Page 800 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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order 79, I have determined that the matter proposed by Ms Porter be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The importance of recognising the outstanding contributions which Canberran women regularly make to both the local and global communities. This is particularly important during the period of celebration and reflection surrounding International Women’s Day.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (3.57): For me to be standing here today to speak about the important contribution that women make in modern society is a reflection on how far we have come in the fight for gender equality. I was fortunate, as a child, to have parents, grandparents and teachers who believed in me not as a member of a gender but as a person who could and would achieve.

Women can now enjoy the democratic right to vote, an objective which seemed like a dream to some of those who fought so hard for it. Together with our male counterparts, we enjoy fairer and safer working conditions and, importantly, we enjoy protection from gender-based discrimination, both direct and indirect.

One school of thought is that the gratitude for these successes should be directed towards the international women’s movement and the activists in history who have fought for the rights of women in society. While I agree that these pioneer women should be recognised for their passion and commitment to the cause of gender equality, events such as we celebrated yesterday are just as important for the opportunity they give the public to reflect on the achievements and successes of the so-called ordinary women and the ordinary men who have supported them. We must acknowledge that the mother from west Belconnen achieves just as much, and we must recognise her achievements as much, as the corporate leader from downtown Canberra city. This is the premise of International Women’s Day: the celebration of diversity, while at the same time recognising the similarities that bind us together.

As we know, and as has just been talked about in this place, we are fortunate to live in an extremely diverse community. Women are an integral part of modern society, as they have been throughout history, and it is important that every woman recognise this. However, every woman may not have experienced a formal education that outlines women’s role in history, so it is essential that we never forget the advancements made by women over time.

Historically, International Women’s Day is linked to another great movement that fought for recognition and respect in society: the union movement. Indeed, International Women’s Day was first held as an action seeking the 8-hour day for shop assistants and equal pay for equal work. This objective, I am sad to say, is still on the horizon. Despite the fact that women activists successfully fought for equal pay in 1972, women still do not experience pay parity in real terms. In fact, the gap between male and female pay rates is widening. In 1994, women earned 92 per cent of the average male wage. In 2002, this figure has fallen to a level where women earn only 84.5 per cent of the average male wage. This means the fight for pay parity in gender terms has actually gone backwards.

At a time when women are holding positions at the forefront of the economic, political and business worlds, not to mention maintaining the social fabric of the community, it is unbelievable that we maintain an economic equality statistic such as this that would be

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