I am deeply saddened by the passing of Sarah Strong-Law, a local Adelaide community member.
I knew her as Barrelhouse Bessie. She started the Adelaide Roller Derby League in 2007, a community I joined 2008/2009 in my early twenties.
I was a young mum, working full-time in casual work, on low income with mortgage pressures. My husband and I had a business and were feeling the sting of the GFC. My university studies did not take the path that I had wanted. I was told that “pregnancy isn’t an illness”; and that having a child wasn’t reason enough to study honors part-time.
I felt isolated.
I joined a mums and bubs group in an effort to gain support and friendship in those early years. I didn’t clique. The nearest young mothers group was too young. I didn’t clique there either.
Derby had women of all ages and backgrounds. There were lawyers, artists and misfits. There were mums. I was welcomed. I was accommodated, supported and encouraged. Being different and being a weirdo was celebrated.
As part of the Derby community, you had to contribute in some way – whether it was committee membership, selling tickets, running stalls or teaching fresh meat. There may have been grumbles about the time commitment yet it was so very integral to building a strong community where women felt valued and empowered.
Sarah Strong-Law was the driving force behind Derby in Adelaide. Other strong women contributed and kept it going.
I remember the debates about whether men could be allowed to join the league. At the time I had no strong feelings either way. At the time I was naïve enough to think that, in Australia, men and women had it equal now, all the feminist movements were a thing of the past and it was no longer required.
Fast forward 13 years, having the experiences I have now, having those experiences that have shaken me to the core, those experiences that I have still not recovered from…. I think differently. It is not equal. It is absolutely vital to have those safe, women-only or women-run spaces.
Derby was a needed community in my life. Sarah was a leader, a trailblazer. It is written so beautifully here, “She could never have understood the impact that she’s had on a lot of our lives”.
To Sarah, and many more like her.