Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


International Women's Day

6:50 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in tonight's adjournment debate to reflect on International Women's Day 2013 and some of the events that occurred to celebrate this important day.

Of course, as senators in this chamber would be aware, 2013 International Women's Day was celebrated on Friday, 8 March. Many here would have had an opportunity to attend the many and varied events that were held over the last week across Australia to celebrate the milestones and social, economic and political achievements and importantly to discuss challenges before us. There were many, many hundreds of International Women's Day events that were sponsored, organised and supported by schools, the corporate sector, trade unions, women's groups, governments and many other organisations and individuals.

International Women's Day can be traced back to the USA in February 1909 when the first National Women's Day was celebrated to honour women who had protested against working conditions in the garment industry the previous year. Since that time International Women's Day has developed a long and proud history of drawing attention to issues that affect women. Nationally and internationally, events to celebrate International Women's Day were held and, in Tasmania, there were also some wonderful local events taking place.

On Wednesday, 6 March, I was able to attend the annual International Women's Day Breakfast, along with hundreds of other women and a smattering of men—they are more than welcome—and the guest speaker was former Senator Natasha Stott Despoja. Natasha, as we would expect, gave a wonderful speech, both entertaining and heart-warming, with a strong message about discrimination and equality. As we know, Natasha Stott Despoja is an inspiration to women and plays an important role in public life through the media and her work in the mental health area.

I also attended the annual Unions Tasmania International Women's Day Quiz Night, which is an excellent event organised by the President of Unions Tasmania, Roz Madsen, and the Unions Tasmania Women's Committee. Again, it was an excellent turnout, with over 100 people in attendance. The money raised went to the bushfire appeal to assist local communities impacted by Tasmania's summer bushfires.

On that night I also had the pleasure of being able to present International Women's Day Awards, which Unions Tasmania awards each year. Of the many awards that were announced on the night, I would particularly like to congratulate Leanne Cohen from HACSU and Robyn McQueeney from the AMWU on receiving International Women's Day Awards in recognition of their work in support of the women's movement.

The theme for this year's International Women's Day is 'A promise is a promise: time for action to end violence against women.' Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, and Minister for Disability Reform, said on International Women's Day, when talking about what the theme was for this year:

And it is time.

Because we have seen too many tragedies recently.

In Pakistan, where 14 year old Malala was shot because she wanted to go to school.

In India, where the brutal rape of a young woman on a bus has acted as a catalyst for others to stand up and protest. And here in Melbourne, where the murder of Jill Meagher shocked our entire city.

UN figures show that 603 million women live in countries where violence against women is not considered a crime.

Sadly, in Australia, around one in three women have experienced physical violence and almost one in five have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

The government has implemented the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. It is a 12-year strategy, running from 2010 to 2022. The plan brings together governments from across Australia to make a real and sustained reduction in the levels of violence against women. It delivers an unprecedented focus on preventing violence by raising awareness and building respectful relationships in the next generation.

The national plan has been built from new evidence, based on research and extensive consultation with experts and the community. By working together we can challenge attitudes and behaviours that allow violence to occur and make it clear that all Australian governments say no to violence against women. To build upon this plan, the Prime Minister announced a new anti-slavery initiative, which seeks to eliminate slavery from Australia and overseas. Over the past decade more than 20 million people from around the world have been subject to forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. That is why we are implementing a whole-of-government strategy which improves procurement arrangements to assist in identifying and stamping out slavery.

As part of the federal Labor government's celebration of International Women's Day, my colleague the Minister for the Status of Women and member for Franklin, Julie Collins MP, travelled to New York to lead Australia's delegation at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This is the world's main policymaking body, at which countries agree to set concrete recommendations to be implemented to improve gender equality. Whilst visiting the United States of America, Minister Collins also participated in a panel discussion in Washington, examining domestic and international initiatives aimed at improving gender equality and also attended the International Women of Courage Ceremony.

In conclusion, Mr Deputy President, as you can see, this year's International Women's Day was celebrated in a number of ways all over the world. The message remains the same, no matter what world events were held and that is that discrimination and violence against women and girls have no place in modern society and governments around the world must continue to work together and stand together to ensure that we eliminate violence against women and girls.

As the United Nations Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, said in her 2013 International Women's Day Message:

… I join every individual who believes that change is possible. We are guided by a founding principle of the United Nations: the equal rights of men and women.

All around the world, our voices are rising, and silence and indifference are declining. Change is possible. And change is happening.