Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 August 2016) . . Page.. 2536 ..
12 million in June last year, whereas there are still 96,300 men to go before they reach the 12 million milestone.
With the exception of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, all states and territories have more females than males. Yet there seems reluctance to spend money on women in our city. With the closure of the women’s information and referral centre back in 2013 and the Office for Women having been rolled up into the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre and sharing resources with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, it seems that staff are shared across several areas. There is not just a designated Office for Women.
What this shows is that the local government is not focused primarily on this very important service area when it comes to women. It is easy to think in our seemingly comfortable Canberra that women are flourishing; but it is just not always the case. We know that more work needs to be done for working mums. This was made evident in the Supporting working parents: pregnancy and return to work national review report that was undertaken by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and released in 2014.
The report, as I have mentioned in this place before, highlighted how often women feel sidelined and discriminated against when they announce their pregnancies to their employer and in their workplace. I have heard stories from many women across Canberra of discrimination and how they were sidelined for promotion or felt they had to choose between having a family or having a career.
In 2014 we heard about a public servant breastfeeding in her car. Her husband would bring the baby to the car park where she would quickly try and breastfeed in the car while husband was stopped in the loading zone. I think this was a federal public servant and there was apparently no room or appropriate facilities in her department for her to feed her baby. Our city could do more. Surely we can do better than this.
Those of us here who are mums can only imagine the stress this woman must have felt trying to do the most natural task of feeding and looking after her child simply because in this modern era we still have not come to terms with the fact that babies are a normal, natural and needed part of life. Our attitude towards mothers with babies and the need to feed tends to be one of “out of sight, out of mind”. This leaves a large number of women feeling quite fearful of asking for a place to breastfeed or breast pump, which can lead to a sense of shame or embarrassment and, in the worst case, disassociation from the workforce, or postnatal depression.
There is a great deal more work that we need to do to get the details right for pregnant women in the workplace and for breastfeeding mums to be able to return to work smoothly. Most young women believe that within their workplace there will be a clearly defined process for how to return to work and still breastfeed or breast pump a young baby. I regularly hear from young women who are genuinely shocked to discover that there is no clear process. These women, after being off on maternity leave, often do not have the confidence or the know-how to develop a smooth process with their employer. We must be vigilant and continue to work to make these