Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Greater Choice for Women – International Women’s Day 2001

Identifying the most important issues facing women – more than 51% of the population – in the 21st century will be the focus of a national women’s conference in “August, announced today by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, Senator Amanda Vanstone.

“We must ensure continued increasing participation of women, in all their diversity, in decisions that shape their lives,” Senator Vanstone said. “The conference is part of ensuring this participation.”

The Minister announced the conference, to be convened in Canberra by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women, on the eve of International Women’s Day.

“Each year, International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of Australian women and the increasing opportunities and choices available in our society,” Senator Vanstone said.

“The Centenary of Federation gives even more reason to reflect on what has changed for the better for Australian women in the past 100 years.

“We have come a long way. Women have fought for and won major advances from the right to vote to lifting of barriers, entering professions, equal opportunity and sex discrimination legislation.

“Today, the number of women in the paid workforce is at a record high with 4,012,600 million women in paid work, compared to 3,589,400 in March 1996.

“In the past five years, women’s labour force participation rate has grown from 53.7% in March 1996 to 55.1%. Women’s unemployment has fallen from 8% in March 1996 to 6.2%.

“The importance of these figures cannot be overstated. Combined with other Government initiatives such as Family Payment and Child Care Benefit, they represent increased choice for Australian women.

“While some in the community predicted otherwise, the reality under the Howard Government since 1996 is that Australian women now enjoy greater freedom to choose their own future, whether that be in building a career, raising a family or combining both roles.

“Also, more women are in education and training than ever before, more women are being appointed to leadership positions in the professions and in the community, and there is strong support and assistance for families,” Senator Vanstone said.

“While we now take as a given many historic government reforms, medical benefits, family allowance, child care, national divorce laws, equal opportunity legislation and superannuation, International Women’s day reminds us of the challenges ahead, both in Australia and internationally.”

To prepare to meet these challenges, the national conference in August will discuss policy and service initiatives under four theme areas: economic self-support and security, status and position, elimination of violence, and health, wellbeing and lifestyle.