Tag: australia

Alcohol and Events: how to be better

One of the hallmarks of growing up in Australia and New Zealand is never quite being sure whether your socially acceptable drinking is actually super harmful, an idea I could probably write a five-part book series on. I like a glass of wine as much as the next person self-medicating stress-related sleep issues, but that’s like a good 40% of the population, right*?

And I want to reassure you I don’t ‘hate fun’ (as if alcohol and fun are synonymous) when I say : can we please run events with alcohol better.

Being around large amounts of alcohol, or lots of drunk people, or being in an environment where it’s expected that we’re getting draaaaaank totally sucks. When we make these situations the norm we exclude lots of people, including pregnant people, Islamic people, and anyone who might choose not to drink for whatever reason, including those who have struggled with alcohol dependency. Sure, when you plan your event you might not think about whether any people recovering from alcohol dependency might be attending, but that’s part of the issue, isn’t it?

But wait! I’m not just here to scold the really questionable drinking culture Australia and New Zealand share. I’m here to give you some hot tips.

Offer non-alcoholic drinks and don’t emphasise the alcoholic ones.

Don’t just “offer” them: offer them at the same amount and frequency. That means if a tray has 5 alcoholic drinks, it should have 5 non-alcoholic drinks – not one of everything.

Jackson Wood has written well about not drinking and also not just offering orange juice (although personally I love orange juice as my diet is pretty horrible and I need those vitamins). If you’re hosting at a bar, work with them to emphasise non-alcoholic drinks. My best experiences at bars in Dunedin was getting green tea in a pint glass and settling down for chats.

Not emphasising the alcoholic ones looks like not advertising free alcohol (people who want to know will ask) and maybe not letting a literal alcohol company brand part of your event when the focus on alcohol was discussed as a problem last year.

Level two: mocktails and alcohol-removed wine.

Okay look if you’re serious about being better: mocktails are so cheap compared to cocktails. You know what the expensive ingredient is? Alcohol. So get together some faux mojitos (mojifaux) and margaritas and bloody marys. If you’re hosting at a bar then you can talk to them about putting mocktails on the tab along with beer/cider/wine.

If you’re working with a catering company they might not be set up to do this, in which case alcohol-free wine can be a route to go down. The red is great for staining your teeth without staining your night.

Living Sober also has a “drink of the week” which is a good place to trawl for non-alcoholic drink ideas.

Have food!

Food means the people that are drinking don’t get gross drunk fast. Have more food than drinks. Have the food easier to get than alcoholic drinks. I’d love to go to an event with finger food and jugs of (faux) margaritas. Invite me to this event if you hold it. Thanks.

When talking to attendees, be aware of your language.

This is more of an issue for less profesh events: don’t talk about getting drunk or having a drink or be like “isn’t this great wow free wine and cider how rad”. If you’re a host or an event manager, just switch your language to be like “having fun” or “all of this free food”.

If you offer to get someone a drink, say something like “would you like a drink? maybe a juice?” I know from experience it is exhausting to continuously have to say “no I wouldn’t like wine, no not beer, great a water, I love water, tonight is great.”

Level two: keep an eye out for pressuring

As a host you can’t be everywhere at once. But reminding people you hear pressuring others to have a/nother drink that there are rad non-alcoholic options available is good. It helps to undermine the normalisation of alcoholic drinks.

Realise that making ~networking~ or ~bonding~ “drinks” less focussed on the drink will help remove barriers to cool people you definitely want to network and bond with

Fairly self-explanatory tbh.

The focus of your event isn’t alcohol

If it is – wine-tastings exist – you do you.

I know it’s difficult and scary to try run an event that doesn’t just give people wine until they like you. Booze, free booze, advertising booze are all fast ways to make people think they enjoyed your event, while excluding the people who wouldn’t have. But it’s well worth the effort to hold something that everyone can enjoy.

You don’t have to have a dry event in order to make everyone welcome. The above are just a few things you can do to help – and feel free to comment below with any more ideas!

*This is a joke currently, but legit how I have used alcohol in the past. 

If you’re having difficulty with your relationship with alcohol, check out your local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter (Australia, New Zealand) or have a chat to your GP. Living Sober is also a great online resource.


