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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3477

Senator POWELL(10.35) —I wish to make a couple of comments on this matter. Obviously I have already intimated that we will not support Senator Walters's amendment. However, the points made by the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) and Senator Walters herself about concerns in the operation of this provision in the parent Act, need to be looked at. Nevertheless, we must be very careful about the context in which we look at the concerns as they arise. Senator Walters at one point in her speech talked about girls in primary school needing to be able to win against their own colleagues-I assume that she meant other girls. Those senators who have children in primary school, as I do, know that there has been a concern about boys taking over girls' teams and this kind of thing. However, we should realise that one of the benefits of the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act is that young children, whether they are male or female-we are only talking about children who are under 12 years-can actually participate in a co-operative way in a field of endeavour in which they have not always had the opportunity to participate. It is not so much a question of who wins and who loses as a question of increased opportunity, given that we know that there is discrimination and stereotyping of children in the school scene in areas other than sport. If we can even that out, I suggest that is a contribution to the breaking down of stereotypes which are there, not necessarily for physical reasons.

Like Senator Evans, I have experience of primary age children. My children are boys and they are smaller than more than 50 per cent of the girls of their own age. They have had and enjoyed the experience of playing sport with girls and they take it as quite a natural occurrence. They admire and express admiration for the prowess of girls with whom they are participating in what were, in our day, traditionally male sports. On the other hand, they also enjoy the sports to which they now have access, by way of this provision, which, in our day, would have been seen purely as female sports. Thus, this provision has its advantages in developing co-operation between girls and boys. Once they reach ages where physical differences come into play, at least they will have had the opportunity to experience a balanced approach to each other as individuals, not as male or female stereotypes. However, I recognise that there are problems, although I suggest that some of those problems may have arisen from the stereotyping which is inherent in our own views because we did not have the opportunity which our children are having under the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act.