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Karleen Gwinner

I am a wild and creative womxn.

I have lived a few career identities, I am a sociologist, visual artist, researcher, environmentalist and allied health-worker. Each role though, has been underpinned by creativity and a desire to explore, discover and experience. I have always been committed to sharing the transformative value of the arts and creativity, particularly at the nexus of arts and health. I have gained a depth of experience across three university research centres and am driven by an interest in people, diversity and cultivating a deeper understanding of the world around us.

I am told I am a strong womxn, perhaps because I play barefoot in nature, eschewing boxed in roles or identities. I often find myself in a social activist position bringing to light issues pertinent to human rights. I have had the opportunity to work with amazingly talented people and am currently working to create an enterprise focused on the nexus of art, health and nature-based initiatives. One that champions human and environmental flourishing.

What's easy for womxn?

Being a girl. I find it easy to throw on a dress and swirl to a song, or to roll down a grassy slope chortling. I think the joy that comes from little things is easy to find.

What's difficult for womxn?

Being treated like a dullard at Bunnings- metaphorically speaking.

How do you maintain mental fitness?

Yoga, sleep and moving mountains, one rock at a time.

What brings you joy?

Sharing creative wild connections with others and being a bit risky.

How do you nurture your relationship with nature?

Everyday. I listen to the trees, watch the wind, and speak to the creatures who remind me to come again tomorrow. I live in the Hinterland at Talweg. Talweg is my soul place. I am very lucky to have found this place and to be so close to so much nature, everyday.

Where do you feel a sense of belonging/community?

I feel a sense of belonging at home, both because of my family and of place. Over the years I have been fortunate to share experiences with talented and amazing people and I have grown to know some people deeply. Community is both place and experience, it is people you share with and it is beyond time and space.

Where do you live/work?

At the foothills of the McPherson Range on Yugambeh country.

What motivates you?

Being creative and finding solutions to problems.

What’s important to you?

Art and creativity.

Best piece of advice from a woman?


What are you working on?

Hand Bent Banana arts and health centre.

Why do you think Art Therapists are predominantly women?

The same reason nurses are predominantly women - genderised ideas of what roles we should play and then educating to these notions.

Describe an influential woman in your life

I am inspired by many women. I come from a matriarchal family, lots of amazing and inspiring women, who all have influenced me and supported me in some way. I am inspired by women such as Camille Claudel, and Georgia O'Keeffe.



We hear a lot about the patriarchy so it's interesting that Karleen talks about coming from a matriarchal family, as did Amanda in her story. I've been thinking about this word a lot, it's powerful and righteous. These definitions radiate respectful relationships:

  • a system of society or government ruled by a woman or women

  • the state of being an older, powerful woman in a family or group

  • a form of social organization in which descent and relationship are reckoned through the female line.

The First Nations people of America have matriarchal societies. Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge, he explains:

"In our society, women are the center of all things. Nature, we believe, has given women the ability to create; therefore it is only natural that women be in positions of power to protect this function....We traced our clans through women; a child born into the world assumed the clan membership of its mother. Our young women were expected to be physically strong....The young women received formal instruction in traditional planting....Since the Iroquois were absolutely dependent upon the crops they grew, whoever controlled this vital activity wielded great power within our communities. It was our belief that since women were the givers of life they naturally regulated the feeding of our people....In all countries, real wealth stems from the control of land and its resources. Our Iroquois philosophers knew this as well as we knew natural law. To us it made sense for women to control the land since they were far more sensitive to the rhythms of the Mother Earth. We did not own the land but were custodians of it. Our women decided any and all issues involving territory, including where a community was to be built and how land was to be used....In our political system, we mandated full equality. Our leaders were selected by a caucus of women before the appointments were subject to popular review....Our traditional governments are composed of an equal number of men and women. The men are chiefs and the women clan-mothers....As leaders, the women closely monitor the actions of the men and retain the right to veto any law they deem inappropriate....Our women not only hold the reigns of political and economic power, they also have the right to determine all issues involving the taking of human life. Declarations of war had to be approved by the women, while treaties of peace were subject to their deliberations."

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