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Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 788

Senator MISSEN —My question is addressed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. It relates to representations made to the Minister by the National Status of Women Committee of the United Nations Association of Australia in respect of the lack of consultation between the Government and non-government women's organisations and, in particular, to the Government's lack of support for non-government women's organisations' participation in the regional preparations for the world conference to be held in Nairobi marking the end of the United Nations Decade for Women. In the light of the concern expressed by the National Status of Women Committee, I ask the Minister: Firstly, will the Government restore the arrangements put in place by the previous Liberal Government whereby consultative meetings with national women's non-government organisations took place on a regular basis; secondly, will the Government include representatives of women's non-government organisations in the official government delegation to the national world conference as occurred at the mid-decade conference in Copenhagen?

Senator RYAN —I am surprised to hear that there are criticisms from the non-government sector regarding the preparations for Nairobi because our Government has taken a very significant step to ensure the participation of non-government women in that forum. In fact, in response to an advertisement placed in the newspaper on behalf of the Government the Office of the Status of Women received well over 200 applications from women in the community who wished to be included in the non-government organisations' forum in Nairobi. The Government has decided to fund fully approximately 20 women to attend that conference, a decision which I think Senator Missen would agree shows a very serious commitment to assisting non-government women to go to Nairobi. It is also the case that there is to be a government delegation which will be led by a member of the Government and which will comprise experts from the various relevant departments and also from the State government level. Edith Hall, a non-government woman who is the convenor of the National Women's Consultative Council, will be a member of that delegation. So, via the Council and the organisations it represents, there will be a voice in the government delegation. At the same time, 20 non-government women will be given full assistance to attend the forum in Nairobi.

Senator MISSEN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that I supplied to the Minister, with notice of this question, a copy of the letter from the United Nations Association making these complaints, why is she surprised? Did she read it?

Senator RYAN —I think Senator Missen is seeking to make a rhetorical point. I ask him to address himself to the reply I have just given and assess himself whether there are any grounds for criticism of the Government in this matter. I am sure he will find that there are not.