Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 729 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

I noted this morning that other like-minded countries face the same difficulties. A news article I read detailed how women in the UK civil service earn up to 28 per cent less than their male colleagues. In other vocations, the average disparity in that nation is still about 20 per cent. Australian women fare somewhat better. There are more women in paid work in Australia than ever before, and women's unemployment is at its lowest level in a decade. Yet the gender gap in wages is still 15 per cent-a record low but it still exists and should not exist.

While Australian women have made great gains in society, we have done so in a conducive environment. Women in some other nations have not been so fortunate. I am encouraged when I speak with young women in Canberra who cannot comprehend living at a time when there were no women doctors or lawyers or when women were prevented from attending a university or were unable even to get a job, let alone be paid equally. While such conditions largely no longer exist in this nation, tragically they still do in others. International Women's Day is a clear statement that such attitudes and behaviour need to change and hopefully will provide a point of irritation for change to begin.

Having lived and worked in countries which imposed and continue to impose on their female population restrictions and/or severe penalties such as those I mentioned earlier, I am grateful for my country of birth. I am also pleased to be able to serve this community at a level that can make a positive difference like the difference that can be made by my female colleagues in this place.

My dream is one day to live in a world which does not need to lobby for equal rights for women. My dream is that we will no longer have to have special programs in place to ensure fairness to women but that fairness will occur without pressure and will occur naturally without legal interference, threats and/or penalty. My dream is to see discrimination against women eliminated so that special women's achievements do not need to be announced as women's achievements but the achievements of human beings, the achievements of people in general, achievements that are not gender based.

I am fortunate to have been elected into a parliament in Australia which has a relatively strong representation of women. I am hoping that because of the women in this place, and indeed the open-minded men in this place, we see the progress of women's rights continue in this fair city.

MS DUNDAS (4.35): As has been mentioned, it is International Women's Day tomorrow. Along with millions of women worldwide, I will be participating in the traditional feminist activities of celebrating and despairing. People like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, in your questions on notice seem to think that International Women's Day is a recent politically correct innovation like the UN Year of Oceans. In fact, IWD has a long history, almost 100 years, of contributing to women's struggle for respect, equality, and autonomy in our lives.

If we were to celebrate International Men's Day, as has been suggested, that would be an innovation, a kind of PC innovation, but we do not. Why? Quite possibly some will never understand, but the rest of us should try to. Why is there an IWD and not an IMD? Why is there a feminist movement? An early slogan of the marches in New York City that were a precursor to International Women's Day was "bread and roses". The 15,000 women who marched on 8 March 1908 called for bread and roses, symbols of economic

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .