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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2220

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (16:55): Last Friday, as we all know, was International Women's Day, and in honour of that I would like to acknowledge some of the extraordinary young women in my electorate. Three of them came to Canberra and I met with them in my office today. They were part of the Roadtrip to End Poverty run by the Oaktree Foundation. They joined around 1,200 young Australians that left their homes on Friday and set out through circuitous routes, through the backblocks and regions of their various states, on their way to Canberra. The three young women joined a group of 100 or so in Parramatta last Friday, and I saw them off. I left my office, just 100 metres along the street, and wandered down to meet a group of them. I was told to look for the person in the red shirt, only to find that there were 100 of them in red shirts. I think I was the one that was found, as I was the only one not wearing red. I said to them then that my office was down the road and that it would probably be easier not to work their way to Canberra. But with extraordinary enthusiasm they set forth to spread the word about the need for Australia to increase its funding to foreign aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP.

Oaktree is an extraordinary organisation in its own right. It has about 1,200 young Australians participating in the Roadtrip to End Poverty but it has about 140,000 members around the country. They have done an extraordinary job. This year alone they have raised $1.5 million to support projects in Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Cambodia. Over 1,000 young Australians have graduated from their educational programs.

The three young women who met with me today, Claire Russell from Parramatta, Rudo Makuyana from Parramatta and Madeleine Pearman from Merrylands, were three great examples of the next generation, the leaders of the future. I was very privileged to meet them, and they put their case very, very strongly. I would like to congratulate them for their extraordinary commitment to helping people around the world who find themselves in some dreadful circumstances.

On Friday night I met another young women. It was the first time I had met her, and that surprises me because she is an extraordinary young woman. Her name is Elly Kohistani. She is a young Afghan Australian and had organised an event for International Women's Day in support of an Afghan organisation called Young Women for Change, a group of young women in Afghanistan who have come together to fight for the rights of women during the reconciliation process and as the troops prepare to withdraw in 2014. They spoke to me and to the other guests about concern for women in Afghanistan and about the extraordinary work that this organisation, Young Women for Change, is doing. They told me that, when they told the organisation in Afghanistan that they were raising funds, the response was: 'It's great; we will take the money, but what we really need for you to do is to be our witnesses and keep the attention of the world on the plight of women in Afghanistan through this process.' It is an incredibly important message for us and it is particularly important to the large number of Afghan Australians that I have in my electorate.

It was a great event, with 100 or so people attending from across the spectrum, from the young to the senior. There were a very large number of Afghans. Many were Australian born and still have Afghanistan in their hearts, and they, quite rightly, were making the case that we, as one of the nations that have been in Afghanistan, have a responsibility to see the country through this transition, as of course we will.

Elly Kohistani was joined by the ambassador, His Excellency Ambassador Andish, as well as Dallas Mazoori, who is a human rights transitional justice consultant with extensive field experience, who was quite an extraordinary speaker. There was also Dr Mariam Sarajsada, who is an asylum seeker who came from Afghanistan with her two children and is now a practising doctor in Sydney.

International Women's Day was extraordinary in its own right because of the number of amazing women that I met or got to see again. They all had an extraordinary commitment to women around the world. These four young Australians, I thought, deserved special mention because of their commitment and incredibly hard work for others as such a young age. They are really remarkable young women and I know that we will see much more of them in the years to come.

The SPEAKER: Order! It being 5 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 17:00