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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2545

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (10:12): As we head towards International Women's Day for 2018, I'd like to talk about the global #GirlsTakeover program, which saw 17 young women with interests in a career in politics spend a day with us as members of parliament. The Plan International program coincided with the launch of the She can lead report, which showed that we have a very long way to go to get the equal representation we need in this place. Almost half the young women surveyed for the report felt that there were not enough opportunities for them to become politicians, and one in three women felt their gender was a barrier.

I was joined for the day by a fabulous young woman, Brianna Keys, who wrote some words on this very issue that I would like to share with the parliament today:

The first time someone told me they believed I had the potential to become a great leader is a memory I have never forgotten. I was only 15 at the time and I remember my utter disbelief that someone thought I could lead. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach that I knew I could never live up to their expectations of me. That they didn't know who I really was. I wasn't confident, I wasn't hard working and I wasn't ambitious. I didn't possess any traits I thought a leader was meant to have.

Then the memories came flooding back. I remembered all the times someone had told me I wasn't good enough. I remember being told that I'd never amount to anything. That pursuing my passion in a male dominated industry was going to be too hard. That it would be such a waste of a pretty face to go into that area. That I'd never make it to university. That I was better off going with another option. That I shouldn't be so opinionated. That because I was a girl I was never going to be good enough.

One of the biggest barriers stopping women from pursuing leadership positions is their gender. The fact that I was a female stopped me from seeing my potential. The 'She Can Lead'report brings to attention the gender barrier experienced by many young Australians. It is a call to action that Australia needs to nurture young girl's leadership potential. We will no longer stay quiet and be told what we can't do. It's time to start breaking down barriers Australia.

I would like to add to the words that I've just quoted from Brianna Keys, because Brianna's experiences are especially poignant in the wake of the utterly deplorable comments from the former Minister for Women in this place yesterday. There is no room for such vile and treacherous slurs against the many hundreds of professional women working tirelessly in this building. We should condemn those comments and that minister should apologise.