Queen Victoria Womens CentreQueen Victoria Women’s Centre Launches New Program Connecting Art And Health

The Queen Victoria Women’s Centre launched its next phase as an iconic women’s centre with a cultural program that positions women, their happiness and their wellbeing, at the heart of Melbourne life. By using cultural activity to mitigate issues like depression and loneliness that affect an increasing number of women, the landmark venue will be transformed into a hub for art, design, creativity, and connection.

Queen Victoria Women’s Centre CEO Jo Porter is thrilled to launch the Centre’s new program:

“The Queen Victoria Women’s Centre has a long and iconic tradition of supporting the women of Victoria. In the 21st century Melbourne women are more mobile and active than ever yet, increasing numbers of women experience depression, loneliness and isolation. We know that access to cultural activity, networking, and connection can stave off these ills and our new program aims to bring together women of all backgrounds by providing ways for them to participate in learning, art, design, and performance.”

Regarding the new program, Gabrielle Williams, the Minister for Women said:

“Located in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre has played a significant role in the history of Victorian women. By focusing on the needs of women and rethinking the way this landmark building can become an active site for women and women’s activities, the Centre will offer a new program of activities that is unashamedly feminist, unashamedly fun, and will benefit all women in Victoria, wherever they live.”


Online, the Centre will produce a series of interviews with some of Victoria’s most inspiring women, and will release a podcast entitled ‘Apodcalypse‘ created by renegade theatre-makers Jean Tong and Lou Wall. ‘Apodcalypse’ will be genre-bending structured format podcast that is part role-play, and will bring together two queer women to work out how they’d survive the end of the world.

Lou Wall and Jean Tong
Jean Tong and Lou Wall

We sat down with Jean and Lou:

Apodcalypse is a podcast with a difference. Why?

APODCALYPSE is unique because it merges fiction with reality, and seriousness with fun. We put real life people—queer icons and everyday heroes—into fictional, apocalyptic scenarios because there’s nothing quite like a life-or-death decision to really get people chatting. By putting our guests in unorthodox situations we get to learn more about the person behind the career, the human behind the activist, and maybe the ruthless saboteur behind the softest, Greenest lefty we can find.

It’s also a choose-your-own-adventure podcast! So while the fictional narrative is extensively pre-written, the guests on the show really drive the episode. Through facing them with gnarly, morally corrupt do-or-die’s, we aim to get our guests thinking about the broad and challenging themes of climate change, survival, political activism, and community, in more varied ways – but always through a lens of total madcap fun.

What can listeners expect from a typical episode of Apodcalypse?

In Season 1, you will get thrown into an immersive, climate change-affected apocalyptic universe. Each episode, we handpick two inspiring, local, queer icons and put them through the paces of every day apocalypse life, to see if they would survive.

They are run through everything from trivial mini-challenges (“what’s your luxury apocalypse fashion statement piece”), to fast paced timed scenarios, to high stakes life or death decisions. Our chats are as deep as they are hilarious and you, the listener, get to sit back and relax, as our guests squirm deciding whether to lapse their veganism post apocalypse, in order to survive!

What made you want to use the climate apocalypse as a way to bring queer women together?

Right now, climate change is at the forefront of our generation’s minds. It’s an impending and omnipresent threat that is and will increasingly so, affect everything.

The very real threat of violence and hardship incited by events like climate change exacerbate positions of privilege – which means queer communities, along with the intersecting marginalised groups including Blak & POC folk, people with disability, financially vulnerable people and rural communities, are at much higher risk from the fallout.

By putting members of those communities in a position where they are able to talk about climate change hypothetically, through the safe lens of fiction, we hope to draw out a different form of discourse around the topic. One in which queer people can openly discuss their politics whilst also having a laugh at it’s ludicrously extreme nature.

We believe in humour as an extremely useful tool to navigate stress and trauma. Through Apodcalypse we are keen to use comedy as a way of lightening the mental load of engaging in potentially complex and murky territory of personal choice and political positions as we continue to work to mitigate this crisis in real life.

