Words by Gabbie Lynch
The Banksia Woman was born out of a love of all things feminine and Australian. Em and I felt the Australian identity had too long been dominated by a white working class male image. And it turns out we aren’t the only ones to think this way. Last week I stumbled across the most incredible new web series, “SHEILAS” on youtube (Click here for the trailer). When I say stumbled, I really mean to say that I’ve been eagerly waiting ever since I found out a few weeks ago that two of my favourite Australian writers/directors/actresses/all round talented super stars, Hannah and Eliza Reilly, were putting together this fantastic creation.
SHEILAS follows the story of four badass women in Australian women. We’ve all heard the legends of Ned Kelly and Banjo Patterson. But where were the chicks? Well the Reilly sisters have done their homework and in four 10 minute clips, they tell us the stories of some pretty inspiring Aussie women whose names never made it into the history books.
This web series is not your ordinary high school history lesson (although I wish I had been) but rather it is a short yet inspiring and hilarious insight into some of Australia’s forgotten heroines. You’ll meet four “tough titted ladies who hiked up their petticoats and fly-kicked down the doors of opportunity for modern Australia.” First off the rank is Nancy Wake – a North Sydney girl who became a WWII spy and in 1942, was at the top of Gestapo’s most wanted. Next is the story of Fanny Durak, Australia’s first female Olympic Swimmer and then episode three features the gutsy story of Worimi woman Mary Ann Bugg – a widow, mum of thirteen and captain thunderbolt’s right hand woman. Finally we finish with the story of revolutionary woman Merle Thornton- she’s the reason us gals can drink in pubs with the big boys!
These are the stories I wish I had heard in school. Filled with colour, fun and ambition, SHEILAS is raw and unapologetic. Here are the legends of four women who swore, got loud and angry, fired guns, tricked police and nazi soldiers, chained themselves to bars and not one of them was sorry about it. In fact, Nancy Wake said “I’ve killed a lot of Germans…I’m just sorry I didn’t kill more.” Huge credit to the cast and the Reilly sisters who have shown the true strength of these Australian heroines, demolishing the stereotype of the compliant, sweetly spoken girl from the bush. Australian women existed far beyond this image, we just haven’t heard about them yet. Until now.
This is a refreshing way to hear the truth about Australian history. Apparently, not everyone was running around with a tin on their head (looking at you, Ned Kelly). My only complaint is that it isn’t a television series because the whole concept is just fantastic. (Although the Reilly sisters did direct another fantastic TV series called “Growing up Gracefully” which you can watch here.)
The history snobs might turn their noses up at SHEILAS, but as these badass women will show you, they really don’t give a f*ck.
Catch up on SHEILAS here.