Page 440 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 18 February 2020

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MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (3.59): In light of International Women’s Day next month, I rise today to speak in full support of empowering women to reach their full potential. As a member of the Liberal Party, I am deeply committed to the rights of the individual. I believe fully in the great human freedoms that have given us unequalled prosperity, just and tolerant societies and a flourishing of all that is good and beautiful in human nature. These include the freedom to worship, to think, to speak, to choose, to be ambitious, to be independent, to be industrious, to acquire skill and to seek and earn rewards.

I specifically wish to speak today about local Canberrans who are doing important things to help empower women. There are so many examples that I could share, but I have time to mention just a few. I express my thanks to the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services for the great work they do assisting women newly arrived in Canberra from overseas. In many cases, these women do not speak English very well and/or lack other skills necessary to enter the workforce here in Canberra. In response, MARSS volunteers are providing all kinds of English courses, including English for living and English for employment.

They also teach computer skills, driving and sewing. In addition, they run an outreach program just for women. I have personally met with dozens of female migrants and refugees in Canberra who have been empowered by this assistance, finding both employment and confidence in their adopted home. This strengthens these women as individuals and also blesses their families.

I also wish to thank Canberran Sophie Fisher and her brilliant girls on bikes program. Whilst working as a tutor, Ms Fisher realised that most of her migrant and refugee students had never learnt to ride bicycles. With a great desire to help empower these women with increased mobility as well as an increased sense of community, Ms Fisher obtained a grant from the Canberra YWCA to develop a free learn-to-ride program for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds. The five-week program includes a free bike and helmet and helps bring together more established Canberrans with these new arrivals—what a fantastic idea.

I likewise wish to say thank you to Initiatives for Women in Need, a volunteer Indo-Australian organisation, based here in the ACT, that seeks to support and advocate for women and children who come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. I have attended several of their events, and Dr Madhumita Iyengar and her team do an amazing job of raising awareness about violence against women, gender inequality, discrimination against migrant women and similar issues.

Lastly, I wish to publicly acknowledge Westfield Belconnen’s Local Heroes for 2019, all of them powerful women committed to empowering others. Though only 21 years old, ANU student Camille Schloeffel raised funds and launched the STOP Campaign designed to educate others and help prevent sexual violence. Well done, Ms Schloeffel.

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