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Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade - 15/05/2015 - Human rights issues confronting women and girls in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific region
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McDERMOTT, Ms Helen, Assistant Director, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

MOYLE, Ms Sally, Principal Sector Specialist (Gender Equality), Human Rights and Gender Equality Branch, Multilateral Policy Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

NEWBURY, Ms Tracey, Director, Gender Equality and Disability Inclusion Section, Pacific Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

PLAYFORD, Mr Kevin, Acting Assistant Secretary, Human Rights and Gender Equality Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

STRAHAN, Dr Lachlan, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Subcommittee met at 09:09

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR ( Mr Ruddock ): I welcome you and hope you know the procedures that we follow. I know that the minister has written to say that we may receive further information by June. We are anxious to proceed, but we have been enormously frustrated in terms of understanding, particularly, how a lot of the evidence that we have received goes to our terms of reference Nos 2 and 4, which are:

achievements to date in advancing women and girls’ human rights in these key areas;—

which are family and sexual violence, women's leadership and economic opportunities, and—

the effectiveness of Australian programs to support efforts to improve the human rights of women and girls in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region.

People frequently want to tell us what the problems are and I have to bring them back to what we know has been done and for them to help us with judging effectiveness. I have been anxious that that ought to be the focus of our discussion today.

I have to advise you that in giving evidence to the committee you are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to the committee and action may be treated as contempt of the Senate or the House of Representatives if it occurs. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence. These are public proceedings and, although the committee will consider a request to have evidence heard in camera, that would require a witness to object and us to consider the matter. We ask all witnesses to refrain from naming individuals who may be associated with cases of human rights abuse because of the complications in relation to privacy. These proceedings that are being broadcast and the transcript is being made, and we will provide it to you at a later point in time for any possible corrections and the like. If there is an opening statement that you wish to make, we are ready.

Dr Strahan : Thank you Mr Ruddock. I will just say a few short words and then we will hand back to you and take your questions. Thank you very much for this opportunity to appear before you again. We have, of course, taken note of your request for additional information, and the minister replied noting that we would provide additional information on a number of items. We hope to get that information to the committee, in fact, by the end of this month, so in a couple of weeks.

The committee has, no doubt, been hearing about the dire situation of many women in our region and about the unfairness that so many women and girls live with every day, just because they are female. I am sure that the committee has already had an appreciation of how complex and long term, but transformative, the task of addressing women's human rights in our region is. There is no simple answer, but the rewards, both economically and socially, are immense.

We do know that protecting women's human rights relies on gender equality and women's empowerment. It means that many men will have to change their behaviour and value women and girls. It also means that women and girls will be able to rethink their position in their families and communities. Men will have to learn to share with women the power and resources they have access to in their communities. This is going to take time, resources and commitment to change some of these attitudes.

Of course, we come before you in the wake of the budget. As the committee knows, there was a fairly significant cut to the aid program of a billion dollars.

What I wanted to do was just to reassure the committee that many of our core gender programs will continue. We have announced in the budget a new $50 million gender equality fund. The aim of that fund is to strengthen gender equality and women's economic empowerment in our region. This fund represents an increase of $7.5 million on current funding. It will fund jointly with country and regional programs investments aimed at advancing gender equality and fostering innovative work by the private sector and non-government organisations, particularly women's organisations.

When you have a cut of $1 billion, that will affect different parts of the program and some of the specific elements of those cuts as they are actually implemented will take time to nail down. Right now and over the coming weeks we will be talking to partner governments and partner organisations about how those cuts will be implemented. I would like to reassure the committee that for us it is very important that gender remains one of the core cross-cutting themes. So as we are looking at the kinds of programs which will go forward and some which, unfortunately, will not go forward, gender will be an absolutely critical criterion for us in determining how those cuts are implemented. I would hope to have greater clarity within a few months about the way in which the cuts will affect some of our country programs in particular.

I very much take your point about judging effectiveness of our programs. It is important that we do work that has a real impact. We are committed to providing you with information about how these programs are implemented and about their effectiveness.

I will leave my remarks there and hand over to you. We are happy to take your questions.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Thank you. I am very much focused on monitoring and evaluation. While I am going to defer to colleagues, I just simply say that I have been interested in the progress reported at least—in relation to advocacy—in the Pacific: a willingness to address gender issues. It does not mean it is effective and it does not necessarily mean commitment. But on paper, when I read down a list recently, Tonga had adopted a national gender policy and RMI, Nauru, Niue and Tuvalu had drafted national gender policies. Nauru had integrated CEDAW into its development strategy. If you go down the list, they may all be covered. That ought to make advocacy in and through our programs easier and not necessarily a matter that would be harmful to bilateral relationships. Is that a reasonable assumption to make?

Dr Strahan : I think so.

