospital I chose to work from the office, plus having everyone (three men) at home on Zoom all at once was getting hilarious. I needed somewhere quiet.

With OUR KIDS all our signature functions where postponed, except for the Samson which we held and then lock down came in the week later. We were incredibly lucky to host that event and that no one was ill. We have had to learn to hold virtual events, become even savvier on social media and champion our people in a different way. Incredibly due to our Platinum Partners and our generous community like the Seaton Foundation and all who donated to the Virtual Darrel Chapman Fun Run we still have been able to purchase equipment for the hospital for which we have been so thankful.

With Centre Church it been such a change. We went from one week having everyone then the next completely no one and live streaming our services which we hadn't done before. Thankfully we had a great creative technology team who within days set everything up to still bring our services online and connect with everyone.

Most of my meeting were ZOOM which I actually loved as it meant at night I was home and was able to be part of the family. I think this season has given permission to be at home and not always having to be present which I have loved.

3: What have you learned about yourself during COVID-19?

I have cemented what I already know. I love gathering people, therefore I really have missed people and I have missed how our city also gathers. I can't wait to get my high heels on and have a great party!

I miss going to the movies!

I a HUGGER this season has been very hard in the hug department … I don't know, are people hugging? If the say yes I'm there.

4: Top tip for others to surviving the pandemic

1. Be kind to yourself

2. Be kind to others

3. Reach out and let people know when you're not doing OK

4. Support local ANY way you can.

5. Watch what you are watching, reading and listening to

6. Take time out

7. Have a budget and live within your means

8. Smile, it is incredible the difference it can make

9. Have A cheeky vino every now and then is good medicine

5: What are you watching (name of Netfix/Stan/SBS/ABC Iview show?)

Our family loves movies and having boys meant during this season I have watched any and every Marvel movie. The Black Panther is my absolute fav and I was devastated when Chadwick Boseman passed away. And, Thor I know you're local, how about guest appearance at an Our Kids event maybe Samson next year???

I think I have also re-watched every Mission Impossible and the latest 007s, and personally can't wait for the next 007 movie.

I'm a Block and House Rules fan … fixer upper or any reno show has got me. I'm also a tragic NCIS fan and don't care even when they are shown out of order!

Netflix I totally binged on the Line of Duty.

6: What are you reading?

The bible is always on my hot list and during COVID-19 I did an in-depth 10 week study on Psalm 91 it was powerful and now re-reading about Moses and the Exodus journey, he is one of my favourite bible characters. I also have had a few books going over COVID: A Lot With A Little by Tim Costello was incredible, hilariously I'm reading The Rushing Women Syndrome by Dr Libby Weaver and Boundaries by Henry Cloud and to ensure I do relax I just picked up a light read called I'll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

7: What are you cooking?

Homemade hummus, my grandma's chicken soup and several times during COVID I made my absolute favourite black mussels with tomato and garlic.

 

No 2 Danielle Mulholland - She made history in 2013 as the first female mayor to be elected in Kyogle, but she has not stopped there.

Danielle Mulholland has an undeniable community spirit and commitment, exercising a strong engagement with her constituents.

She is constantly at the heart of the community, spending most of her time participating in local community events, as an active, vocal and dedicated mayor determined to hear out issues for Kyogle residents.

 

Cr Danielle Mulholland at the Future Northern Rivers event at SCU.
Cr Danielle Mulholland at the Future Northern Rivers event at SCU.

 

Great projects have been delivered and funded in Kyogle during her time as mayor, such as a new amphitheatre for Kyogle and upgrades for other villages.

She's also single-handedly opened more bridges than probably any other mayor in NSW.

1: How are you coping personally with the COVID-19, how has it impacted on your, friends, family and loved ones?

Personally, I have had to learn a whole range of new technologies so I can keep attending essential meetings, forums etc. It has impacted on many people I know - people who can't visit a loved one, cancelled weddings, medical emergencies and just getting to work. I think after all the bushfires, droughts, floods and now Covid, community resilience is at an all time low and there's a palpable sense of deep weariness. I think people really need a break from all the doom and gloom. Hopefully there are brighter days ahead because 2020 hasn't been a whole lot of fun.

2: Are you working from home or office and how has social isolation/distancing impacted you and your work?

I work from home mostly but there are some things I have to attend personally. Unfortunately, a lot of the meaningful outcomes come from the formal and informal interactions that occur at face-to-face meetings, from the personal networks that we develop, so not being able to travel and sit down at a table and talk face-to-face with decision makers has been challenging and has added an extra layer of complexity to the work I do for the community. Not to be too blunt but from a work perspective, it's a lot easier to get a Minister to dig into his wallet in person than via Zoom or FaceTime.

The social distancing has been hard - in my communities, people are generally fairly friendly and demonstrative but there's been no hugs all year. In some ways it kind of violates our social norms as we are so used to having personal contact with each other whether it's a hug or a handshake. Not to do so just some how doesn't feel right although intellectually we know it's required to keep everyone safe.

3: What have you learned about yourself during COVID-19?

