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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 727 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

reported. Women and girls constitute more than two-thirds of the world's refugees. Women receive about only 10 per cent of the world's credit.

These figures show that although we have come a long way there is still much work to be done for women across the world. As women we must continue to promote our agenda, which includes health care, reproductive rights, education, sanitation, housing, employment and wage equity, social security and support for all women in all countries. International Women's Day is about transcending borders and cultures with a unifying message of progress, support, respect and humanity. This Assembly has supported these aims consistently, and I am glad to present them to you today in recognition of the valued contribution of women in the ACT, in Australia and across the world.

MRS CROSS (4.27): I would like to begin with a quote from Jane Austen's book Northhanger Abbey, in which Catherine Morland says:

I wish I were [fond of history] too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all-it is very tiresome.

I am sure all the women in the chamber are nodding their assent and thinking, "How true."

Mr Hargreaves: I hope not.

MRS CROSS: My colleague there did. The contribution women have made to society has changed radically throughout recorded history. Some of this has been cultural change, some what I would prefer to call enlightened change.

In Australia we have been more fortunate than most nations, as you are very well aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, being a very enlightened man. Our history has afforded us the opportunity to accelerate whatever change we have made. At the time of our settlement the status of women was not what it is today. Those first women brought with them over a millennium of attitudes that reinforced gender bias-for example, attitudes that women were the chattels of their husbands and that women were not allowed to have a job or access to higher education. It is to our credit that Australian women have progressed so rapidly and led the world on these fronts.

Consider this brief scan of our history. In 1880 women were first admitted to lectures and examinations at an Australian university. A decade later Constance Stone was the first woman doctor to be registered in Australia. In 1895 women voted for the first time in an election in Australia, the first nation to allow women to do so, followed shortly after by New Zealand and the USA.

In 1902 Ada Evans became the first woman to receive a law degree, although she was prevented from practising as a lawyer for another 19 years. In the same year non-Aboriginal women in Australia gained the right to vote in a federal election. Unfortunately, Aboriginal women, along with Aboriginal men, had to wait 61/2 decades before they were able to do so.

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