Ms Moyle : It is certainly the case that we believe there has been some real progress in the Pacific over the last decade or so. As you said, Mr Ruddock, there has been significant movement around the legislative framework and the policy framework, which really does give us greater entry points. We have been working in the Pacific, as you know, for decades, and progress on gender equality has been really slow. But it has been a matter of getting the ball rolling and seeing change happen. I think we really have reached that point now, and I am sure that Ms Newbury can tell you more about that.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: The reason I am raising it is that I would not want, in our drafting and our consideration of recommendations, for us to be accused of 'cultural imperialism' in terms of, 'Here is Australia, which has certain values, imposing those on other countries,' if those countries seem to have adopted them. If there are difficulties in particular areas in—my term—'cultural imperialism', it would be helpful to know.

Ms Moyle : It has certainly been an issue for us in some parts of the world, the Pacific being a prime example of that.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: The Pacific is the area I am addressing because it seems to me that almost all made some movement. I see the Pacific differently because my understanding is that the aid programs will be continued for the Pacific without reductions, that is the way I read it.

Dr Strahan : The core Pacific aid programs have been exempted from the cuts—

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: It is likely that the programs that we would be making recommendations on are programs that in terms of budget would be continuing, and we could help with advice that might assist in prioritising. If we move to the Asia-Indian Ocean region, my understanding is that the aid programs were only fully maintained for Cambodia and Nepal.

Dr Strahan : Yes.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: So we are more limited now in terms of how we may deal with issues in relation to Asia and the Indian Ocean region. Are there sensitivities in terms of cultural imperialism that we should be conscious of; albeit in an area in which we are giving less program support?

Dr Strahan : Yes. I have served in two countries in Asia—Korea and India—and in each of those societies for instance you have significant domestic groups who focus on these sorts of issues. There is a live domestic debate about gender equality and the empowerment of women. You have strong voices in India who speak up for gender equality and women's empowerment. However, there is always a very delicate balance to be struck when we make points from the outside and we always have to think through carefully that making points in a particular way will not provoke a backlash. We were always acutely conscious in the way we dealt with the Indian government on those sorts of issues to make sure that we did not look like we were being culturally imperialistic.

Ms Moyle : All of the countries in the regions that we work have committed to gender equality in one way or another. Palau and Tonga have still not signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: But Tonga has adopted a national gender policy.

Ms Moyle : That is right. All the countries have signed up to various commitments about gender equality. I think the movement in the Pacific gives us greater assurance that this is not cultural imperialism and this is what the countries themselves are seeking to do. It is the same across south Asia and east Asia as well where we work . I think we ought not to accept on face value that we cannot talk or work on gender equality because these countries themselves are trying to address these inequalities. The fact that there is a legal framework in all of the countries that we work now suggests that it is a start but clearly there is a lot more to be done to assist in the implementation.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: To get to the back question, I am really just trying to understand whether the Asia-Indian Ocean region is going to be significantly different to the Pacific in terms of the issue of cultural imperialism. I do not want us in the report to be occasioning bilateral issues. I want what we are going to do to be successful and if in preparing your advice you are able to caution us as to where there might be greater problems, I will regard that as being helpful. It does not mean that we will not want to pursue it but it may impact on the way we recommend issues being pursued.

Senator McEWEN: I suspect there will be a lot of questions about the budget in the Senate estimates that are coming up, so I will try not to traverse that particular area. But I was curious: in your opening statement you mentioned that you were going to respond to the letter that the committee sent to the department asking for further information, and I note that you are going to provide a summary of the most relevant 20 programs. What kind of level are those 20 programs at? Are they country-level programs? Are they on-the-ground-level programs? And the 20 are out of how many programs that you could possibly report on? Are the 20 a sample of effective, non-effective, or neutral in terms of results?

Ms Moyle : The 20 are a combination of regional programs and country programs. Most of them are country programs. Clearly the flagship program for the aid program is Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, which Ms Newbury can talk about. There is a fabulous community based program in Indonesia that we call MAMPU, an acronym. There is a range of violence-against-women programs across the Indo-Pacific region, where we work, that address different aspects of violence against women. And there is a range of support for non-government organisations. There is a range of programs that specifically address themselves to gender equality, and then there is a range of other programs that are what we call mainstream programs, working in trade regulation or education, for example, that have a really strong focus on gender equality as well. So, there is a number of programs that we can refer you to there.

Senator McEWEN: Are they going to be samples of things that have worked and not worked? Or is it just all the—

Ms Moyle : I think we will give you the programs that we think are the ones that work, but clearly every program has lessons to show us about how we can do better as well.

Mrs PRENTICE: Perhaps I could add to that question. You mentioned some of the successful programs in your submission, like the Solomons, and you say that they are the exception. So, what is the difference, as Anne said, regarding why they have succeeded and others have not?

Ms Moyle : Development is such a complex area. It relies on really closely aligning to the context of the region or country that you are working in—having the right people in place to do the work, measuring properly. And, Mr Ruddock, that is where monitoring and evaluation is really key. But it is really knowing your context and addressing yourself to the development challenges.

Mrs PRENTICE: That is what you have identified as succeeding, and you will now apply those to future programs. Is that what you are saying?

Ms Moyle : I think because the context is so important, and because place is so important, it is difficult for us to just take a working program in one place and scale it up across a region. It really depends on being attached to the context and really carefully working with the cultural and gender equality framework that is in place. What might work in Tonga will not work in Papua New Guinea or Cambodia. It has to work with the cultural and the gender norms in place.

