Media Release by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

30 years since signing of CEDAW

Today is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In 1983 when Australia became a party to CEDAW, there was no protection from discrimination or sexual harassment. Since then, Australia has made great strides towards equality between women and men.

This year Australia also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Sex Discrimination Act, which has been instrumental in changing attitudes and creating opportunities for women to participate in public life.

Importantly, the Act established the role of independent Sex Discrimination Commissioner, which has been crucial in promoting equality and monitoring the implementation of CEDAW.

In December last year the Australian Government became a party to CEDAW’s Optional Protocol, which allows complaints about sex discrimination to be taken directly to the UN once all domestic remedies are exhausted.

Australia will appear before the CEDAW Committee in New York in July 2010 to discuss our national report, which highlights the wide range of measures we have introduced to further advance the status of women and uphold CEDAW values.

While Australia rates well against international measures of women’s empowerment, we still have work to do. For example, research by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency shows that male graduates start employment on a median salary of $45,000, while female graduates are starting work on $3000 less per year.

With data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing that one in three women will experience physical violence in their lifetime, and one in five women will experience sexual assault, it’s also vital that we work to reduce both the impact and the incidence of violence against women.

The Government recognises that Australians want action on this issue so we are working with States and Territories to develop a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children which will be finalised through the Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2010.

Greater equality will benefit women, men, our society and the economy.