Looking to the future: talk 11/8/16

What follows is the slightly edited text from a talk I gave on Thursday the 11th of August, as part of an event between WISE and ExxonMobil.

“It’s such an incredible pleasure to see our members here with brilliant women from ExxonMobil. My talk will be slightly aimed more towards the students, but it will hopefully include ideas everyone can get behind.

For the students among us, we haven’t really entered the real world yet. We’ve completed high school and suffered all the injustices that your teenage years and early 20s provide and certainly we can enter bars (mostly) and gamble and get our democracy sausage  but universities are often a small-l liberal bubble – the large-l liberal youth branch notwithstanding.

What kind of issues exist within this small l liberal bubble? Well it’s things like the informal mentoring and sponsorship that men often benefit from. It’s how men assume they’re smarter than their female classmates. It’s the social pressures that mean the involvement of women in undergraduate computer science degrees peaked in the eighties and has since declined. Women made up 37% of comp sci undergrads in 1985. In 2012, that was 18%. It’s the social pressures that means I first got the Grandchildren Talk at 20. As a queer woman, I’ve had precisely zero role models for the bulk of my scientific journey but if you’re a white man you’ve got a glut of them.

Having said all that, this is a bubble – we are safer and more respected within this space and it’s associated with our ability to choose the spaces and people we interact with. You’ve chosen WISE, which was a great start. That isn’t a luxury that’s necessarily available or encouraged when you get straight out of university. We all know how bad the job market is – who here is confident of getting a job when we graduate?

There’s a feeling that you have to take what you can get and keep your head down. It’s a big jump into the workforce from university and nobody wants to make a splash. Because after all, it’s one thing to be a woman in a STEM degree. It’s another thing to be a young woman in STEM career.

There are ways to bridge that gap. Workplaces will have an HR induction that should clearly detail things like complaints policy – and you’re never so far down the pecking order to invalidate your complaints. It often feels like there’s a pressure to call out sexism or feel like we’ve betrayed the sisterhood. This pressure can fall on young women, with ideas like the “generational shift in thinking” which is meant to incrementally close the pay gap at some point around 2075. Or, if you’re staying in Australia, the gender pay gap increased from 15 to 17.5% between 2005 and 2013, and this year according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, it’s 19.1%. That’s ridiculous.

Young people need to be more politically engaged, young women need to be more outspoken, we need to ask for more, actively seek out mentors, surely we can just lean in – I’m sure so much of this room has heard a variety of one or all of these. But sometimes calling out sexism, or working yourself to the bone, or being an activist is honestly not worth it. The entirety of women’s rights doesn’t rest on our shoulders and sometimes we’re not safe or able to call something out without risk. Never compromise your safety for ideals.

Having said that, I do enjoy calling out sexism. Some of my favourite ways involve being a bit sarcastic, maybe leaning back and going “is that… is that right?”, “huh”, or “That sure is an opinion, and you definitely have it.”

But in all honesty, transitioning to the workforce isn’t just being punched in the face with sexism, homophobia, and racism – things which during my brief foray into the working world I have watched or experienced, and that’s in New ZealandNew Zealand is like a less terrible Australia. But it isn’t just that – it’s things like finally having money, not having homework (unless you do law which, why did you do law), it’s cool older friends, working out what you want from life, and maybe starting to take a multivitamin like a real adult. It’s fun!

It’s just scary, and that applies to an extent to all changes you make from safety to newness. It is confusing the first time a colleague queries borderline aggressively into your personal life, and colleagues of mine now get subtly asked if they’re planning a family soon. I get the added difficulty that it’s likely my partners will be female so talking about personal life is this balancing act of trying to work out if you’re homophobic before letting anything slip.

But what are we likely to face in our future?