Senator McEWEN: So, you will not be giving us examples of things that have failed. I am just thinking that examples of things that have failed might be useful for the committee for making recommendations—in terms of making recommendations that are all sweetness and light when we clearly know that some things do not work.

Do we still have the gender advocate position? Is that going to continue after the budget implementation? I am talking about the one that was implemented in 2007.

Ms Moyle : We used to have a gender advocate within AusAID who was then the equivalent of a deputy secretary who championed gender equality within the aid program. We have not necessarily proceeded with that, because we have a minister who is doing a lot of the championing herself, and we have all our executive really doing the same thing, and we do have the ambassador for women and girls, who is really prominent in the region as well. So, it is not something that is necessarily active now, but we are not sure of champions within DFAT.

Senator McEWEN: So, when AusAID went, basically.

Ms Moyle : Yes.

Senator McEWEN: I have a question on the gender equality fund that the minister announced. And I understand that it is an announcement, so you have to wait for the actual detail of it. But is that a completely new fund? Or is it something that has been relabelled?

Dr Strahan : It involves new funding, and it is a new fund in that we will be shaping over the coming weeks how we will implement the program.

Senator McEWEN: But you do not really know what it is?

Dr Strahan : No, because we have been told that we have an allocation of money, and, literally, the team in my branch will over the next week or two be sitting down and actually defining how we can best use this money.

Ms Moyle : But some of that fund does include funding for Pacific women, so it does wrap up some of the—

Senator McEWEN: The funding for the Pacific women program will come out of that fund?

Ms Moyle : That is right.

Dr Strahan : Some of it will, but not all of it. The fund is not supposed to be a substitute for the other gender programs we have been doing, and it is certainly not the totality of what we will be doing on gender. It is just an extra tool to make sure that we do gender effectively.

Senator McEWEN: For example, Mrs Prentice and myself were in Fiji recently, and we saw some of the programs that are being funded out of the Pacific women's fund, and that included things like funding to the women's crisis centres in Fiji and Vanuatu. Is that funding going to come out of the gender equality fund?

Ms Newbury : Yes, it will, because those activities are funded from the Pacific regional program, and it is the funding from the regional program that will now sit within the gender equality fund. In addition, we have bilateral funding through all the Pacific bilateral programs that also feed into Pacific women. But regarding the ones you have seen, we manage those in our team.

Senator McEWEN: And you are confident that they will continue.

Ms Newbury : Yes.

Senator McEWEN: And they will continue because they are successful?

Ms Newbury : Yes.

Senator McEWEN: Can you just tell us about how you evaluate a program like that? For example, how do you evaluate the effectiveness of Australia's funding to the Fijian and Vanuatu women's crisis centres?

Ms Newbury : Part of that is looking at the number of women and children who are supported through those centres. For example, Fiji I think had over 600 clients supported in the past 12 months. We look at the number of first-time clients and the number of repeat clients. We look at whether women and children are able to access a greater range of services. We look at the number of outreach and advocacy programs. The Fiji women's crisis centre and the Vanuatu crisis centre have very strong programs aimed at improving the understanding of men around issues of violence and trying to really establish a core group of male advocates. They have been very successful in reaching a whole range of men—politicians and police, the real gatekeepers and decision makers at community level. And we have been working with them to determine how we can better evaluate not just the numbers of people they are training and what these people are saying they are doing but also how we can measure the impact of that on the community. That is going to be a long-term thing that we need to be measuring over three to four years or even longer to see what behaviour change is actually happening.

We also look at how those groups are lobbying with their governments around legislation. And, as you mentioned earlier, I think one of the real indicators of progress across the Pacific is that now most countries in the region have very strong family protection acts, and we look at how civil society is working with government to have that in place. So, all our programs have monitoring and evaluation frameworks, with indicators, and we work with our partners on an annual basis to look at those indicators. But then we will do periodic evaluations with some key questions about change over time and how that is happening.

Senator McEWEN: You mentioned that evaluation happens over time. One of my concerns with the aid program under any species of government is the short-term nature of funding. Projects get funded for three years, basically. When we are talking about such a significant issue as, for example, domestic violence or gender equality in the Pacific, three or four years is not going to make a big dent. Do we need to be thinking longer term about funding for effective programs? I know it is a policy position, but I wonder whether, from your experience, you could suggest any programs that have benefited from longevity of funding and certainty of funding.

Ms Newbury : The Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development is a 10-year commitment which has enabled us to enter into longer-term agreements. The partnership with the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is a good example. I think we have been working with them for probably 10 years now, and that has enabled them to really expand the range of services and gives them a lot of confidence. We have been able to translate that now into longer-term programs with other groups. So, for example, in Tonga we fund the women 's crisis centre, but we channel that funding through the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre because we have confidence, because of our long-term partnership, that they can manage the funds and report.

I think the UN Women's Markets for Change program, which is, again, a five-year commitment, is another example of where we have been able to understand that it is going to take a long time to change and we are willing to work with our partners for the long term. So it is critical.

Mrs PRENTICE: I would give one question on notice, because I do not expect you know this: one of the delegates at the event in Suva was an Australian government officer, and she works on Nauru—

Ms Newbury : Yes, our counselling adviser.

Mrs PRENTICE: Is she with your department?

Ms Newbury : No, she is not. She is employed by DFAT through one of our programs, and she works in the hospital in Nauru. But the minister for women in Nauru actually asked her to accompany her to this meeting because of the focus on domestic violence. She wanted to be able to work with her during that time and look at how they can take what they have learnt into the Nauru context, which is great.

Mrs PRENTICE: Yes. She has the most horrendous job there. I would be very keen to get a submission from her or a teleconference with her—

Ms Newbury : Sure. We can organise that.

Mrs PRENTICE: You identified good practice programs, and the Solomon Islands was one. You have said that it was because of the people—that is one of the assessments—and monitoring and evaluation. But the MDG progress says that we are going backwards in the Solomon Islands in promoting gender equality and empowering women; I think we are at three with a red danger sign. I know it is part of the inquiry, but how do we address it? I notice none of the good practice programs or any of the gender based violence ones—it is more economic empowerment and training. Do we even have any amber ones on the gender based violence program?

Ms Newbury : We are actually just starting new gender based violence program in the Solomon Islands, which we think is real innovation. It is actually working around violence prevention with communities. It has only just started in the last couple of months after about 12 months in design. It will be implemented with the support of Oxfam Australia. That program is called Let's Make Our Families Safe and it will support existing and new community action to prevent violence from happening in the home. It has a focus on helping community groups form coalitions so that they can actually work together and link communities back to service providers, including health and police. That program will be piloted in two provinces in the Solomon Islands and it has the backing of the government of the Solomons.

The other program for gender that we have been working with on violence prevention in the Solomons is called Channels of Hope. That is being implemented by World Vision Australia. That program is working with the churches in the Solomons to look at how churches can reinterpret Bible passages because, as we know, 95 per cent—I think—of Pacific Islanders identify as being Christian. But often it is the churches which are the most conservative within their own practices and they can preach quite harmful messages about women's subservience. What we want to do is work with the churches to find those more positive and affirming passages in the Bible that pastors can use to teach gender equality.

Again, it is working with the strength of Pacific Islanders. You asked the question about how we get around the issue of colonialism. I think it is really identifying that all communities have strengths and that what we need to be doing is working with those and with those advocates in those communities to change those social norms. So those are two new programs that we are piloting. Part of our risk management—or part of our monitoring and evaluation—is recognising that these are risky. We need to be piloting things, accepting that sometimes things might fail. Ensuring that we do no harm is kind of the first basic premise but then also having a very strong monitoring and evaluation framework, so that we can show change over time. In the Solomons last year they passed the Family Protection Act—so, not just through the aid program but through the Attorney-General's Department, we are working with the government of Solomon Islands to think about the rollout of that program and working with a number of groups to try and meet the commitments that the Solomon Islands government has made.

Ms Moyle : Likewise, more broadly across the program, we have violence against women prevention programs in Timor-Leste, in Cambodia, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. Most of those are still quite new. We have some early indications of progress, but we do have not a lot of real progress because they are within their first couple of years.

Mrs PRENTICE: We had some good presentations for the Pacific on using role models as agents for change, which I thought was a program worth progressing. I know in PNG they do it with the footballers.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Just on that matter, there is one passage that is often used—I think it is in 1 Peter—about the role of women in a relationship. But adjacent to it are the chapters on slavery and your obligation to slaves. Nobody is seriously arguing that we should have slavery, and it does help, in terms of context, to suggest that there were passages that were written at a particular time with a particular culture.

Mrs PRENTICE: How do you know that some of the men in the Pacific islands do not agree with slavery?

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: I was worried that in doing that we might be giving them a basis to pursue it!

Mrs PRENTICE: Yes. I would be dabbed by the ink spot on that one! We hear so many groups who come and say, 'We just evaluate; we do not actually deliver.' I am delighted that Oxfam is going to do something in the Solomons. There seems to be duplication though. Everyone is evaluating. Is there any sort of inclination or opportunity to get one like you and women to evaluate or coordinate it all? People seem to be operating in silos on the evaluation.

Ms Moyle : Our Office of Development Effectiveness over the last few years has done some strong work evaluating violence against women, particularly in Melanesia. That brought together all of Australian government programs and looked at what is happening across Melanesia. That is a few years old now, but still worth looking at.

Mrs PRENTICE: The UN is in there and Oxfam and World Vision—every second group we talk to. Even UNICEF, who I thought used to do things, are now just evaluating; they are not actually delivering.

Ms Newbury : I think it is important that the groups that are delivering the programs do their own evaluations, because that is the way that they learn. What we need to do there is better share information and best practice.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: I want to know what indicators we have and what we require, in terms of keeping data, about programs that we respond to that enable us to evaluate, rather than saying that it is up to each organisation to evaluate. I do not mind them understanding, against the criteria that we have identified, that they are playing a role, and then look at their performance. I want to know what the indicators are for evaluation. I am not particularly impressed if we have different indicators for different programs. That then just suggests to me that we do not have an effective system of evaluation, because you have no common pool of data.

Ms Moyle : Each program needs to report against what it is trying to achieve.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: No. What are the common indicators that you have for evaluation? What data do you require them to keep in relation to ensuring that we can evaluate?

Ms Moyle : The aid program has a set of aggregate development results that are a set of indicators. They are output indicators. They are things like the number of women across all of the Australian aid programs that have been supported in receiving services for violence against women, the number of committees set up for any program that have at least 40 per cent of women on their boards. There are a number of aggregate development results that we report across the entire aid program that can calculate all of those things, and several of those things are focused on gender equality. There is one, as I say, on decision making; one on services for women who have suffered violence against them—

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: All that sounds to me as if it is all fairly rudimentary. Because you are doing programs and you see the programs as being different, we have no common indicators against which we can judge effectiveness. What I am seeking is information: in relation to your programs, what are the indicators, and how effective are they at ensuring evaluation? We had Jeni Klugman talking to us the other day, and we asked in relation to these matters» . She is a former Foreign Affairs officer, probably known to all of you. But she says there are huge gaps in our knowledge about what actually works. I am really asking: what are the indicators that are going to enable us to judge effectively what works and what does not work?

Ms Moyle : I think you have the picture, Mr Ruddock. We have evaluations and monitoring within each program. We have the aggregate development results. We have our Office of Development Effectiveness, which does thematic evaluations on a rolling basis. But, yes, you are right; there are gaps. We do not have a set of common indicators. We will have a performance framework for the gender strategy that is under development now, but in the aid program we have to find that balance, I think, between doing the work and measuring and evaluating. It may well be that your inquiry finds that there are gaps in that—that we do not have what you are asking for.

Mrs PRENTICE: But it is not just our gaps. We are operating in our silo, and then the other NGOs have different ones, and the faith based organisations do it differently. And I do not know—do we talk to other governments? Do we share information with other governments who operate in that space? And do we get reports on that?

Ms Moyle : The OECD DAC has a significant role to play. The Development Assistance Committee, DAC, plays a role in supporting all of the OECD donors to report effectively and to be coherent. It is important.

Mrs PRENTICE: And we all have the same KPIs? Obviously we do for the MDGs.

Ms Moyle : That is right.

Mrs PRENTICE: But I just get the feeling from the people we talk to at this hearing that not everyone else is on the same page.

Ms Moyle : You are right. The MDGs are an important guide for us, but the MDGs are quite limited, of course.

Mrs PRENTICE: No, no. The MDGs show that there is a possibility of getting everyone on the one page—

Ms Moyle : Exactly.

Mrs PRENTICE: on measuring some factors.

Ms Moyle : And the development of the Sustainable Development Goals now in the post-2015 agenda is delivering a set of 17 goals in 169 targets, so it is a really comprehensive set.

Mrs PRENTICE: But the lesson there is that it is possible to get everyone measuring using the same KPIs.

Ms Moyle : That is right.

Mrs PRENTICE: We just need to get that happening in these other projects.

Ms Moyle : And the SDGs we are hoping will deliver that. It has a really strong framework for measuring gender inequality, so that might be the way forward. That is clearly benefiting—

Mrs PRENTICE: So, when we give funding to our NGOs like World Vision and Oxfam, we can say to them, 'And we want you to evaluate using these KPIs.' Are we doing that at the moment or not?

Ms Moyle : Well, we have got—

Mrs PRENTICE: You say you let them evaluate their own programs. Are we saying, 'But we want you to use these KPIs'?

Ms Moyle : What guides them is our gender strategy, so that is a whole-of-aid-program gender strategy. We are redeveloping that now, but we have one in place, so that helps to guide what we do, and it has a performance framework attached to it. Programs need to feed into that strategy and report against that strategy as well.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: There are just a few points. Dr Strahan, I am certainly not treating this as estimates or anything, but you said earlier that 'the core aspects have been preserved', and then you went on to say that 'many of the gender programs will continue'. You said it will take some time to come to final decisions, but I am just wondering: is there anything that we should be alerted to at this point, when we are making recommendations? Is there anything that is highly probable to be occurring that we need to know about, as a result of the budget?

Dr Strahan : I think the principal points I would make are that we have a new gender fund; that gender remains absolutely critical, one of the top critical six themes that cut across the whole program; and that we have made it plain that we want everyone to be very conscious of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls when they are thinking about how we have to go about restructuring the program. We think that is critical. Gender is affected by all sorts of different programs which are delivered by different partners under different programs, so what we are saying to people is: 'When you're thinking about our forward programs, you must always remember that gender is a critical element for us. It can't be forgotten.'

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: Much of today is focused on actual programs, outcomes et cetera, but could you give us some indications of diplomatic efforts that we are making in the region, some kinds of activities by us in international fora in the region, on these same issues?

Ms Moyle : Sorry, could you repeat that?

