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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1951


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (09:49): To the unsung heroes of rural and regional Australia, Saturday, 8 March, International Women's Day, is our day. To the 50,000 women and 13,000 girls who live in my electorate of Indi, this day allows us to pause and reflect on women's achievements. These are the women and girls throughout rural and regional Australia who are the mothers, aunts, nannas, sisters and daughters caring daily for older parents, children and those with physical and mental health issues. These inspiring women also organise events, fundraise, volunteer and speak up for positive change in our communities. Like gorgeous flowers, these are the women who have bloomed where they were planted. As I travel throughout my electorate I have the great privilege of listening to their stories—stories of the Bevs, Joans, Annes, Alannahs, Jills, Tias, Sylvias, Karens, Sandras, Julies, Kates, Sues and so many more marvellous women.

During the election campaign we undertook extensive doorknocking. Right across the electorate teams of volunteers asked residents about their issues. We continue to do this. For the women of Indi the issues were many and varied, but there was consensus that they needed support and recognition for their caring roles: Women also talked about improved access to reliable and safe public transport, to reliable and consistent mobile phone coverage, and to local and affordable health care. They stressed the need for appropriate education for their children and retraining opportunities for themselves and for job flexibility, and they wanted to feel safe.

Underlying these issues was the desire for effective representation and improved participation in decision making. Women want to have their voices heard and take pride in their community leadership roles. At the community level, we know women form the backbone of committees such as school councils and kindergartens, sporting clubs and service groups and many volunteer organisations. These groups continue to reflect community needs because of the strong voices of women. At another level, each year we see women increasingly taking on political leadership roles in local, state and federal government.

It is simple, really. Women want to participate in decision making which impacts on their lives. It boils down to asking for 'Nothing about us without us!' Today I acknowledge Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the Australian minister for women. I ask that he continues to heed the call of women for greater participation in the decision making that affects their lives—nothing about us without us!

I take this opportunity to celebrate the role women play in our communities, especially Indi, and say happy International Women's Day.