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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1993


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (18:27): It was a proud moment in 2004 when, with my family and my beloved father, who already had an OAM, I was made an officer of the Order of Australia. This was recognition for rural communities, rural women and agriculture. I'm absolutely delighted today to acknowledge nine of my constituents, who were recognised in the Australia Day awards in January. Warm congratulations to you, your communities and your families. We honour and acknowledge Professor David Wood, AM for services to chemical engineering and education as a researcher, mentor and academic; Jenny Ellis, OAM for services to community health as a midwife in Wodonga; Peter Stokie from Bright, OAM for services to the conservation of the Victorian malleefowl; Mr John Taylor from Myrtleford, OAM for services to the community of Myrtleford; Dr John Mitchell, who's currently living in Corryong, OAM for services to the community as a philanthropist, particularly through ANU; Colin Campbell from Rutherglen, OAM in recognition of his services to the wine industry; the Hon. Bill Baxter from Rutherglen, AM for his service to the people and parliament of Victoria; Francis Walsh from Rutherglen, OAM for her services to local government in the community of Indi; Margaret Saker, who currently lives in Benalla, OAM for her huge contribution to the community of Narooma. Congratulations and well done to all those people.

Colleagues, we could do a lot more. There are so many people in our community who are doing great work, and our whole community can benefit by recognising, acknowledging and thanking ordinary people in our community who do extraordinary work. With International Women's Day approaching on 8 March, I make a special call-out to the work of Honour A Woman—I'm an honorary ambassador of theirs—for the work they are doing to bring gender balance into these awards. Their call-out is to have fifty-fifty by 2020. Why do we need this? Because in the 2016-17 honours, in the Companion of Australia category there were six women and 20 men. In the Officer of the Order of Australia category there were 31 women and 96 men. In the medal category there were 102 women and 231 men. In the OAM category there were 128 women and 592 men. Clearly it's not because men are more deserving; it's because women are not being nominated.

What can we do about this? There are a few things the government could do. It could make sure that we've got fifty-fifty representation on the Council for the Order of Australia. We could speed up the application process. Currently it takes 18 to 24 months—two years—between when you put a nomination in and when you get the return. Many people, I know, have not quite lasted those two years. So we need to get more staff in and turn it around quicker. We really need to set gender targets for each of those levels so that those numbers I read out end today and so that we've got some sort of balance between men and women. We need a program coming out of the Governor-General's office to really promote and celebrate our awardees. I know there is much we could do in our community by having workshops and getting people together where we fill in the forms and talk about what makes for a good nominee. The Honour A Woman organisation has set up a Facebook page and they've got over 1,000 followers. I really encourage my friends from my electorate who are in the gallery today: please think about someone you could nominate. It's probably going to be your mother, your aunt, your sister, your cousin or your neighbours. It's really easy. You need to put in the form, find four referees and make a really compelling argument for why this person should be recognised.

Truly it is time for the government now to support the work of our community and for the Governor-General's office to step in and do the work that our reports have recommended. We've had two major reviews: A matter of honour in 1995 and The Australian Honours and Awards Branch Report 2012-16. They had really clear and strong recommendations of what we need to do to get better gender balance, better ethnic balance and much better diversity in these awards. Congratulations to all the people in Indi. I'm really pleased to work with you to make sure we get fifty-fifty by 2020.