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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13287

Ms MARINO (10:16 AM) —I rise to speak about Business and Professional Women Australia, which has made a major contribution since its inception in 1946 to Australia and in my seat of Forrest. The aims of the BPW are to maintain high standards of service, to stimulate and encourage women in the realisation and acceptance of their role in the community at all levels, to encourage women and girls to accept leadership roles, and to work for equal opportunity, the elevation of the status of women and the removal of discrimination. These aims were written in the early part of the 20th century yet, despite the good work of this organisation and others like it, they are still extremely relevant today.

Like many organisations, BPW’s membership has fluctuated over the years. In WA there have been over 40 clubs based in both metropolitan and country areas. The most recent was formed this year. Within my electorate there are clubs in the towns of Harvey, Bunbury, Collie, Busselton and Margaret River and until recently Donnybrook. In 2009 Busselton BPW has one of the largest membership bases in Australia. Bunbury and Collie BPWs are the oldest clubs in my electorate, celebrating 40 years of women working for women. I attended the Bunbury BPW’s celebration dinner on 19 September. The inaugural president, Joy McMahan, the secretary, Joan Jenkins, and over 70 other members and dignitaries celebrated the club’s charter in 1969. I congratulate them.

Over the years Bunbury BPW has hosted many events, including three state conferences. For many years Bunbury BPW held an educational weekend for both its members and the general public. Topics were varied and ranged from ‘Alpha to omega—in vitro fertilisation to euthanasia’—and that was in the mid-1980s, so they were well ahead of their time—to businesswomen mentoring other businesswomen, to equal pay issues. These issues are still relevant today.

For over 20 years Bunbury BPW has provided an education scholarship to a female student in years 11 and 12. This was recently revamped. Today they award scholarships to young businesswomen and recently sponsored two young people to attend special leadership training. Throughout the years, Bunbury BPW has, along with other clubs in my electorate, been heavily involved in women’s issues. They have campaigned, lobbied, held workshops, actively participated in the establishment of breast self-examination clinics—the forerunner for the mobile mammography units—business enterprise centres, citizens advice bureaus and local libraries. Some have even become local government councillors just to get that message across within their respective communities.

The club has not stopped with women’s issues. They educate themselves on many national and international matters. In 1994, at its 25th celebration dinner, the club hosted a non-partisan discussion on the implications of Australia becoming a republic. That was a very hot topic at the time. All of the clubs in my electorate have participated in what is known as Project Five-0, which is the coming together of five international women’s organisations to foster projects in Third World countries.

Individual members of Bunbury BPW have attended numerous state and national conferences and one member, Joan Morton, has attended three international conferences. Each time the members take with them the voice of women from my electorate of Forrest to be heard in the wider arena and have brought back with them opinions and thoughts on how to better the lives of women living in country areas.

Many members of the groups from Bunbury, Busselton, Collie and Margaret River have gone on to take leadership roles at higher levels. One state president, Maureen Wright, from the Bunbury club, took on a commitment to become a vice-president at the Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women. Shortly after stepping down, she was invited to be the state coordinator of a research project looking into women in urban areas.

The work of the Business and Professional Women Australia clubs and their members in my electorate has been varied. However, it has always met the original aims of the international organisation, which is to work to increase the status of women, especially those in the workforce. In 2009, the main projects of the members have been associated with addressing the issues of modern women. In Bunbury, the BPW is still the voice of working women, especially in the area of pay equity. I commend the clubs in my electorate for their work towards improving conditions for all women, but especially for women in the south-west region of Australia. I suspect they will be taking a direct interest in the recently delivered report Making it fair.