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Study tour by Elizabeth Reid

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Press Statement No,

11 March 1974


Elizabeth Reid, adviser to the Prime Minister on domestic matters, returned this weekend from a visit to various countries in Europe and the North Americas where she studied government policy and practice in relation to women. As well as visiting

the headquarters of the I.L.O., the O.E.C.D. and the E.E.C., her trip included the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and the United States. She was also the Australian delegate to a U.N. forum on the role of women in population and development.

Miss Reid said on her return that there was a growing awareness both in developing and developed countries of the problems facing women at home and in the workforce as well as of the need, wherever possible, for government,. employer and trade union

initiatives in these areas.

Women's groups in all the countries visited were establishing self-help centres either on a voluntary basis or with the help of government funds. These centres include community centres for women, rape crisis centres, women's medical and health centres and abortion referral centres, temporary shelters for women in distress, women's legal advice centres, women's banks, child care centres and women's employment centres, which sometimes specialise in finding jobs for particular groups of women such as those recently released from prison or potential offenders, or sometimes specialise in finding

jobs for women in traditionally male areas of employment. There is also an increasing number of arts centres, bookshops and presses run for and by women.

In many countries protective legislation relating exclusively to women is being repealed or replaced by legislation which covers not just women but all workers. Some countries are attempting to restructure the traditional division of the workforce into male

and female areas by means of anti-discrimination laws, whilst other countries, and in particular Sweden, rely more on government subsidies and other incentives to achieve the same end.

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*1 ω. either case, the need for extensive training and retraining schemes ./for women is being widely recognised. There is an increased awareness f on the part of employers of their responsibilities and employer initiatives include extensive on-the-job training schemes, school

holiday programs for the children of employees, the acceptance of union activities in working time and provision of day care facilities.

In some countries moves have been made towards greater equality in the field of social welfare. For example, the right and the responsibility of the father as well as the mother to take care of small children has been recognised by opening up maternity leave provisions and leave provisions for the care of sick children to men

as well as to women.

It is becoming more widely recognised that to give girls and boys equal opportunities within the education system will require more than the re-writing of school text books and resource materials. As well as the need to portray men and women in other than their traditional roles, there is also a need to re-assess teacher .

training courses, methods of teaching, school design, curricula requirements and vocational guidance.

During her trip Ms Reid discussed these matters extensively with trade union organisations, employer groups and government officials. - She also held valuable discussions with many women's groups.

Ms. Reid said that she had found Australia had a very bad image overseas in this area. It was generally held that in its attitudes towards, and treatment of, women Australia was one of the most backward and boorish of countries. However,Ms Reid commented

that she had returned from this trip feeling that Australia was no worse than any other country she had visited in these respects. It had moreover two positive advantages. The first was that just because many o f :the attitudes towards women are so open and unconcealed they were more easily confronted than their hidden counterparts in other

countries. A second advantage lay in that, compared to other countries, there is a willingness on the part of the Government and others to take these problems seriously and to search for solutions which would genuinely benefit the women of Australia. So far in Australia there are few stop-gap measures and a genuine desire for

effective long term solutions. If this search fails, at least part of the responsibility fox this 'will fall on the women of Australia. It is their responsibility to provide the Government at every level ■ with politically realistic and adequately researched and argued proposals.