Page 802 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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Australia was one of the first jurisdictions to adopt women suffrage and, indeed, has a proud history of fighting for and protecting the rights of women. The movement has achieved a number of practical successes over its history, including the protection of women’s property rights, the right to the custody of children and the appointment of female police.

We need to look to the future, however. Women need to contemplate the opportunities that a modern community such as Canberra provides them. No longer are women’s lives mapped out for them, as they may have been historically. Women have the opportunity to start businesses, attend university, develop their career paths, choose to have a family and, at the same time, have an eye constantly on what is yet to be achieved. On days of contemplation such as yesterday and celebrations like International Women’s Day, it is all too easy to focus on the big picture and take only a historical look at women’s issues.

In Australia, we can celebrate that women have the opportunity to reach their potential, and it is important that we, as legislators and as community leaders, do everything in our power to enable this to occur. I would encourage members of the Assembly, and indeed all Canberrans, to reflect on the contributions to society that their sisters, their mothers, their daughters, their aunts and their grandmothers make. It is important that we recognise, affirm and celebrate these achievements.

If you do this, then you will have a greater understanding of the meaning of International Women’s Day than I could possibly hope to provide through these words. I would, therefore, encourage each and every member of this Assembly to join me in recognising both the broader women’s movement and the individual women who call Canberra home.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (4.05): I would like to thank Ms Porter for placing this matter of public importance on the paper and on the agenda today. Indeed, it is very clear that we have some outstanding women in our community and across all sections of the community—business, community services, disability services, you name it. And Ms Porter will know, of course, many of those people from her travels.

Mr Speaker, I had the real pleasure this week of being able to attend a few of the International Women’s Day functions—and there have been so many—and Ms Porter and I have crossed paths at many of these events. It has been a positive week. There were some 400 women, for example—and I have to say a lot more men—there. I did notice and make note of that this year. It was great to see. I know that Mr Gentleman, sitting opposite, is a big supporter of the rights of women in this country and particularly in this city. I think it was great to see so many women there from all walks of life. That is what it is about. International Women’s Day does not discriminate—creed or colour; race or religion; or whatever. Everybody is there and it is a fantastic day to honour women doing well.

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending the International Women’s Day awards in the ACT. I think it is worthy of note that there were some incredible ladies who were awarded: Kim Davison, Melinda Mitchell, Donna Abdul-Rahman, Professor Hilary Charlesworth and Jan Brown. I particularly wanted to mention the community award.

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