Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

International Women’s Day Speech

Location: Melbourne

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Today as we celebrate International Women’s Day it is timely to remember that it grew from groups like this one meeting this morning.

From the labour movements across the United States and Europe at the turn of the last century.

The first National Women’s Day was celebrated in the USA in February in 1909 to honour women who had protested against working conditions in the garment industry the previous year.

They had marched for better working conditions and for the right to vote. From this worker’s movement, International Women’s Day has grown to become a rallying point around the world as we fight for women’s equality.

And this year, the theme for International Women’s Day highlights an area where there is still much work to be done.

This year’s theme is A promise is a promise: Time for Action to end violence against women.

And it is time.

Because we have seen too many tragedies recently.

In Pakistan, where 14 year old Malala was shot because she wanted to go to school.

In India, where the brutal rape of a young woman on a bus has acted as a catalyst for others to stand up and protest. And here in Melbourne, where the murder of Jill Meagher shocked our entire city.

UN figures show that 603 million women live in countries where violence against women is not considered a crime.

And sadly, our own statistics tell us that one in three women in Australia have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and almost one in five women have experienced sexual violence.

I don’t believe that is acceptable.

And as a female Minister in a Labor Government, I’m proud to say that we have taken steps to tackle the problem.

Our National Plan to Reduce violence against Women and their Children is a12 year strategy to achieve real and sustained reduction in violence against women.

It brings together Commonwealth, state and territory governments to work together with the non-government sector, and we have invested $86 million since 2009 on key actions under the National Plan.

This includes finding new ways to prevent violence from occurring. The evidence shows that positive and respectful community attitudes towards women are critical if women and their children are going to live free from violence.

This is why the National Plan includes a range of prevention measures – including the highly successful The Line campaign.

The campaign targets young people – largely through Facebook- to have them discuss and debate what kind of behaviour involves “crossing the line”.

The campaign now has around 70,000 fans on Facebook.

And 84 per cent of people who have come into contact with the campaign report that it has helped them understand what it means to “cross the line”.

Like those working women who celebrated the first Women’s Day, we also believe an important place to take action is in the workplace.

And so we have been improving the capacity of unions, employers and employer organisations to support employees experiencing domestic or family violence and help them remain in work.

The impact of domestic and family violence on a woman’s employment has clear adverse consequences for her economic security and independence.

This is a concern that previously has not been widely addressed.

But women should not have to suffer the consequences of losing their jobs either because they have been a victim of violence or because they have chosen to take action to stop it.

So enterprise agreements, covering more than one million employees, now include specific clauses supporting women experiencing domestic and family violence.

And the Government has announced we will be amending the National Employment Standards so the right to request flexible working arrangements includes workers experiencing domestic violence.

More broadly, we are working to improve women’s opportunities to participate in the economy and in leadership positions.

And in this, we are a Government that leads by example.

This week, the Labor movement farewelled a great woman, former Speaker Joan Child.

I can think of no greater tribute to Joan and the trail she blazed than having a female Prime Minister, a female Governor General and the current Female Speaker of the House all speak at her funeral.

Girls are outperforming boys in completing secondary school education and in participating in tertiary education.

We have record numbers of women in Australian Government and ASX200 boardrooms.

And our laws continue to evolve to better address sex discrimination and to ensure work-life balance.

We have introduced Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme, so that women are in a better position to make the choice to spend time with their new born baby.

Importantly, the women who are most benefitting from our Paid Parental Leave scheme are those women on lower incomes and in casual work or smaller businesses, who didn’t have access to any paid leave before.

This year, we have expanded our scheme with the introduction of Dad and Partner Pay – providing two weeks of Government paid leave for Dads or same sex partners.

Because we know that many Dads want to do more – and that is part of achieving gender equality too.

We are supporting women to get a fairer wage deal.

We backed the Social and Community Sector workers successful case for equal pay before the Fair Work Commission.

The Commission found that most SACS workers were women and that they were generally underpaid simply because they are women.

And we are funding our share of the pay increase.

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate achievements like these.

It is a time to celebrate how far women have come.

And to thank all those women – and their male supporters – who have secured tremendous advances over the past century.

International Women’s Day is also an important reminder of how far we have to go.

And our Labor Government is determined to keep doing our part.

Thank you.