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Women statues to inspire Queensland girls

Apart from Mother Mary and Queen Victoria, women commemorated in statue form in Australian public spaces are far outnumbered by male captains, explorers, leaders and engineers.

But one Brisbane schoolgirl is working to change that and has had some success in persuading the Queensland government more women should be immortalised in public sculptures.

Attorney-General and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman has announced $35,000 funding for a bronze likeness of pioneering Australian geologist and astrobiologist Dr Abigail Allwood outside Brisbane Planetarium.

“Having strong representation of female role models is essential in achieving gender equality,” the minister said on Saturday.

“I always say ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and if we can honour women’s achievements and have them on display for young girls everywhere, then we are helping to show young girls they can do anything.”

But the statue would not have become a reality without the campaign efforts of 10-year-old Malia Knox in working with Statues for Equality, Women in Technology and raising $20,000 through her GoFundMe page.

While visiting Sherwood Arboretum in 2020, the then eight-year-old asked her mother why all the plaques at the central promenade were for men.

After further research Malia could only find three statues of women in Brisbane.

This sparked her idea to start #femalefaces4publicplaces and she collected almost 800 signatures for a parliamentary petition.

“I feel really sad that in every park and playground I go to I am only seeing pictures, plaques and statues of men,” Malia said.

“When I am only seeing men, I start to feel like men are more important than women. I know this isn’t true but this is what I’m seeing every day so it’s hard not to believe it.

“And I’m so excited that other young girls like me will be able to come to the Planetarium and learn about the story of Abigail Allwood.”

Dr Allwood is a geologist and astrobiologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, focusing on the detection of life on other planets and the evolution of life on early Earth.

She is also the first woman and first Australian to be a principal investigator on a Mars Mission.

Ms Fentiman said funding the statue showed the government was serious about delivering greater public representation of women and girls.

“Just last week we launched our new Queensland Women’s Strategy that sets out our … commitment to ensuring women and girls have more opportunities and are front and centre of our plan for economic recovery, she added.

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