Gender Equality Symposium, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane

  • Speech, check against delivery

Good morning.

I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land upon which we are meeting today – the Turrbal and Yuggera people – and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

I would also like to acknowledge and thank Gudanji-Wakaja artist Ryhia Dank who designed the imagery for today's event. She calls her storying Nardurna, which means woman in her traditional language.

Around the room, there are details of her artwork titled ‘Imagine' – but in describing the theme, Ryhia said:

“In a world of adversity, diverse communities gathered, recognising the strength of women and the power of youth. United, they shaped an optimistic future, transcending differences and inspiring generations with their unwavering determination.”

A powerful, wise expression of the meaning and potential of this FIFA Women's World Cup.

In the same spirit of unity and optimism for a better future, Australians will soon have the opportunity to vote in a referendum to finally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia's constitution.

A Yes vote is a vote for recognition, for listening, and for better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We are stronger and more united when all Australians can fully participate and succeed.

That is another reason I convened this Gender Equality Symposium.

First, I want to celebrate a fantastic global event.

This FIFA Women's World Cup reminds us how we come together as an international community and as a human community. Sport – especially the global game of football, played by millions, watched by millions – brings us together in all our beautiful diversity. A kaleidoscope of humanity.

Second, to take this opportunity to reflect on the benefit to our communities when women and girls are supported to engage and our responsibility to champion that inclusion.

The world of football has been greatly enriched by the growing success of women's football.

And this is true in every field.

Whether it be sport, academia or business.

Or in government. I'm honoured to be co-hosting this event with Australian Minister for Sport, Anika Wells.

And to have my colleague and good friend Katy Gallagher, Minister for Finance and Minister for Women, join us.

I welcome our distinguished guests from the Pacific family – from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu.

And those from further afield – from Jamaica representing the Caribbean, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria – as hard as it is to say, congratulations on your win last night.

Australia is delighted to host this historic event with New Zealand. The largest Women's World Cup to date, with 32 countries participating.

Eight countries participating for the first time. The list spans the globe: the Philippines, Ireland, Zambia, Haiti, Vietnam, Portugal, Panama, Morocco.

Attendance records continue to break.

This is not surprising. We have the privilege of seeing some of the world's best athletes perform at their peak.

And yet, it isn't so long ago that we were told women's sport would never draw a crowd like last night.

While Australian women have long been active at the grassroots level, this country has taken a long time to embrace elite women playing many sports…

It is fitting that we're here in Brisbane because this city is where the first public women's soccer game in Australia was played, in 1921.

And yet, a few years later, the Football Association banned women from playing on official grounds or in public in Australia.

The ostensible reason was concern for women's reproductive health!

Much has changed since.

In Australia, as elsewhere in the world, women can now play a leading role in national life.

Whether through sport or other endeavours.

This did not happen by accident. It happened because women powerfully and clearly exercised the rights that previous generations of women had fought so hard for.

Because it was never women's capabilities or aspirations that limited their achievements.

When space is made for women to succeed, they fill it, and create more space for others.

And enrich their communities and countries in the process.

This is why gender equality matters.

The benefits that deliver for us all.

This is one of the lessons of the twentieth century.

Gender equality is not a ‘nice' objective, to be deferred or deprioritised against ‘serious' matters of health or economic prosperity.

It is a prerequisite for those other objectives to be achieved.

In 2015, McKinsey Global Institute estimated that closing the gender gap in economic participation – including paid work – would add somewhere between $12 trillion and $28 trillion to global GDP.

And World Economic Forum research has found that gender gaps in health, education, economy, and politics are closely correlated with lower productivity.

Women who are supported to succeed also lift those around them.

As a global community, we recognised this fact in 2015 when we agreed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - our shared vision for a better world.

The Goals serve as a blueprint for sustainable development for all the worlds peoples.

It is a blueprint that expressly includes women and girls. The fifth SDG is to achieve gender equality.

Against this background, Australia is deeply concerned that there is a growing number of international actors suggesting that gender equality should take a back seat.

Or arguing that we must choose between equality and prosperity.

The downgrading of gender equality in the Global Development Initiative is bad for development.

All the evidence indicates that this trade off is false.

And I am concerned that there are deeper strategic concerns.

Gender equality and the human rights of women and girls are being used by some to divide.

Used to seed doubts about the benefits of multilateralism and to unwind our shared commitment to the better world promised by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In April, the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) failed to adopt an outcome on population, education and sustainable development because of opposition from Russia, Iran and others, who refused to accept long established propositions on gender equality.

We cannot let the Sustainable Development Goals be unpicked or unwound. They are interdependent – a path to an inclusive and just world.

And they are a shared commitment. A promise to our partners in the global community of nations.

The rules and norms established after World War II – the norms that guarantee our prosperity and security – established principles of human equality and dignity that still resonate today.

But countries and peoples also need a path to prosperity. To security of employment and health.

The SDGs were a genuinely global commitment to complete this picture, they are social, economic and environmental.

They recognise that our societies, economies and environments are interlinked and underpinned by human rights and gender equality.

The Australian Government is committed to doing its part to deliver the SDGs – all of them.

We recognise that the aspirations we champion in our region – peace, stability, prosperity – can only be achieved if we continue to see progress on gender equality.

Women around the world have always sought to claim civic space and speak out against injustice - to assert their right to fully participate in society.

Our societies are richer for their contribution.

Research is very clear about the benefits to societies, economies, and democracies when women are fully included.

This tournament is a reminder of what women can achieve. It is also a call to action.

Since the return of the Taliban, the Afghanistan women's team – who honour us with their presence here today – have been based here in Australia.

I wish they were here under different circumstances, participating in the FWWC with their country behind them.

Their presence is a reminder of how much work there is to do.

A reminder that progress is always resisted and our gains must always be protected.

Everyone in this room has a collective responsibility to do more. No country can do it alone.

As the incredible athletes here at the Women's World Cup know too well, we can succeed if we work together as a team.

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