The Covid-19 pandemic has had insidious effects well beyond the most obvious signs of empty streets and shuttered storefronts, long lines at Centrelink offices and soup kitchens. During the nationwide lockdown, behind closed doors, domestic violence also surged. Domestic violence helplines reported an increase in calls, while Google traffic data revealed a 75 per cent increase in searches relating to domestic violence support. Many of these phone calls and web searches take place after midnight, while partners are asleep.
For Amanda Yong, Ning Lai and Jewel Tan, statistics like these did more than just unsettle. They jolted the trio of friends and housemates into establishing Project WOMN, a quarterly pop-up dinner series that raises money for women’s charities.
“During the lockdown, family and domestic violence figures skyrocketed,” says Yong, a pastry chef who counts State Buildings fine-diner Wildflower and Rockpool Bar & Grill as former ports of call. “We all decided that should be the first issue we highlight.”
Each of the three founders brings her own skill set to the Project WOMN party: Yong has the kitchen know-how, Lai – a manager at Deloitte by day, as well as owner of catering company Cheese & Charcuterie – is the business mind, while Tan is in charge of marketing. All three have strong feelings about women not being in the background, not being bound by old-fashioned ideals, and not being afraid to go for theirs.
“We’re a new generation that can move forward from [traditional stereotypes],” says Tan. “We want other women to know they’re not alone and that people shouldn’t make you feel like it’s wrong to be loud, confident or to know what you want. We hope this project encourages other women to step up, give themselves a chance and the opportunity to rise and succeed while helping those in need.”
The first event will be held at historic Moana Hall in the CBD, featuring a five-course black truffle dinner that combines classic French – cauliflower soup with brioche and shaved truffle, say – with cosmopolitan dishes such as salmon belly tartare with a truffle ponzu. Guests will be served matching wines from heavyweight Margaret River winery Woodlands. (Woodlands’ wines are also notable for being named after important women in the Watson family, the owners of the estate). Proceeds from the event will be donated to Zonta House, a Perth-based charity that has been helping women and children affected by domestic violence for more than 36 years.
In future, Yong, Lai and Tan hope to raise funds for breast cancer and to collaborate with other female chefs around the state.
The inaugural Project WOMN dinner will be held at Moana Hall on August 20 and 21. Tickets are $200 per person and include food, wine and live entertainment on the night. Tickets are available online