Dr Donna Jackson

Donna Jackson started the Women's Circus to enable women to come together to train in a non-competitive, supportive and safe environment.

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Donna Jackson came from a family in which her father drove a truck and her mother did piece work for the local cardigan factory - not a circus-type family! The closest she got to circus was the little carnival that camped a mile from her house at the Mordialloc Beach.

Donna was sent to ballet, youth theatre and then gym classes from an early age. After she left Teacher's College, her first place of work was a refuge for women escaping domestic violence. The feminist processes of the refuge and the very strong and stroppy women who worked there made a huge impression on her. Many of the processes now used by the Women's Circus are a reflection of that experience.

She wanted to start a women's circus after she heard of another women's circus which happened around 1979-80. Donna met Ollie Black, who had been in it, and looked through her photos and press clippings. Her first thought was, "Why aren't they around now so I can join?"

The rationale behind the circus was to create an environment where women can come together to train in a non-competitive, supportive, safe environment. The circus gives women a vehicle for expressing political views and beliefs to an audience made up from the general public.

The first women invited to join the circus were survivors of sexual abuse. Membership was then offered to women generally, with an overwhelming response from women of many different backgrounds. The circus gives them a chance to explore the strength, endurance and skill their bodies can attain.

The Women's Circus started as a small project and has grown beyond all expectations. The reason that the circus is successful is that a diverse group of women have come together to realise shared ideas and because women like Donna dream, organise, persist and win through.