And frankly, we also just really wanted to see queer women and NB folk as protagonists in the cliched Hollywood-dude-kills-zombie-genre. Doesn’t everyone wish Armageddon was a little gayer?

You’re both experienced theatre makers. What are some of the challenges of producing a podcast, rather than a show for the stage?

Lou: One of the reasons I love theatre is because it can’t be perfected. Even if you give the performance of a life time, you can never critique it in hindsight, it’s between you and the audience and once the curtain closes it ceases to exist. So my challenge with producing a podcast was knowing when to stop editing and tweaking! Unlike a stage show, the final product exists on the internet for a millennia (or until the Apocalypse wipes us out of course) which is terrifying. For me it was about resisting perfectionist urges and letting the raw glory of this Apodcalypse beast shine!

Jean: Personally, I find it extremely easy to overwrite and over-describe. I often forget that there’s only X amount of audio information you’re going to be able to take in before your brain tunes out, so a big part of what I’ve had to do is just write it all out – then go in hard with the editing. It’s also been very different working on a less strictly scripted series. A lot of what makes the episodes special is leaving space for the host (Lou Wall) to really draw out our guests’ individual insights, which neither of us would have predicted. The joys of improvisation… which I’m not quick enough to deal with and luckily don’t have to!

As well as making creative work together, you are also a couple. How do you separate the personal and the professional? Or don’t you?

Jean: It can get tricky – we try to mitigate the number of projects we work on together so there’s at least some breathing space in our shared household, and we’re not both stressed about the same things at the same time. But we also have different skillsets, so being able to pass the ball easily to someone else when you’re wiped out is also very handy.

Lou: Ahahaha we don’t! Like we try, but we both love what we do so much that work tends to creep into the personal. We’ll be reading in bed and I’ll be like “OMG JEAN WHAT IF THIS CHARACTER FALLS IN LOVE WITH THE VILLAIN” and then we’re off discussing major plot points till 1am.


Other Highlights include a new retail store that will open its doors in March and will celebrate the very best Victorian women artists, designers and makers.

The new store has been designed and created by Abi Crompton of successful art and design store Third Drawer Down. Also in March, women’s voices will soar above the CBD with ‘Sing Out! – a week-long singing extravaganza around International Women’s Day featuring the Big Feminist Sing, a large-scale choral workshop and performance, and legendary singer, performer and comedian Candy Bowers.

Access for women from diverse backgrounds will also be key to the Centre’s new focus. As Van Badham, Chair of the Centre and feminist writer and advocate said:

“Women’s centres and women-only spaces are crucial to the health and wellbeing of all women. At the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, we program events that target women from diverse backgrounds to help them build strong networks, friendships, and community and to overcome the precariousness of isolation, exclusion, and marginalization.”

  • In April, the Centre will partner with the Comedy Festival to run a series of events during the day for women from diverse cultural who may have young children, providing an antidote to the disempowerment and isolation that can impact newly arrived communities.
  • In May, the Centre will partner with the legendary Hana Assafiri of the Moroccan Soup Bar to host a Women’s lftar, bringing together 150 women to break their Ramadan fast.
  • In July, Indigenous artist and Master Weaver Marilyne Nicholls will undertake a weaving residency where visitors can learn the techniques behind this ancient craft from one of Australia’s leading practitioners. The Centre will also lead the way in enabling newly arrived or marginalised women to connect with Melbourne as a vibrant and exciting city by creating a series of ‘curated experiences’ to Melbourne’s festivals and sporting events.

The new program also includes a ‘Thinker in Residence’ program that provides a woman – whether she is an academic, entrepreneur, writer, or philosopher – with a stipend and a space to reflect on and create a work or project that responds to the Centre’s mission and purpose. Exhibitions of work by women artists will continue in the Centre’s Exhibition Space, and the Centre will remain a home to many Melbourne events and festivals which have included Melbourne Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival, and will be the hub for the Feminist Writers Festival in November.