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: Besides the programs—their effectiveness, how long they are going to last for et cetera—could we have some other indications, in the international fora that affect our region and diplomatically, some of the instances, of what we are doing as well?

Ms Moyle : For example, in the Sustainable Development Goals, the post 2015 agenda, we have been arguing very strongly to make sure that gender equality is included. It is one of the three negotiating priorities that we take to those negotiations, and so far, so good. We are looking pretty good, I think.

In our work in the Security Council, gender equality in the women, peace and security agenda was a really strong priority for us, and Australia was recognised for its work in promoting the women, peace and security agenda. Likewise, now there is a global review of resolution 1325 of the UN Security Council. We have made strong submissions around those.

One of the submissions that we made was that the work in the Security Council has been strong; what we need to do now is make sure that there is stronger implementation and that it moves beyond just the Security Council consideration, through all of the work of the UN fora, from the Human Rights Council through development programming. It is important that we look at women, peace and security in a broader light, so all the way across from upstream: how can we use gender equality to prevent violence, and what are the links between gender equality and violence prevention? So that is another area globally where we have been recognised, I think, for our work.

We are a strong advocate for gender equality in the Commission on the Status of Women, which meets in New York every year. There, as you may be aware, there are some fairly lively debates about the future of gender equality. We are hoping to maintain the line there.

Diplomatically and in our foreign policy work, our minister has made gender equality a foreign policy priority, so all of our diplomats now are aware that gender equality is something that they need to keep their eye on and to make sure that they engage with our partners on. Those are a few examples of the broader global frameworks.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: It is a truism that we have to be aware of peculiarities within countries et cetera. A very extreme example I was not aware of until we had a tour of Australia was that, for instance, in Nepal, widows are an enormous issue. They have to wear thicker clothing. Their son gains control of property. They are not supposed to ever go to festivities and weddings; that kind of thing. That is Nepal—a particularly pronounced issue. Could you give us some other examples in our region of where your department is really focused on the specifics of a country as opposed to some others in the region?

Ms Moyle : In South Asia there are things like acid burning, so some of our programming in the aid program delivers work to support women who have survived acid attacks. Child, early and forced marriage and trafficking are issues in South Asia as well that I think we are raising with our partners in a diplomatic and development context.

In South-East Asia, often trafficking in women is a really serious problem still. South-East Asia is a source and destination and transit country, and there are all sorts of lines of movement of trafficked women through South-East Asia, so that is an area that we engage on strongly. We have a longstanding program to address trafficking in women—since about 2005, I think, so that has been going on for at least a decade now—and it is an issue that we raise diplomatically as well.

In the Pacific, I think that violence and leadership would be the two issues that we really raise both in a development and in a diplomatic context.

Dr Strahan : Mr Ferguson, perhaps I could give you a couple of examples from my own experience working in India for four years. Indian girls are often excluded from sport. They get less food than the boys. They have big problems gaining access to toilets, so they are expected to hang on all day and not go to the toilet. So a lot of the programs we did were reaching out to very carefully selected and trusted NGOs that we knew were working to make sure that girls did get enough food and that they were attending class. We built toilets in some schools, and we supported a program which allowed girls to participate in sport, which relates to everything from physical fitness through to empowering them. Those sorts of programs—India is enormous, and we only had a very finite amount of resources to do this kind of work, but it has a great impact.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: My example probably did not lead to what I was getting at, as a matter of fact, because you have responded to the example I gave, in a way. Let us just say, for the sake of argument, that between Vanuatu, Samoa and the Marshall Islands there would be some significant social nuances in those cultures in your delivery. Can you give me a few examples of delivering the program, around the same issue, within those different countries? Are there any examples of that kind of thing?

Ms Newbury : I will use an example of women's economic empowerment. In Vanuatu, we have used a focus on the produce markets because that is really one of the key areas where women earn incomes. That is not the case in—what were the other countries you were asking about?

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: I just picked them out of the air. The Marshall Islands and—

Ms Newbury : Okay. It really is looking at: what is the reality of women's lives? In Melanesia, economic empowerment has really been focused on the produce markets. That is where about 70 per cent of women earn their income. In Polynesia that has not been the case, so we have been looking at supporting niche markets and supporting women in the state owned enterprises because women are actually, surprisingly, quite powerful in the bureaucracy. In countries like the Marshall Islands, around economic empowerment we are actually doing a scoping study because it has been so difficult to identify what the entry points are. One of the approaches that we take in Pacific Women is that we develop individual country plans, and those country plans not only respond to the context in which we are working but identify where Australia is best placed to support, because there are hopefully other groups working as well.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: Thanks very much.

Senator SINGH: While most things have been covered, I just want to ask specifically. Your submission covers a lot on the empowerment of women and gender equality in the main, and there are some decent initiatives there, but this inquiry is about the human rights situation of women and girls, so I just want to ask: where is the focus on the girl child specifically? I cannot see it, really, in your submission. I know there may be some areas you might think cross over, but, if you are talking about empowering women, obviously the next generation is often where that will need to be built as well, so where is there a focus on the girl child?

