Interview of Steph Tzanetis by Alice Fairweather
Hi Steph! Thank you so much for being here and for doing this interview today!
No not at all, thank you! It’s an absolute pleasure!
So where exactly do you call home?
I call home wherever I am, but I have been living in Melbourne close to six years now. I was brought up in New Zealand, top of the South Island in a reasonably small beach town, but I was actually born in Athens! I have a passion for travelling, and I think I consider myself a bit of a global citizen! I wouldn’t be living somewhere unless I was passionate about it and felt some sense of a connection to that place.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I believe that I’m a passionate person, that’s what I feel driving me behind everything I do, especially my work! I actually consider myself a bit of an introvert in many ways, maybe what you would call an outgoing introvert? I started off doing a lot of public speaking and also tutoring while I was at University, that at the time, I actually felt quite uncomfortable about. But it’s always been a case of, well this is a necessary part of my job (public speaking) and I’m passionate about what I’m doing, so I’m going to do it! So yeah, I’m a bit of a natural introvert at heart.
So you’re currently the program coordinator of DanceWize, how would you describe this program?
So DanceWize is a health promotion, harm reduction education, support and outreach program (it’s quite a mouthful). It is a program in association with Harm Reduction Victoria, which is a community based and state governed, not-for-profit organisation. DanceWize is engaged and works with certain festivals (bush doofs), dance parties and nightclubs so our services are kind of twofold! We aim to provide peers with accurate, and credible information to reduce drug and alcohol related harm, as well as providing health, wellness, and mental health referrals. So we’re not a treatment, but we can prompt people to re-evaluate the risks that they take, and modify their behaviour. But we are not there to reduce their enjoyment or experience; it’s all about enhancing their safety controls and measures! So people are really receptive because they’re being treated like responsible individuals who can actually still have their own autonomy.
How did you get involved with DanceWize?
Well at the time I was working in New Zealand (my background was in the department of development, working in law and other drug studies), and I was going on a trip with a friend to New York. We were there for three months and I was really keen to volunteer somewhere during our stay. We just so happened to be living in the same building as the project coordinator of a needle exchange program, the ‘Washington Heights Corner Project’. We got talking and she offered me a position at the clinic and it just really opened my eyes! Amunity day festivals, night festivals, certain nightclubs and dance parties; a big mixes of places all over the state of Victoria. We’re even at University orientation events now, which is absolutely amazing! Not only to have the Universities invite us along, but to have such open and engaged young minds coming to us for information is such a great thing! We want to train people so that they’re able to implement their safe practices at other events as well.
Why do you think feminism is important, both in the work that you do, for yourself, and in the world?
On different days I feel inequality more strongly. Certain health promotion practices, practices that promote well-being and harm reduction, I see them as almost matriarchal or more nurturing in a way. I see collaboration and pragmatism as feminine traits, and then I see more heavy-handed approaches as masculine. And so I find that certain models such as the police force are very masculine, and also very militaristic. I see it in certain situations when I feel like people have taken a sledgehammer to attack such a small problem, to try and fix it straight away. I find that a very masculine approach, so if I was looking at those practices through a feminist lens, I feel like you’ve got to balance that power out and that comes with equality.
What do you think one of the biggest obstacles facing women today is?
I think there needs to be this balance in community sectors in terms of equal gender roles. We need that gender balance at every level not just the top positions, of each sector of our community! For example in medical practices, the police forces, public government sectors, etc… The voices need to be spread about so that there’s an equal balance in the work force.
What is the biggest change you wish to see in the world?
If I could have something change in the world instantaneously, it would be that, for just one second, every life on this planet would be consumed by infinite self-love, and compassion. It’s the hippy catch phrase ‘all you need is love’ but truly, the power of positive affirmation is absolutely life changing! So yes I would wish for everyone to stop and to just feel great and loved.
Finally, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
I think simply the fact that we as people have the power to make progressive and positive changes in life, and I think sometimes we can forget that! And to never underestimate the value of such love and gratitude, when it comes to wanting to make these positive changes and impact the world.