Senate debates

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Statements by Senators

Youth Voice In Parliament Week

1:57 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Like others, I am speaking today on behalf of a young Australian—a young South Australian—as part of Youth Voice in Parliament Week. Ms Winter Birkett is 17 years old, and she lives in my duty electorate of Boothby. These are her words:

As of August, Australia ranks 50th globally for the representation of women in national parliaments.

It is 2021—this statistic is not good enough.

It is not just that we can do better in terms of addressing the representation of women in Australian politics - we must do better.

As such, in 20 years, I want to live in an Australia where young girls, of diverse backgrounds and from all around the country, aspire to one day become politicians.

I want to live in an Australia where instead of girls like me being actively discouraged from pursuing politics because it is something for men and a "dirty game," girls are uplifted and empowered to do so.

I hope that in 20 years, Australia will come to place significant value on young girls and women being politically ambitious.

However, to achieve this, the status quo must change.

Currently, Australia's political culture sends a clear message to politically interested girls, that politics is not for us.

This message permeates through all levels of society, stemming from parliament itself.

This narrative must be challenged now so that in 20 years things change, because if not, Australia risks never achieving anything close to gender equality.

Ms Birkett is right. We must do better. The majority of senators are now women, and that's because Labor now has more women than men in the Senate, and that is because of our affirmative action targets. So I once again call on all Australia's political parties to mandate targets for equal women's representation.