Speech to Adelaide IWD Breakfast

  • Transcript, E&OE

Thank you Sonya, and thank you Aunty Rosemary Wanganeen for welcoming us all to Kaurna country this morning.

I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands we are meeting on today, the Kaurna people, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

I want to express my appreciation to all of you who are joining us this morning at this Adelaide IWD Breakfast, a record 2,791 people.

We have students from 23 schools in the room, and many more who are joining us online.

I believe students from Unity College came all the way from Murray Bridge, to be here for the first time. Welcome. It must have been an early morning for you!

It’s so important to have the next generations coming through, because the project of gender equality has been a long one and it has a long way yet to go.

We need to learn from those who came before us and we need to encourage those who will follow us.

On Wednesday, which was of course the actual International Women’s Day this year, I paid tribute to someone who was a mentor for me, and for many other women.

Marie Coleman was the first woman to head an Australian government agency – appointed to run the new Social Welfare Commission by the Whitlam Government 50 years ago.

In a number of senior roles she gradually helped make life easier for women, focusing on access to childcare so more mothers could participate in the workforce.

And even after her formal retirement she has remained a powerful advocate, helping change the way we think about paid parental leave as a social welfare issue - to its correct framing as an economic reform.

She was critical to paid parental leave eventually being legislated by the Rudd Labor Government in 2010.

The contributions she has made to gender equality mean that countless more Australian women have been able to participate in the workforce and have financial autonomy.

The kind of person of whom we can truly say, because of her, we can.

And this is the legacy we can all think about as we celebrate International Women’s Day.

It’s why we seek to have greater representation of women in parliament.

On that front, a lot has changed since the last IWD Adelaide breakfast twelve months ago.

Here on North Terrace, and in Canberra, there are more women in parliament and more women in the Government.

All the result of women so powerfully and clearly exercising the suffrage that previous generations of women fought so hard for.

I am so proud that fifty-four of the 103 members of the Albanese Government are women – more than half.

This did not happen by accident. It happened, again, because of the women who went before.

Each of them encouraging other women to follow them, each one knowing that it’s not enough to be the first to something – the first senator or minister or prime minister.

We have to make sure we’re not the last.

And it happened because we put in place quotas for women’s representation, which forced cultural change on our party.

Inclusive representation reflecting our whole community means that better decisions are made, our society is more secure and our nation is stronger.

As I speak to you here today – my colleague Assistant Minister Malarndirri McCarthy is in New York.

She is making history as the first Indigenous Australian woman to deliver Australia’s National Statement to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

But there’s no room for complacency.

On Wednesday my good friend and Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher released Australia’s first Status of Women Report Card.

Young women are more likely to report experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime.

Women over 55 are the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness.

And 30% of Australian men don’t believe that gender inequality exists.

We are committed to making Australia one of the most gender equal societies in the world – but history tells us – and what we see around the world tells us – that progress is always resisted, and our gains must always be protected.

And what we have seen around the world in recent years, particularly throughout the Covid19 pandemic, is that gender equality has gone backwards.

The World Economic Forum reports that last year global gender equality slipped to 2016 levels.

It now estimates that it was take 132 years to reach full parity.

According to CARE Australia, food insecurity affects 150 million more women than men.

In Ukraine and Myanmar, we have seen a surge of sexual violence in conflict.

In Afghanistan we see women and girls losing basic rights since the return of the Talban – now banned from tertiary and secondary education.

And in Iran, where women like Mahsa ‘Jina’ Amini stood up for their rights, they have faced a deadly crackdown – that has also seen male allies executed.

Efforts to resist progress and wind back hard-won gains reminds us that we have to always be vigilant.

Not just in pressuring for further progress, but in defending hard won progress.

And aside from all our advocacy around the world – including with our new Ambassador for Gender Equality, the Australian Government is now putting our money where our mouth is…

…requiring that 80 per cent of Australia’s development program investments effectively address gender equality in implementation.

And everyone here is putting their money where their mouth is, with the money we raise today.

When I think about why we do this, I remember Ketu, a 10-year-old girl I met in the Pacific Island country of Kiribati.

I visited her school, where she gave an inspiring speech and finished it with this quote:

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

Whatever our path in life, each of us has the chance to do something for those who follow us, and to be that person about whom we say, because of her, I can.

Thank you and happy International Women’s Day.

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