Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4301 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
I know that Mrs Dunne never misses an opportunity for a cheap shot, but the shot she took today was particularly cheap and tawdry. The government believes that the way forward in addressing this issue is to ensure that the Place Names Committee guidelines have special regard to the issues and the contribution of prominent women in Australian history. That is indeed the approach the government has adopted.
As I indicated in my earlier speech, Dr Jaki Troy has been appointed to undertake a specific research project to identify a bank of Australian women in industry for future commemoration. These tasks are not easy or straightforward, but I do not think it reasonable to suggest, as Ms Dundas does through her bill, that there is some deficiency in the process. I do not believe there is a deficiency in the process. I believe that the great diversity in place naming that occurs now is representative of both men and women and of traditional and non-traditional sectors of public service. I would challenge members to demonstrate otherwise.
It is for that reason that the government is not prepared to support the bill presented by Ms Dundas this afternoon. It is not for a moment any abrogation of this government's commitment to represent the capacity of women to make significant contributions to the Canberra community. It is not for one moment that, and I won't stand for that criticism.
There is more than one way to address this issue, and not supporting Ms Dundas' bill does not mean the government does not consider these issues seriously. We do.
MS TUCKER (7.54): The ACT Greens will be supporting this piece of legislation. I acknowledge that the Public Place Names Committee makes a very important, ongoing contribution to the recognition of Australian history. However, there is a significant gender imbalance in the names that are given to public places in the ACT.
Although our historical records display a strong bias towards the contribution that males have made to the development of our nation, there is a substantial amount of information pertaining to women who have also played an important role. This is not reflected in the ACT's nomenclature. If one were to look closely at the names given to public places here, one could be forgiven for thinking that women have played almost no part in Australian history.
There is an obvious need for this legislation because, although there is fairly good representation of multicultural background in the names chosen in the past, representation of women is extremely poor. By failing to rightly acknowledge the important women of our past, we are continuing the myth that only males have contributed to the building of the nation, which we all know to be historically inaccurate.
A recent report, conducted by the Australian Heritage Commission, titled Women's employment and professionalism in Australia: history's themes and places 2002, makes the following point in relation to place-based heritage, which is also relevant to the choosing of public place names:
The relationship between women's history and place-based heritage has recently been the subject of considerable debate, both in Australia and elsewhere. Some have argued that current heritage practices are fundamentally unsuited to reflecting women's history, and that resources would be better employed addressing the perceived 'masculinist' framework of current heritage policies and practices.