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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1209

Senator CROWLEY —Has the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs seen the article in the Age of Tuesday, 2 October, referring to the Victorian Education Department and the survey that shows that the distribution of women in all levels of employment in the Department is no better than it was 60 years ago and is worse than in 1972 when equal employment policies were introduced? Can the Minister comment on whether this pattern is occurring in other departments? It has been reported to me as happening in South Australia, too. Can she say what steps might be taken to ensure that such a pattern does not continue?

Senator RYAN —I am aware of the very disappointing facts about women in promotion positions in the Victorian teaching service and it is even more disappointing that this problem is not confined to Victoria alone. A similar pattern has emerged in New South Wales, and perhaps also in South Australia. It is disappointing because-I am sure many honourable senators will agree with me-in the early years of school particularly students form their values about what is appropriate for males and females to aspire towards in terms of work and so forth. The absence of women in leadership positions in primary and secondary schools in Australia is no doubt one of the reasons why girls are still failing to pursue subjects which might more adequately prepare them for the work force than those they now pursue, and why they may fail to develop their abilities and talents at school and in subsequent years. So it is a serious problem and one that is occurring generally throughout Australia.

I should add that this is occurring not only in State education departments. My attention has been drawn to the fact that in the independent school sector, which at one time was able to offer leadership positions to women-many fine women educators have worked as principals in private girls' schools over the years-there seems to be a trend to replace women principals with male principals . This is particularly disappointing, given that progress has been made in providing opportunities for women in other areas of the work force and in the professions over the last decade.

The steps that the Commonwealth Government can take to change this pattern cannot be direct because within the State education departments-Senator Crowley' s question referred specifically to Victoria-teachers and employees come under State government authority and not under Commonwealth government authority. For example, they are not covered by our Sex Discrimination Act or our equal employment opportunity plans. Victoria has had equal opportunity legislation in place for some time, but clearly it is not effective in the area of teaching. I expect the newly established portfolio working party on the education of women and girls to address this matter and as there is State as well as Commonwealth representation on that committee it may be able to draw up strategies for Commonwealth action. It is a disappointing development and one on which the States and the Commonwealth should co-operate to find some solutions.