Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4068 ..
It was receiving funding from the federal government until the reforms that took place in 2000, when a lot of women's organisations were defunded. Whilst it did survive after the loss of funding, the sad passing away of Helen Leonard, who was the National Women's Media Centre co-ordinator and who put a lot of passion into the centre, meant that it has no longer been able to continue.
The National Women's Media Centre made huge progress in advancing the status of women in the media and was also instrumental in the establishment of Women's History Month, which we still celebrate. It raised awareness of the way women and girls are portrayed in the media. It also sought to bring to the attention of those who work in the media that there are women out there who know a lot about the issues that are up for public debate and that, when seeking comment on issues in the media, they should try to find those women and use them as commentators, as opposed to always falling back on the normal processes, which were to defer to men.
The current co-ordinator of the National Women's Media Centre made it quite clear that the National Women's Media Centre has not ceased to exist because there is no more need for it. There is still a lot of need to promote the issues around how women and girls are portrayed in the media, and there is a long way to go before all women and girls are treated with respect by the advertising and news media. That is a very important point.
I will quote from Jane Singleton, a journalist and public affairs consultant, who raised the issue of the employment of women in the media. She said:
Equity inside the media matters as well as on the outside. It affects the fabric of information and the information upon which we base our life decisions. A fair and open media industry is one of the foundations of a functioning democracy. ...
Young women are 80 to 90 per cent of media students but occupy less than 10 per cent of senior positions in the media. There is a lot of work to do to see what goes wrong and how to fix it.
I put on the record my deepest respect and support for the work that the National Women's Media Centre did over its years. I am sad to see it go. That does not mean there is not a lot of work to be done. Even though in the ACT Assembly we have more women in parliament than most other places around Australia and the world, women in this place do sometimes get treated differently by the media. We are referred to by what it is we wear, and other aspects. I do not see discussion flowing about the suits and ties that the blokes wear.
We have a long way to go before women are equal in their representation in the media and as people who report as part of the media. I thought that the house should know about the end of an era for a women's media group. Whilst it has now ceased to function, its resources are still being held at two libraries: the Jessie Street National Women's Library in Sydney and the Fryer Library Collection at the University of Queensland Library. The National Women's Media Centre website, which was so much a part of what Helen did in her time, can be accessed at www.pandora.nla.gov.au and has been archived by the National Library as part of their ongoing commitment to archive parts of Australia's history.