I think it's been a real reminder about how truly connected we really are with each other and how heavily we rely upon each other. It's not always the big things but rather those little day to day interactions that we find we miss the most. It's those things that impact us personally that have the greatest impact so having to deal with family medical issues and a postponed wedding as part of the whole pandemic (and on the tail end of droughts, bushfires and floods) has been pretty hard at times especially when I realised how many of our medical professionals come from north of the border to service the Northern Rivers and how heavily we rely upon medical specialists in Queensland for our health care needs. I have learned that no matter how bad you think you have it, someone, somewhere, has got it worse.

4: Top tip for others to surviving the pandemic

That's a tough one. Try to hang on to the realisation that no matter how bad things may seem, nothing lasts forever. The pandemic will eventually end and the world will return to a new kind of normal and maybe, if we're smart, there are positive lessons to be learned from all this upheaval. Stay positive and try to find things to laugh about. We are all individuals but we are also a community. Look out for each other.

5: What are you watching? (name of Netfix/Stan/SBS/ABC Iview show):

My husband and I have been binge watching some shows during the pandemic. We've worked our way through the entire series of Black Sails, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and the latest season of The Last Kingdom and my husband insists on watching the ABC and SBS shows while I catch up on my work. We don't get Netflix or any of those streaming services where we live.

6: What are you reading?

Lately it's all been either council documents and correspondence or it's legislation and precedents associated with my continuing legal studies. These days my husband does more recreational reading than me and he's never been known as a big reader. If I do have time to read, my taste is pretty eclectic. I have always been a big reader and collector of books so I will read anything from Lee Child, Anne Bishop, Alison Weir, Anne O'Brien and Jennifer Fallon to books on philosophy, theology and history.

7: What are you cooking?

Quick and simple meals, soups, stews and now that the weather is heating up it'll be lots of salads and vegetarian dishes.

 

No 4 Shelley Oldham - Finding a $6 million deficit a few months into a new role would floor most people.

However, the general manager of Lismore City Council, Shelley Oldham, has brought her considerable financial, business and management expertise and acumen to the fore.

 

 

TOUGH TIMES: Lismore City Council made some tough decisions to plug their fiscal black hole at their March 19 extraordinary meeting. L- Council general manager Shelley Oldham, mayor Isaac Smith, acting director sustainable development and executive director infrastructure & services, Gary Murphy, discussed the 33 projects up for cancellation or deferral in the Imagine Lismore Delivery Plan 20
TOUGH TIMES: Lismore City Council made some tough decisions to plug their fiscal black hole at their March 19 extraordinary meeting. L- Council general manager Shelley Oldham, mayor Isaac Smith, acting director sustainable development and executive director infrastructure & services, Gary Murphy, discussed the 33 projects up for cancellation or deferral in the Imagine Lismore Delivery Plan 20

 

 

Ms Oldham's 30-year career at the pointy end of the public sector, combined with broad experience working in government transformation, stakeholder management and strategy, has seen her give the council - and councillors - a much-needed shake-up.

1: How are you coping personally with the COVID-19, how has it impacted on your, friends, family and loved ones?

COVID has been tough on everyone, and my family and I are no different. Since the pandemic started, I have been solely focused on my job to make sure that council continued to deliver essential services to our community and also to make sure our staff can do this safely as they have families to go home too.

The government not initially including local councils in JobKeeper presented some unique challenges. Council's workforce contributes significantly to local economies and the sudden loss of revenue meant we couldn't guarantee the employment of many of our staff, which would have been devastating for their families, and impacted on our local economy. Our councillors lobbied ministers effectively and we saw some changes that enabled us to continue to deliver services to the community.

The intensity of this work period has meant that things like my veggie garden have gone on the backburner and I have been unable to spend as much time with family as I would have liked.

2: Are you working from home or office and how has social isolation/distancing impacted you and your work?

I continue to come into the office every day. In the office and across all council operations, we immediately implemented social distancing with markers and tape on the floor to remind people. This has been successful and to the credit of council staff it has not lowered productivity.

3: What have you learned about yourself during COVID-19?

I think like most people, I realised that as humans we can adapt to pretty much anything. The word resilience gets used a lot but this pandemic has given us all the space we need to create our own resilience, our own determination to get through and our ability to prioritise so we can get to the other side of COVID intact.

4: Top tip for others to surviving the pandemic

Recognise the unique pressures that this has created for each individual, stay calm, reach out to others to stay connected. If you don't have a hobby find something that gives you joy and takes your mind of things.

5: What are you watching (name of Netfix/Stan/SBS/ABC Iview show?

Unfortunately, it has been work, work, work, although I have managed to catch a few episodes of Yellow Stone on Stan, which I highly recommend and I never miss ABC Gardening on a Friday night.

6: What are you reading?

Women and Leadership - Real Lives, Real Lessons -Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. A book that has shown me just how much the world has changed since I commenced work. It documents interviews with world leading women, Jacinda Ardern, Theresa May, Christine Lagard, Eran Solberg etc. The commonality in their experiences of becoming female leaders provides a great perspective.

7: What are you cooking?

Lemonade scones, tomato chutney to use all of the home grown tomatoes, slow cooked meals and pickles



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