Ms Moyle : Our program really focuses on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, so we do not necessarily have a specific focus on the girl child, but a lot of our programming, particularly in health and education, really focuses on girls' empowerment. You would probably be aware that in much of our region girls' enrolment is looking pretty good, at least in primary school. It is what girls are learning and what boys are learning in school and what gender norms are imparted that we are really focusing on, so it is about the quality of education and what is being taught—and by whom, I think, is the next step for us. So that is a real site for the empowerment of girls—or conversely, if it is done poorly, the disempowerment of girls.

Senator SINGH: Are you evaluating the progress of those primary school enrolments? Obviously there is often a drop-off after primary school.

Ms Moyle : That is right.

Senator SINGH: What evaluation are you doing to look at the improvement?

Ms Moyle : We are well aware, in each of the countries where we work, of the enrolment and retention rates of girls from primary school through to tertiary education, and that is something that we take into account in our programming. It is different in different contexts. In some countries now, young women are doing better than young men at completing secondary school and then tertiary education.

Senator SINGH: In what countries are they doing that?

Ms Moyle : In Myanmar, for example; in the Philippines—in fact, in Myanmar there is a special measure in place for young men, if they have a lower mark than young women, to access tertiary education. There are a number of countries where this is happening now. So we know that and we work within our programs around what the current situation is. Increasingly, we are moving to look at the quality of education and moving from the MDGs, which focus on primary school enrolment, to the SDGs, where there is a much greater focus on the quality of education.

Senator SINGH: Is that going to be done in some kind of systemic way across the Indo-Pacific, looking at the quality of education and the progress of enrolments, and having some kind of focus on girls' education, because it obviously leads into the self-assessment and promoting gender equality?

Ms Moyle : Each country has to assess its own context and some countries decide that on the basis of that assessment an education program is what we can support and what the partner country would like. So where we do education programming, again it has to adhere to the particular context and the particular development challenges in place. But our education strategy and our gender strategy that are under development now are increasingly directing people towards not just enrolment but retention, completion and quality of education. So we would hope that they would drive the change.

Senator SINGH: So where in the region aren't we doing education programming? Where are the holes?

Ms Moyle : I could not tell you exactly across all of the 23 countries that we have been working which countries have education programming and which do not at the moment. We could find that out.

Senator SINGH: Could you take it on notice?

Ms Moyle : Yes.

Senator SINGH: That would be helpful. Thanks.

Senator McEWEN: In the budget, there was an announcement that there will be a post established in Buka in Bougainville. I wonder whether there has been any consideration of the opportunity that that provides to focus delivery of aid on gender equality? I know it is being established primarily to deliver overseas development aid to Bougainville, but what opportunities does a new post in a place like that provide?

Ms Moyle : It is intended to help the autonomous region from a development perspective. I think it is early days yet. But if it is used to drive a development program, given our focus on gender equality I am hoping I can assure you that gender equality will be a primary focus of that.

Senator McEWEN: How will you translate that to the diplomats who are posted there?

Ms Newbury : Under Pacific Women, we actually have a separate plan for Bougainville. We have a plan for Papua New Guinea and we have a fully costed plan for support in Bougainville, which focuses on our three areas of women's leadership, economic empowerment and violence against women. Some early programs include supporting the women's refuge centre there and looking at working with women in the produce market. So it is already quite a major focus of our gender equality programs in PNG. Papua New Guinea has probably been one of our—

Senator McEWEN: How do you translate the paradigm of aid being delivered to empower women and promote gender equality into practical application when you are establishing a new post?

Ms Newbury : It would be about ensuring that the officers working in that post are fully briefed about the issues that they are dealing with and the current aid programs, that they understand how to take advocacy messages forward. This is something that we do with all posted officers to our programs.

Mrs PRENTICE: Can I add to that answer. In Buka, in particular, there is a very strong Bougainville women's federation and they have been supporting the women candidates in the current election. So although you have the three reserve seats for the women—there are 35 women candidates out of a 342—there are 12 running in the open seats. Our officer who is there is actually helping the women with their strategy and encouraging them, and we have brought them down to Australia a couple of times to work with them. As you know, and they did not get to Suva, but the great thing about the women in Bougainville is they are very strong women. They engendered the stopping of the conflict at the time. They have a program themselves that they want Australia to support which I found interesting—whether the department agrees with their way of doing it. It was very interesting to see women running the polling booths and women taking a very strong lead in so many programs there. The women police, when the women went up to vote, were saying, 'No, the women can be over here and the women are voting first.' I think Bougainville is probably going to be more successful, perhaps, than some of the others ones because the women really have a program in mind there.

Dr Strahan : It is the job of our team to make sure that all of our colleagues understand what they need to do on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. It is an internal advocacy job. It is about making sure that people do not inadvertently take their eye off the ball. We have a gender training program which is delivered by our team for our colleagues. In that program we are specifically going through and showing people what they need to be aware of, what kinds of programs they have to run and how they have to implement them. We have put a lot of effort into making sure that the rest of the wider team in DFAT understands what the minister wants and what the government wants. Certainly, we are passionate believers in making sure that our colleagues understand this.

