Back to all Press Releases


DATE: THU 30 NOV 2018

One hundred incredible speakers and artists from countries of the Commonwealth of Nations including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO, the first Sri Lankan to climb Mount Everest Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala, founding chair of Our Watch and former leader of the Australian Democrats Natasha Stott Despoja AM, and Canadian First Nations folk duo ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanetakta of Digging Roots, will join forces for the very first Women of the World (WOW) festival as part of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (GC2018).

Tickets go on sale on Thursday 30 November for the event, which will take over Brisbane Powerhouse from 6 to 8 April 2018. WOW at Festival 2018 will run alongside GC2018, which for the first time will feature an equal number of medals for female and male athletes.

A global force supporting women, girls, action and change, WOW festival was founded at London’s arts hub, Southbank Centre, by artistic director Jude Kelly. WOW festivals have now taken place in more than 20 locations on five continents.

WOW at Festival 2018 will be an energetic three days welcoming women and girls, men and boys, and bringing together fun and laughter with serious reflection on what it means to be a girl or woman in today’s world. While hard-hitting issues such as economic security, gender-based violence, leadership and health and wellbeing will be explored, the festival also offers opportunities for celebration and inspiration.

Women and girls from all walks of life, ages and nationalities including many local women, will share their personal stories. With the majority of women and girls in Commonwealth nations living outside urban areas, organisers are working hard to ensure their regional and remote voices are heard throughout the festival.

A diverse lineup of speakers from around the Commonwealth will include WOW founder and artistic director of Southbank Centre London Jude Kelly CBE, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, the artist behind the One Million Stars to End Violence project Maryann Talia Pau, and Jasvinder Sanghera, author and founder of Karma Nirvana, a UK award-winning charity that supports men and women affected by honour-based abuse and forced marriages.

Three strong advocates for the abolition of women in prisons will also join the lineup of speakers – Canadian senator Kim Pate, associate professor of sociology at the University of Auckland Tracey McIntosh, and Australian lawyer Deb Kilroy from Sisters Inside, whose personal prison experience has had a profound impact on her life and work.

Female entrepreneurs including 22 year-old Ghanaian Winnifred Selby of Bamboo Bikes, Solomon Islands graphic designer Millicent Barty and Queensland’s own Femeconomy co-founders Jade Collins and Alanna Bastin-Byrne will also share their stories.

An explosive cultural program will dazzle festival goers with exciting and moving acts including queens of dance, hip-hop politics and remix burlesque, Hot Brown Honey; the world premiere of VEIQIA21 , a new work from the vibrant Pacific experience VOU Dance Fiji, which will explore veiqia – a tattooing custom commonly bestowed on young Fijian women coming of age; the stirring voice of young singer Emily Wurramara, a Wanandilyakwa woman from Groote Eylandt; and the Australian debut of acclaimed Nigerian photographer J.D Okhai Ojeikere’s Hairstyles and Headdresses exhibition.

More speakers, panels and artists will be announced in the lead up to the event.

WOW executive producer in Australia, Cathy Hunt, said WOW at Festival 2018 would bring together some of the brightest minds and biggest hearts from around the Commonwealth for performances, exhibitions, workshops, speed mentoring, a marketplace and more.

“We hope everyone will leave with a smile, new friends and a renewed sense of determination to achieve gender equality across the Commonwealth of Nations,” Ms Hunt said.

“Through our Regional Voices program we’ve also been working with five cultural organisations in Queensland and the Northern Territory on projects to empower women in regional and remote areas, helping them overcome isolation, share their stories and amplify their voices.”

WOW founder and Southbank Centre artistic director, Jude Kelly CBE, said gender equality was a global challenge for us all.

“There is a not a country in the world that can honestly say it has achieved gender equality. WOW at Festival 2018 offers a unique opportunity for women from around the Commonwealth to come together to share their unique set of stories, challenges and solutions to achieve their full potential,” Ms Kelly said.

“I am personally thrilled to be a part of the lineup for WOW at Festival 2018. It’s going to be an incredibly special three days of creating, connecting and celebrating, taking one more important step towards a more equal world – we hope you’ll join us there.”

The Queensland Government is proud to support WOW as part of the Festival 2018 program.

Ticket packages include a discounted early bird three-day pass, which offers unlimited access to all daytime events as well as first access to a spectacular opening night ceremony.

HRH Duchess of Cornwall is the president of WOW globally, Quentin Bryce is the patron of WOW in Australia. The Principal Partner for the event is the Queensland Government and Major Partners are the Australian Government, Brisbane City Council, QSuper, McCullough Robertson Lawyers, Griffith University and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.


Back to all Press Releases