Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4302..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
It is obvious that the act in its current form privileges men over women. Seeking consideration of women in choosing place names is not akin to favouring one social group over another. Women make up half of the population and, due to the fact that the other half are already well represented, this amendment bill merely seeks to redress an imbalance.
A detailed search of documents relating to Australia's history will uncover a vast array of women who have made important contributions to our nation, even in the narrow fields mentioned in the act. For example, since the 1880s women have figured quite prominently in the field of science. Yet this has not been reflected in the naming of our public places.
MS DUNDAS (7.59), in reply: To close the debate, I thank the majority of the Assembly for its support for this bill, which helps to ensure equal rights and recognition for men and women in the geography and history of the ACT. I find it curious, however, that the government was willing to support the amendment of an instrument naming streets in Gungahlin but is not willing to fix the problem of gender bias for the longer term.
The proposed change to the principal act is not prescriptive but provides flexibility to the committee to explore any theme it chooses. The amendment simply requires that some thought be given to gender representation.
I must put on the public record that I do recognise the skill of the Place Names Committee and support its continuing role in place naming. I do not claim that the process or the committee is flawed-Mr Corbell put words into my mouth-but I do believe the whole process can be improved. That is what this bill is about.
I also have no disagreement with the composition of the committee itself. However, to date it has not achieved adequate representation of women in place naming. The construction of Australian society founded on equality is still a work in progress, although many areas where sexual discrimination was rife have been reformed. Place naming was one of the areas still clearly in need of fixing-a small area, Ms Gallagher, but not insignificant.
We need to take legislative steps to ensure that we move forward in this area. If we leave place naming as it has been over the last number of years, we will see the situation we had in the naming of streets in Gungahlin, which was that women are ignored. Women were able to be found to fill the role of industrialists to take their spot among men who have contributed to Australian society and get the recognition of having streets named after them in the ACT.
We still have a long way to go towards social equality, and there is no doubt that men still have the overwhelming majority of our nation's wealth and power. But everything we do to make our society fairer matters. Today, those who are supporting this bill have put another brick in the foundation of a truly equal society.
I thank the majority of the Assembly for their support for this bill.