Senator McEWEN: That is good. I guess I was coming from the point of view from when we had AusAID as a separate entity. Clearly, they were focused on delivering aid. There were the education programs for AusAID staff to ensure that gender, or whatever the government paradigm of the day was, was the framework in which aid was delivered. I am heartened that that has translated into the amalgamated DFAT.

Dr Strahan : We have several peak aid coordination committees around the department. I am fairly new to this job; I have just come out of being in Prime Minister and Cabinet for a few years—

Senator McEWEN: You have escaped!

Dr Strahan : No! It was an intense job, but it was a very good job. In my first week and a half I have already attended both of these committees. Part of my job is to go to those committees and make sure that gender is front and centre. I assure you I have done that very firmly. And my colleagues do accept and understand, right across the geographic divisions, that gender is a really fundamental objective for us.

Ms Moyle : It is built into our aid architecture now. If there is a new program implemented anywhere, the aid policy directs people's attention to gender equality as one of six priority areas of investment, and to the requirement that every program integrate gender equality effectively. We have our whole-of-aid program target that 80 per cent of all of those initiatives need to be able to demonstrate annually that they are able to promote gender equality effectively. Our annual aid quality check process, which we have just completed for every initiative over $3 million, is required to be able to report against some fairly stringent requirements about what they are doing for gender equality. I think that we can say that gender equality is built really firmly into the aid architecture. And, as Dr Strahan has said, it is discussed at every one of our aid coordination committee meetings.

Senator McEWEN: Just one follow-up to that. The post in Bougainville will no doubt assist the autonomous state to develop its abundant natural resources, so there will be a trade focus as well as a strategic focus for Australia. How is that going to benefit women there in Bougainville? How is Australia going to assist those women in Bougainville to participate and benefit from the trade opportunities—if you like, the economic development opportunities—that Australia is assisting Bougainville to develop?

Dr Strahan : That is probably a question which our Pacific Division colleagues would be more on top of, frankly, than ourselves. We do not want to give you an answer which does not hit the mark. We will consult with our Pacific Division and come back to you with a little bit more information about how the office will be structured and what kind of work it would do. As I understand it, development assistance is a primary focus—but it will do other things.

Senator McEWEN: I am sure it will do other things.

Mrs PRENTICE: Just from my connections up there in the last week, I want to mention that it is not based on trade. The reason we are putting someone there is to help them develop governance, because the actual governance is very weak. They do not have a permanent «electoral» commissioner. There are major problems. The role will be to strengthen the government and to promote women into key positions as well. What I was alluding to before was my concern that we are going to go in with programs we want them to do, and the women there already have some very strong views on what they want us to do.

I have questions for you to take on notice. You mentioned before that you do consult with other governments about the gender based programs they deliver in this region. Could we have some examples of programs other countries and NGOs are delivering—particularly other countries—and the successful ones you have identified. If you could take that on notice.

Ms Moyle : That is a very big question.

Mrs PRENTICE: I know. That is why I put it on notice.

Ms Moyle : We will do what we can, given the resources that we have. That is a 'piece of string' question, isn't it really?

Mrs PRENTICE: You could write to our embassies in the EU and New Zealand and ask them. I have asked the New Zealand high commissioner to respond to that. Just ask them what they consider to be successful delivery programs for gender based violence in the Pacific region.

Ms Moyle : That might be a useful thing for the committee to do. It is a very big question, so we will do what we can.

Mrs PRENTICE: But you did say that you have swapped that information already.

Ms Moyle : We talk to our partners all the time about what they are doing and what works. In regard to what we might be able to pull together for our submission, we will do what we can.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: We are well past the time allocated. We wrote to you on 17 March. It is appropriate that I should reiterate the point that we asked for a summary of all government programs relevant to women and girls. We asked for the facts and data to allow the committee to measure achievements to date. We asked for data that allows historic comparisons, and gender disaggregated data. We asked for country data, where available, and key indicators relevant to three key areas. We asked for recent reviews, studies and research that demonstrate changes to culture, norms, customs, and behaviours towards women and girls occur, and to identify approaches the subcommittee may consider using to measure the effectiveness of Australian programs generally. The reply was one that said, 'Well, we cannot answer all of those questions, but we will give you a summary of 20 programs and additional information on effectiveness, additional information on evaluating, and links to the OECD.' If you have not gathered, I do not regard that as being adequate for the original questions we put. It may well be that we have to write fairly critically about the way in which the tasks are being done.

We are anxious to get information that enables us to address our terms of reference. If we cannot get the information then that may well be the subject of comment.

Dr Strahan : Could I say that we of course are mindful of your needs. We have a relatively small team working on these issues and they are simultaneously working on implementing the programs and dealing with changes to the programs. So, within the resources we have, we will give you as much information as we reasonably can. We want to be as helpful as we can.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: We have a lot of questions, and they have not been asked. I intend to write further and put those «matters to you. So we have not finished.

Dr Strahan : Fair enough.

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Thank you for giving us your time. I hope we have not distracted you!