Page 649 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.45): It being the week which includes International Women’s Day, I thought I would look at this topic from a gender perspective. What often happens is that we talk about households and families as though each member of the family has the same problems, the same roles and the same concerns. Of course, we know this is not the case, and that families are extremely diverse, both here in the ACT and elsewhere. In families that are of the so-called traditional variety—I believe there are probably less than 25 per cent now; it was 25 per cent when I looked at the figures a few years ago—the division of labour is such that women are usually, but not always, unless they are in the ACT and developed countries, responsible for the care and wellbeing of children and also for looking after the house, doing the housework and so on.

That puts women in a particular position in families. I am talking here about the average family which has an income coming in every week, the children have access to schools and they have somewhere to live. We know that the majority of people in the ACT are in this situation, and that most families in the ACT, as we can see from per capita average incomes, are doing reasonably well.

I would like to talk about those people who stand outside those categories, because they are often forgotten in these conversations. We hear Mr Rudd talking all the time about working families. It concerns me a bit that he is not thinking about those families, for instance, that are not working, and he is not thinking about those people who are not in families. We know that families are not always great places to be in, but when they are good they are an incredibly good buffer against the vicissitudes of our societies.

I have been assisted in the task I have set myself today by a report that was released this week by the Women’s Centre for Health Matters. People will know that it is located in the community centre in Pearce, and it does excellent work. This report is titled Marginalised and isolated women in the Australian Capital Territory: risk prevalence and service provision. I was talking to the coordinator of the Women’s Centre for Health Matters last Friday. I asked, “Can I talk about this in the Assembly?” and she said, “Yes, please do, but the most important thing you can say that the government can do is to provide more gender disaggregated statistics.”

I attend annual report hearings and ask for the gender aspect of statistics. I ask the Minister for Women and her officers how the women’s plan is being measured, and the truth is that it is not, really. The Women’s Centre for Health Matters, in preparing this report, had to go back to NATSEM data. Some of it was very old—almost 10 years old. In order for them to do the work that needs to be done, given what they found out from collating and analysing all the data they had, they recommend that more research needs to be done. If they are going to go forward, they will need to buy data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

I think it is shameful that we are limiting our ability to provide services to the most vulnerable people in the community through a lack of gender disaggregated data. I certainly encourage the government to support the Women’s Centre for Health Matters so that it can go forward and do this work which they are doing on behalf of

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