Page 1028 - Week 03 - Thursday, 23 March 2017
8 March 2017. Soroptimist International hosted a breakfast to raise awareness and funds for the ACT Women’s Legal Centre.
Soroptimist International is, as its name implies, a worldwide organisation for women in management and the professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. Soroptimists work at all levels of civil society—local, national and international—and are involved in a wide spectrum of women’s concerns.
The Soroptimist club of Canberra was chartered on 1 April 1955 and has met since then. My speech notes actually say it has met continuously since then, but it has not met continuously; only since then. They are an energetic group who are dedicated and committed to advancing the status of women. They have held annual International Women’s Day breakfasts over the years, many of which I have had the pleasure of attending.
At this one, we heard from the current CEO of the Women’s Legal Centre, Kath Taplin, who talked about the important work that the Women’s Legal Centre does. This includes providing legal assistance and advice to women who would otherwise not have access to such advice about issues such as family law, victims of crime, discrimination and employment issues.
They also refer women to sympathetic lawyers and other support services, run community legal education sessions, produce information for women about their legal rights and the law and do research, law reform and lobbying activities regarding women’s interests. They also provide the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s access to justice program, which provides legal information and advice, refers to sympathetic lawyers and other support services, runs community legal education sessions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and produces information for women about their legal rights and the law.
In November last year the ACT Women’s Legal Centre launched its new domestic violence program, funded through the commonwealth, which in the first three months has assisted 65 women. While the ACT government funds the access to justice program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the commonwealth government has always been responsible for funding community legal centres’ core funding.
This was the subject of a debate earlier today. I am sure that everybody in the Assembly, because of this debate, knows that there have been ongoing issues with the funding and that these centres are likely to lose a significant proportion of their ongoing funds by June this year. This is really depressing, given that at this time there is a significant focus on domestic and family violence and supporting women through the system. It is important that we do not allow the Women’s Legal Centre to be forced to reduce the amount of assistance that they can provide due to funding restrictions.
That is why I am particularly appreciative of the efforts of the Soroptimists in raising awareness and funds for this important service. Last year they did a fundraiser with