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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 4 March 2004) . . Page.. 759 ..

Contribution of women to society

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Ms MacDonald proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The importance of recognising the contribution women make to our society, particularly on International Women’s Day.

MS MacDONALD (3.42): I appreciate this opportunity to speak about International Women’s Day, which is held on 8 March each year—this year it is next Monday. This is an important day for the whole community to reflect on the status of women in our society. As the name suggests, International Women’s Day is celebrated each year throughout the world. It is a day for recognising the contributions and achievements of women in our society and to highlight the continuing plight of millions of women across the world. The 8th of March is a day for women and men to come together to look at the gains women have made in our society and assess the gains that still need to be made in the future.

Some people in this place may be thinking, “Here we go again; it is the same old thing every year.” Here we do go again because there are still millions of women across the world, our country and even here in the community of Canberra who suffer simply because of their gender. I look forward to the day when women gain full equality and we will not need to discuss issues like this and recognise days like International Women’s Day. But until that happens the need for discussion and awareness remains great.

I will give a brief history of International Women’s Day. The history of International Women’s Day dates back to 1910 internationally. In Australia the first International Women’s Day rally took place in the Sydney Domain on 25 March 1928. During this first rally women called for equal pay for equal work, an eight-hour day for shop assistants, the basic wage for the unemployed, no piecework, and annual holidays on full pay. Over the years these issues have been broadened to include the right to vote, the rights of indigenous women, peace, child care, and access to education and reproductive health, to name just a few.

Winning the right to vote has been recognised as a milestone in the Australian women’s movement and dramatically changed the face of politics in Australia. As people active in politics, the need is great to appreciate the work of early suffragettes and recognise that there is still much left to be done to achieve representation for women in parliament and social economic life.

In the ACT we are lucky. In our current Legislative Assembly we have the unprecedented number of seven women members—more than in any of the previous four assemblies. That is a huge increase from the Fourth Assembly when, unfortunately, there were only two women in this place. The ACT also has the honour of claiming the first Australian female head of government. Rosemary Follett was elected Chief Minister in 1989, as you well know, Mr Speaker.

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