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International Women’s Day – Amanda focused on making a difference

Amanda Lennestaal, Gender Equity Coordinator for The Salvation Army Australia.

As a woman with her own complex life caring for her children with multiple disabilities, Amanda Lennestaal, Gender Equity Coordinator for The Salvation Army Australia, is excited about helping make positive changes for women within the Salvos and beyond.

“My three girls all live with disabilities,” Amanda says, “and I constantly see the barriers they, and I, face. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in the headspace that it’s all too difficult but then what sort of world would I be leaving to my kids?”

“My husband is from Sweden, and we recently spent a few years living there. That was good for my egalitarian soul and the work and study I did there has helped me to form values more deeply around inclusion and equity.”

A complex issue

Amanda says that, given the unique spaces the Salvos work and worship in, women can’t be looked at as ‘binary’ human beings and there is a need to make sure that, as a church, employer and social services provider, the Salvos are offering the flexibility and care such a diversity of women are worthy of.

“I understand that women’s lives are complex, and one size definitely doesn’t fit all. We are looking at a variety of voices and experiences as we tackle a range of issues through communities of practice and smaller focus groups. Equity is about everybody – it needs to be geographically diverse too and include regional areas and people living remotely.”

Ensuring career progression for women employed by the Salvos is also one of Amanda’s focus areas. “We are still new as a territory and still pioneering ways to gender equality in terms of our investment across the whole of mission. From officers to aged care workers, everyone needs to be treated with respect, without discrimination, and to work according to fair work practices.”

A unifying approach

In the area of gender and inclusion, Amanda has chosen a gentle, long-term approach that is unifying, peaceful and finds a way forward. “Our organisation is relational, and diversity and inclusion is often about vulnerability,” she says. “I believe we have what it takes to move to that next phase in these spaces.

“The Salvation Army is committed to hearing strong female voices. We want people to talk about what matters to them and share their lived experience.”

A biblical model

“Gender Equity challenges narratives of power and control. I am a firm believer in the voices of women in story, helping them bring out their stories in different ways. We value their voice, and there is a space for it. This is the biblical model present in the everyday – sometimes the mundane and messy is where the sacred is found.”

Amanda is also intentionally asking men to be involved, as she contends that gender equity is not just a women’s event – it is a whole of society thing, and gender equity doesn’t sit neatly into one space.

With qualifications in law and political science, Amanda says it was a world that she didn’t enjoy and she was pleased to have the eventual strength to leave. In Sweden, she worked in a community chaplaincy role and social enterprise. “That is what I live and breathe,” she says.

“Seeing the presence of the divine in every life and circumstance – that is present in the aspect of everything we do. I don’t need to be preaching; others do that. At the end of the day, I want to do the kind of work Jesus would do.”


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