  • We’re likely to face jobs that aren’t necessarily in STEM. There was a recent news article about how science degrees were not great degrees, which realistically read like someone bitter that their law degree didn’t handhold them right into a partnership. STEM degrees qualify us to research effectively, to problem solve, and to think critically – and that’s applicable far beyond strict STEM careers.
  • Unless something dramatically changes, we’re not likely to see equity in parliament.
  • We’re probably going to continue to be higher-qualified and get better marks than men.
  • Amazing trailblazing women are going to continue to push for pay transparency, because that will be the easiest way to get paid the same as men very quickly.
  • The discussion about feminism will becoming increasingly mainstream. The difference even since 2009 in how easily feminism, the wage gap, gender-based issues will be discussed as a real issue rather than relegated to extremist, bra-burning lesbians.
  • Beyoncé will continue to be a beautiful feminist icon.
  • We’re going to have way more female astronauts – the groundwork is already there to fill space with women.
  • The rates of reporting of sexual violence will likely continue to increase. That means we won’t really know if the actual rates are going up or down – which is beside the point because they’re disgustingly high – but reporting might mean that things change.
  • We aren’t likely to have long-term jobs. The average job length for a millennial is 3-5 years. This means if you have a bad work environment, or boss that’s not good, you can shift jobs and that’s becoming normalised.  We’re also likely to change careers a lot, so you can chill on that immediate post-university choice.
  • We’ll have more control of our fertility and bodies than ever before (unless you go to the USA).
  • Thanks to the connectivity of the world and the democratisation of storytelling (thanks, twitter), we’re going to have more access to inspirations, mentors, and women who accurately reflect us. We’re not going to have to fight the way people even 30 years older than us did.

The women who went before us changed a lot of the world which meant we aren’t going to have to fight for the right to work while married, for the ability to do what we want. The future can seem stressful and bad but the world is changing – for the better. And that’s great.”

The panelists at the event where this talk was given. Names above refer to panelists, right to left. Photo thanks to Jess Vovers.

Safe Schools Coalition

Trigger warning: discussion of depression, suicide, self harm, homophobia, and transphobia.

If you’re in Australia and not full of blistering rage about the inquiry into the Safe Schools Coalition, you’ve possibly been pointedly ignoring all of the news. Although, seeing as a lot of last week involved Australian mainstream media defending blackface, I really don’t blame you.

For the uninitiated, the Safe Schools Coalition (SSC) is an organisation that provides resources and support to help develop a positive classroom environment for LGBTQIAA students. Most of the bullying of young LGBTQIAA people happens at school, and the idea behind the SSC is that a safe school is a better school.

The Australian government, after pressuring from some pretty disgusting conservative elements, has decided to launch an inquiry into this group as it might be “promoting a political agenda”. The SSC receives $8 million in public funding, which pales when compared to the $244 million the school chaplaincy program receives, both over four years. Chaplaincy is almost definitely promoting an agenda.

Had the SSC existed when I went to high school, it would quite genuinely have changed my life. When I first came out to my closest friend, she told me I was disgusting and abnormal, and to stay away from normal people. Being terrified to come out to anyone else because of that reaction meant it was a pressure point for me until I graduated school, and contributed substantially to my mental health issues.

moody teenager stands by a pole
This is all a bit heavy so have a picture of me as a (very gay) teenager for a quick laugh.

Conservative politicians in Australia have described telling teenagers – 13 and 14 year olds – that heterosexual isn’t the only or best identity as akin to paedophile grooming. When you consider that the suicide, depression, and self harm rates for LGBTQIAA people are many times that of the general population (and there’s been a spike in demand for mental health support for young people since this whole ride has started), allowing politicians to make these kind of comments without clear and strong response is being reckless with our children’s health. The Prime Minister’s response was soft and insufficient.

People are feeling comfortable to spout offensive vitriol at all angles. An article in The Australian puts “non binary gender identity” in scare quotes. It’s suggested that the SSC program akin to sex education – which it’s quite clearly not.

The discussions about same sex marriage are also bringing homophobes out of the woodwork like the worst kinds of termites. And it’s hurting incredible vulnerable people.

It’s just like Christmas In July, except it’s Homophobia In February and it’s not whimsical or fun.

Rebecca Shaw, in this rather excellent piece

I don’t know what kind of internal acrobatics these politicians, commentators, and “Australians” do to justify this vitriol. All I can tell you for certain is that I tried to kill myself twice when I was fifteen, and a lot of that was to do with feeling abnormal and ‘wrong’ for being attracted to girls.

