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Tuesday, 15 September 1987
Page: 89

Ms CRAWFORD(5.06) —I move:

That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:

May it please Your Excellency:

We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

I am deeply honoured to move this motion on behalf of the Government and my Party. I thank my colleagues for the privilege.

The Governor-General's Speech, to which we are replying today, is the parliamentary expression of the commission given to a government by its people. I come before the House in my first parliamentary duty as the member for Forde, proud to be part of the historic third Hawke Labor Government. I thank the people of Forde for the trust that they have bestowed on me. I also place on record my personal appreciation to my family and to my friends within the Australian Labor Party for giving me the opportunity to hold this position. My election is a tribute to teamwork. It is only through this type of co-operative effort that we can transform our society.

The outstanding feature of the electorate of Forde, which I represent, is its cultural diversity. The society we have built in Australia has been fortified by new generations. Our society has been greatly enriched by the diversity of language and cultural experience of all our new Australians. This is what has made us a multicultural society.

The electorate of Forde is named after a Queenslander, Frank Forde, who had a long and distinguished career in this place. One aspect of Frank Forde's career of which all Australians should be proud was his participation in and leadership of the delegation that laid the groundwork for the establishment of the United Nations. A prominent member of that delegation was Jessie Street. In her long and active life she worked for social reform with restless energy. This fine tradition of dedication to social reform is represented here today by women such as our Madam Speaker, and, of course, our Cabinet Minister, Senator Susan Ryan. Women in many places, here and in the trade union movement, have exhibited qualities of fortitude, courage, commitment and generosity of spirit. Our Government acknowledges these qualities and is proud of the increasing number of females who are elected as representatives to participate in our country's decision-making process. I, too, am proud to be part of that process.

As much as we are proud of the outstanding women in our history, and women who have positions of prominence and leadership, such as the appointee of the Hawke Government to the High Court of Australia, Justice Mary Gaudron, we should also recognise that it is the millions of women with untold stories who have contributed to the Australia in which we now live. For women to achieve their full potential, and for our society to gain by that contribution, our schools must truly offer equality of opportunity for all. This inequity of choice has been acknowledged by our Government in its national education policy for girls. Traditionally, girls have been restricted in their choice of educational courses and this contributed to their staying at school for a far shorter time than their male counterparts. This limitation has meant that women have been unable to fulfil their potential. The acknowledgment that this is so and that steps must be taken to remedy this within society at large will mean that women will achieve their real goals. Societal attitudes ultimately bring about real reform.

The contribution of women to the establishment of Australian society has never been fully recognised. Women, from our early history to the present, have performed tasks which society has demanded of them. As mothers, their contribution to Australian society is one we, as a Government, acknowledge. A very real commitment to the support of families is made by providing child care through a wide range of programs. Women who have dedicated a major part of their lives as providers of family care should be able to choose to return to paid employment, when the demands of their families are not as great or, if circumstances alter, if they so wish. Society will once again gain from their vast experience of life.

During this time of family care women have invariably worked in school tuckshops and meals on wheels and have participated in any number of sporting, cultural and supportive organisations. Society is very much the richer for this contribution and in many instances women have combined part time employment with this heavy voluntary involvement. Indeed, on my own staff are two different examples of women who provide excellent role models. One, a mother of six, entered university at the age of 36 and successfully completed her degree while working part time. Despite the pressures this imposed on her, her consciousness was raised in terms of peace, land rights and social justice issues. She participated fully within the institution in society and church for the advancement of these causes whilst pursuing full time employment. These acquired skills that she applied to the campaign successfully led to my election as the first woman representative for Forde. For this she has earned my lasting gratitude.

It is this ability to combine all these facets that is the hallmark of the modern woman. Indeed, many women spend much of their time juggling the demands of the role of motherhood, of voluntary involvement and of employment. On the other hand, another member of my staff, a mother of three who is now the provider for her family, gave much of her time to sporting and social organisations in a voluntary capacity while she raised her family. Because of her commitment to the marginalised in our society she began part time work in one of our Commonwealth youth support schemes. Her dedication in this field, beyond job description, developed her own confidence and she has taken the opportunity to pursue such work on a full time basis. The life histories of these women complement my own single status. Single women experience different pressures while sharing the experience of discrimination and prejudice because of gender.

The women I mentioned earlier, along with our male member of staff, provide the pulse of our team in Forde and are an example of how male and female can work together. Working together we can achieve the reconstruction of society. The experience, talents, knowledge and integrity exhibited by people such as my staff members reflect in Forde the attitude of our Government's committment to a just society. Women should be educated out of their dependent, secondary role. For far too long they have been prepared to accept situations which limit their growth and reinforce their position as `slave of the slaves'. Indeed, women in black society have alerted women in white society to the many injustices which have been inherent in their domination. Women have taken leading roles in that struggle for equality and nowhere is there a greater need for justice than in the education of the blacks of our country. The Bicentennial offers an opportunity for Australia to become united while accepting differences. We must acknowledge past mistakes and work for justice now and in the future.

Women within all facets of our society are seeking equality and dignity. Women have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the spiritual dimension of our world. Christian women in the role of the traditional Christ have suffered humiliation, exploitation and excommunication. An example of this is Mother Mary McKillop who was vilified by the very institution which now seeks to elevate her to the pedestal of sainthood. The majority of women demand the traditional gospel value of equality. If the church is to impose certain moral attitudes on the legislators of our country that same Christian church must apply similarly rigid standards of equality and justice to its own internal structures and practices.

Our Government has directed all aspects of its activity within the area of social welfare towards the task of reconstruction. In Forde, priority must be given to the training of the unemployed. For those with disabilities the emphasis is now one of control and choice over one's life. Policy has been progressively reformed and many of those worst off will receive the greatest possible assistance. The majority of those who are marginalised in our community are women. Indeed, the feminisation of poverty has been a tragic hallmark of this decade.

If we are to work for a fairer, just and more compassionate society, all of us must be able to participate in the wealth of our country. An important commitment by our Government is the removal of children from poverty by 1990 and so ensure the future of our great nation. Along with the many difficulties facing us we must recognise that one of our great strengths is the ability to pull together. This attribute will be needed in our fight against the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) where education is vital. AIDS does not restrict itself to one section of our community so we must work together for the benefit of us all.

All Australians share our unique and natural heritage. This Government stands above all others in its commitment to the preservation of the natural environment, including the forests of the south, the wetlands of the north and, of course, the awesome Uluru in the centre. It is important for us to express our gratitude to those members of the community whose vigilance has ensured that generations of Australians will enjoy this rich heritage. To ensure that justice is for all, we must balance the needs of today's society and its demands for change with our caretaker role for posterity.

Frank Forde was the son of an Irish immigrant. I share that heritage. Frank Forde's distinctive quality was his strong and constant commitment to the policy of his party and loyalty to his leader. The commitment I give to the electors of Forde is the same-one of dedication to our Government's programs, which will bring about a fairer, just and more compassionate society.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mountford) —Before I call the honourable member for Denison I remind the House that this is the honourable member's maiden speech. I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesies.