Time of reckoning for gender equality

Published on Tue 23 March 2021 2:22pm

People in my community, especially women, are rightly saying, enough is enough. It is time for all of us, but especially for men to listen to those who have suffered prejudice, harassment and worse, to reflect without defensiveness or anger or deflection and to change and to support change.

Mr Wilson (4:47pm) – Deputy Speaker women in the Fremantle community are adding their voices to the nationwide chorus of women expressing anger, indignation, pain, bewilderment and despair based on their experience of sexism and misogyny in all their many forms and awful consequences.

But women are also expressing a fierce resolve to break what’s been a harmful silence and to achieve change. I’m listening to the messages sent directly to me as a local member. I’m listening to colleagues in this place and including the speech you gave at the end of last week, Deputy Speaker, and I was grateful to listen last Monday at the March for Justice to Aunty Violet Sheridan and Michelle O’Neill and Sally McManus, and Brittany Higgins.

There is no doubt this is a long overdue reckoning, a reckoning that needs to deliver cultural and structural change in many areas of life, in education, in the workplace, and in the justice system. But also in the fair representation of women in leadership, whether it’s in politics or public service or business.

Last week, I had a look at some of the details with respect to the House of Representatives, there have been 1204 members since the House was formed in 1901. 133 of those members have been women, only 133, and 47 of those 133 are members of the House of Representatives right now.

It’s worth reflecting the while they’ve only been 133 women as members, there have been some 90 men called John.

Deputy Speaker, there are still 68 seats out of the 151 that have never been represented by a woman. Only 29 electorates have been represented by more than one woman, a too small group of seats that I’m happy to say does include Fremantle.

Clearly we’ve got a lot of ground to make up and that requires not just words, but action and tangible change. It does require parties to get serious about undoing the discrimination that prevents the parliament from reflecting the gender balance in our society as a whole.

Labor has taken some of those steps. That’s why our caucus is presently 48 per cent comprised of women, we are on track to achieve balance.

But Deputy Speaker there’s no doubt we need far reaching change across our society, we still don’t have fairness in the economy when there’s a persistent gender pay gap, when women retire with a superannuation balance that’s half that of men, and when we don’t have a childcare system that enables the full participation of women in the workforce.

Indeed, we have unfortunately seen this year retrograde steps in terms of women’s safety and well-being as a result the abolition of the Family Court.

Deputy Speaker, it has been a bleak month here in Parliament House, but that’s because of a reckoning that is long overdue about the sexism and patriarchal injustice that is acute and entrenched in Australia.

People in my community, especially women, are rightly saying, enough is enough. It is time for all of us, but especially for men to listen to those who have suffered prejudice, harassment and worse, to reflect without defensiveness or anger or deflection and to change and to support change.

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