We need to do better by our vulnerable kids that are still working out their sexuality and gender. We need to do better by those that know for sure they’re gay as heck or trans or non binary or bisexual or asexual or different in any way, regardless of whether they’re out to everyone, just one friend, or nobody at all. And, damn it, we need to do better by the LGBTQIAA people that just exist every day in Australia and put up with a constant stream of absolute garbage.

I don’t think it’s too much to want to live in a country where the people in power don’t imply my existence is inherently wrong. To have marrying someone I love independent from their gender. I don’t like feeling that by simply existing, I am an affront.

Children and adolescents like it even less.



If you or someone you know being negatively affected by this, help or information can be obtained at Lifeline 131 114, beyondblue 1300 224 636, and the Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.


Junket 2015 : 200 youth leaders in Australia (including yours truly) get whisked away to the QT Canberra to solve problems. Ideally, they’ll solve the biggest problems facing Australia today. It’s invite-only; you could only “buy” your way in with ideas.

I cried when I got the email inviting me out of the blue (sent to the WISE inbox), nearly tried to convince the current WISE president that the email was actually meant for her, and looked at the email about fifty times over the next two days to ensure it was real. I carefully didn’t mention that I’m a New Zealander.

I’ve seen enough startups that claim they will solve the world (or even just fill a niche) be impractical and overly optimistic and frankly grating with their buzzwords. I wasn’t super hopeful that hashtag junket was going to be any different – even when I signed up to the conference-specific app it seemed like everyone was more enthusiastic/less moderately jaded than me. I felt it was going to be an impractical love-fest full of people saying words like “disruptive”, “agile” and “lean”, but food was provided, and free food will get me just about anywhere.

a bowl full of donuts with a greeting card welcoming Ms Frentz to the QT Canberra
An example of the free food with which I can be bribed places

I cannot explain to you exactly how different it was.

It was a love-fest, sure – everyone was always excited to see you and keen to talk to you about who you are and what you’re doing. But it was practical. It was grounded. On the second day we had five hour-long sessions, with 11 options for each one, and every single one asked for practical action points at the end.

A lot of the sessions had people working in the field of interest, from arts to the sciences to education to indigenous issues to medicine; the list goes on. This meant that people took action points back to their work and can start putting ideas in place as early as this week. But it gets better than that.

Every person there was doing good things. It was an experience reminiscent of the International Biology Olympiad to me – I’d found my people. These were hyper-intelligent polymath overachievers with a social conscience the size of a bus. The core of Junket was the fact that people who wouldn’t have otherwise met were brought together to discuss things that mattered to us. I met other people who care about women in STEM, who think the social norm that is university is kind of bullshit, a volunteer for the Missing Persons Advocacy Network, queer activists, mental health activists, engineers, scientists, dancers, artists, all full of energy and passion.

I not only pitched about women in STEM at the opening night, but ran a session and pitched about a women in STEM students network in an actual elevator. I’ve got about three pages of my own notes as well as the write-up Junkee is going to supply to start taking action on. Everyone had really good ideas and I’m looking forward to putting them in action. Watch this space, I guess, but not too closely – I still need to recover.

Dark room with project screen featuring the word "Junket"
Scene from the opening night at Junket

While I’d love to focus on the content of the sessions or discuss the disconnect between corporate sponsors and social justice that is apparently a Big Deal but 100% doesn’t seem incongruous to me, that would bust this blog post out to thousands of words. Junkee.com will be writing articles on it over the next few weeks.

What surprised me the most about Junket, what mattered the most about Junket, was that I felt comfortable to be fully honest about myself and my experiences. In my daily life there’s a lot of things I don’t share, neglect to mention, avoid discussing – even with you, public forum of the Internet. I try to fit in and in doing so become a version of myself. I did not do this at Junket; there was no need.

At Junket I was open and honest. I was challenged and inspired. I was reinvigorated and changed and it was fantastic.

picture of every attendee at junket arranged in rows with a spotlight on them holding yellow flags saying
Final family photo at  #junket 2015 – photo shamelessly stolen from Jess Scully (curator of Junket 2015 and probably now my personal hero)