Page 354 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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have been at the forefront of developing survival strategies and struggling to keep their communities and economies alive, even while bearing the violence of war and the burden of poverty.

Women in poor communities do more than care for their families. In Sri Lanka they work in the fishing industry. Let us hear the words of affected women. When the villages washed away, they lost everything. Thousands of women are engaged in small or medium-scale enterprises. They have been rope makers, fish vendors, vegetable sellers, food producers or small-scale shop owners. These women not only contributed to the GDP but many were also the sole breadwinners of families. Most of these occupations are not now possible as land, houses or workplaces have been destroyed or the natural resources are no longer available. The best way to support women is to assist their organisations. Many local organisations have themselves been impacted by the tsunami. Some of their staff are missing, some colleagues lost relatives, one NGO director lost his wife and kids and many NGOs’ offices are ruined. Most of them lost their properties. An International Labour Organisation study found that although women and children constitute the majority of victims seen in the media’s representation of natural disasters, they are almost invisible in the follow-up policies.

Let us hope that the generosity of Australians towards the tsunami victims is accompanied by a greater awareness of the conditions that people face daily in developing countries, where there are no safety nets like Medicare, old age pensions and sole parents benefits to assist the poor. Forty million people globally live with HIV-AIDS and just over three million died of the disease in 2004. Daily, thousands of children die of easily preventable diseases and 600,000 women die of pregnancy-related conditions each year. We cannot prevent earthquakes and tidal waves but we can improve our early warning systems. We can prevent death by hunger and dysentery, and we should.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra): I join with other speakers in this motion and send our condolences on the worst natural disaster any of us have ever seen—perhaps one of the greatest in recorded history. It is very difficult for people to comprehend the absolute devastation that occurred. On a positive note, it is excellent to see the help and the recovery effort that Australia and the ACT have made—over $1 billion worth of aid pledged by Australia, the prompt despatch of defence personnel and assistance throughout the states, including prompt despatch of people from the Australian Capital Territory. The assistance that they are providing is certainly greatly appreciated by the survivors of this dreadful tragedy. The assistance Australia, including the ACT, has provided at a time of great tragedy has really helped Australian-Indonesian relations.

My colleague Mr Smyth mentioned $200 million spent by ordinary Australian citizens to help out so far. I am sure that Australia and the ACT will continue to support the recovery effort. As the Deputy Chief Minister says, that is very important indeed. To give one example of the generosity of Canberra citizens, among many appeals that are going on, I attended, along with Deb Foskey, Karin MacDonald and Mary Porter, an excellent function at Olims. It was a $50-a-head dinner, with $45 going to the tsunami appeal. Olims generously donated lots of in-kind support and certainly would have lost money on the dinner. That was their contribution.

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