the Y’s Latest News

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023, and the women at the Y!

March 7, 2023 The Y in Australia
At the Y, we want to highlight and celebrate some of our incredible Y women this week, and acknowledge all women at the Y and in our communities, surrounding International Women’s Day 2023, on Wednesday 8 March, 2023. 

With almost three in every four of our 11,500 employees at the Y across Australia identifying as female, we are celebrating our fab women and sharing stories about recent and current innovations at the Y (see stories below). Hope you’re as inspired as we are!

And we want to continue to “crack the code for a gender equal future” with innovative solutions for women at our Ys, and in our communities.

We all need to show our support for gender equality by providing healthy and safe environments, by ensuring robust and fair recruitment practices, by protecting human rights and continuously promoting gender equality.

And we want to celebrate and value our incredible women, and their contribution.  

For example, did you know that two lasting global traditions innovated by women connected with the Y include the Red Poppy of Remembrance Day and Father’s Day 

More recent and local innovations led by women of the Y in Australia include: 

Sustainable uniformsWhen the Y rebranded in 2019, Donna McMaster Executive Director of the Y’s merchandising business together with her team worked hard to ensure the Y’s new uniforms were sustainably made and she also led the establishment a uniform recycling program to make sure old uniforms didn’t go to waste.  

Almost 20,000 uniform pieces have been purchased by our Y services in 680 communities across Australia since May last year, with old uniforms making their way to recycling, aligning beautifully with our Sustainable Planet global pillar.  

Virtual YWhen COVID struck and 90% of the Y’s operations across Victoria were closed for up to six months at a time, the Y in Victoria under the leadership of CEO Carolyn Morris, pivoted quickly to create an online youth hub to keep customers and communities active and engaged. Last year the virtual platform still had 45,000 visits. It’s also going global, with its content now being repurposed by the Y in Canada, for their communities.   

WhyNot – WhyNot amplifies the voices of young people, paying up to $150 per published piece for young Australians’ thoughts on issues that matter most to them. The Editorial Committee is committed to supporting and empowering diverse voices and has worked with over 330 young women and non-binary individuals in the last three years to ensure their voices are heard. The platform is run by a team of young people from across the Y, the majority of who identify as female &/or non-binary.    

Y Spaces, StreetGYm and Uplift programs in NSW, under the leadership of CEO, Susannah LeBron and Executive Leader Louisa McKay and their Youth and Community team, have been transformed in recent years from offering just one program to now having multiple Y Spaces for young people, and recreation programs that can be taken to the streets (StreetGym) or run inside gyms (Uplift), tailored specifically to young people. And 96% of participants report the Y as a ‘safe and inclusive space’, 87% feel their voices are heard, and 86% feel an increased sense of belonging. 

The EYES programwas innovated by the Y in Whittlesea by CEO Michele Rowse, Inclusion Services GM Annette Jurisch and Childrens’ Services GM Geny Zambello, in response to a growing need in their community, providing tailored early intervention support for children and families of the Y’s services, last year enabling 55 children and their families to receive additional support. 

The remote pools project in the NT is where Sarah Rendina, aged 23, is leading innovation on the ground. Sarah left her inner city Y job in Melbourne six months ago to run a pool for the Y in the remote community of Arju (Areyonga), 250kms from Alice Springs, and has already been recognized for her innovative approach to educating children on child safety (using discarded kickboards!), and for building community in a culturally safe and relevant way.  

Safety innovation: 19 years ago the Y in Victoria was the first organisation in the world to ban the use of mobile phones in swimming pool change rooms – innovating and responding to current community needs and concerns – again led by a woman of the Y, Shona Eland, who is now the CEO of the Y in Geelong. 

International Women’s Day Event – Our national CEO Tal Karp – former Olympian, lawyer, and strategist – was part of a 2023 International Women’s Day breakfast panel hosted by Life Saving Victoria in Port Melbourne on Thursday 2 March. 

Tal was joined by Meena Singh, Commissioner of Aboriginal Children and Young People and Life Saving Victoria CEO, Catherine Greaves.  The discussion focused on ways to be more inclusive and #EmbraceEquity across lifesaving, emergency services and community organisations.  


These are just a handful of examples of the innovative work of women of the Y in Australia today, that illustrate our commitment to equity for all, as part of our global Just World pillar. 

Drop into any one of the Y’s 680 plus facilities across Australia and you’ll be sure to cross paths with one of the Y’s women, innovating with and for young people and communities.  

© Copyright YMCA 2020. All Rights Reserved.