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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1743


Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (11:05): I thank the member for Newcastle for moving this motion and join her in celebrating International Women's Day. This Sunday, 8 March, people across the world will celebrate International Women's Day. It is a day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women. It is also an opportunity to reflect upon how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. This year's theme is 'Make it Happen', through which we are encouraged to celebrate women's achievements and to call for greater equality between the genders. This year, 2015, marks the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held Beijing and where the Beijing Platform for Action, a progressive blueprint for advancing women's rights, was launched 20 years ago. At this conference, 20 years ago, a number of critical aspects of women's rights were raised, and today many of these aspects still require significant action to address and achieve equality.

In my view, the greatest inequality against women is violence. Efforts to protect the human rights of women and girls have not been as successful as they need to be. It is inexcusable that in a country as advanced as ours on average every week a woman is killed by a current or former partner and one in three women over the age of 15 experience physical violence in their lifetime. Last week I spoke in parliament about the shocking and saddening statistic that the electorate of Dobell exhibits the second highest rate of domestic and family violence in New South Wales. It is my responsibility as an elected member of parliament to ensure that the voiceless are given a voice and that this inequality and injustice is stamped out.

I welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement earlier this year that the problem of violence against women at a national level has been placed on the COAG agenda and that an advisory panel on violence against women has been established. Last year the government launched the Second Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. This plan outlines a whole-of-community approach to prevent violence against women and children in our society. International Women's Day provides a united voice to stand up and speak out against such inequalities.

Another notable inequality is equal opportunity for women in the economy. I welcome the bipartisan approach taken by this parliament to increase women's workforce participation and improve gender equality in the workplace. In 2014, the World Economic Forum ranked Australia 24th out of 142 nations on its Global Gender Gap Report, with Australia having slipped from 15th in 2006. Disappointingly, Australia ranked 51st for women's labour force participation and 63rd for wage equality for similar work. However, it is not all bad news. There are encouraging statistics that come from this report. Australia ranked equal first for educational attainment, literacy rates and enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education. This is an area where we are leading the world, and we have an opportunity to play a significant role in lifting the educational standards for women in developing nations. Increasing access to education empowers women in many ways. Education is a ticket to a brighter future, a job and self-sufficiency. Together we can lift many women out of poverty and empower them to lead their own independent lives.

Twenty years ago the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing aimed to ensure women's full participation in decision-making, an increased role for women in the media and the end of gender stereotypes. It is important that we encourage women to partake in decision-making roles. But I strongly support the view that this should be achieved by encouraging, mentoring and supporting capable women based upon merit and capacity. Be it in parliament, in the boardroom or in senior executive positions, we have no shortage of amazing, talented women capable of conducting these roles. Today, and indeed every day, we should ensure that we are mentoring and encouraging women and making it clear that they have a right to succeed in roles which have historically been male dominated.

I am proud to be the first female elected to represent the people of Dobell. In 2015, it is difficult to envisage an Australia where women did not have the right to vote. It took until 1911 for all Australian jurisdictions to allow women the vote. Sadly, the freedom of having your own say in politics is a basic right not shared by many women around the world. All members of parliament are leaders in our local community, and we have a responsibility to champion the cause of gender equality. I again commend the member for Newcastle for this motion and restate my commitment to support gender equality in my electorate here in parliament. (Time expired)