Speech by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Speech at the Australian Local Government Women’s Association 60th Anniversary Dinner

Location: Parliament House, Canberra

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

I would first like to pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land we meet on today—the Ngunnawal people – and their Elders, past and present.

I would like to acknowledge the Governor-General and my Parliamentary colleagues from across Government.

I would also like to acknowledge other distinguished guests and our hosts from the ALGWA Executive and Board – as well as all of the councillors who are here from across the country. A warm welcome to you all.

I would like to thank Cr Janet Davidson for her kind introduction, and take this opportunity to congratulate her on being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her outstanding service to local government and women.

I am very pleased to be here with you all tonight for this momentous occasion – the 60th anniversary of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association.

Congratulations on your diamond jubilee!

For 60 years, your Association has been working hard to support women’s participation in local government and to ensure that women’s voices are heard and represented equally.

Of course, women have much to celebrate this year – being the 100th year of International Women’s Day.

It is wonderful to reflect how much the status of women has improved over this period.

But this change did not happen by chance. It happened because some remarkable women led the way.

These remarkable women stood up and demanded to be heard, to speak for those who had no voice, and to deliver change in their communities.

As you know, many of those trailblazing women came from local government.

Your female forbearers were representing their community in the first quarter of the last century – long before a woman was elected to Federal parliament.

In fact, your women pioneers in local government outpaced their sisters in Parliament by almost 20 years!

In many ways, we are indebted to women in local government.

We know that breaking down the barriers in local government was a critical step to boosting women’s leadership opportunities – and also a step to opening the door for women to our parliaments.

And for that, I, and I’m sure many of us here tonight, say: thank you.

Over the past 60 years, your Association has seen significant societal change – but there are significant reasons why yours is still a vitally relevant organisation today.

As you would know, while over half the local government workforce is female, only 20 per cent of senior management are women and only seven per cent of chief executives are women.  In the Australian Parliament, only a third of parliamentarians are women.

We have a long way to go – which is why I am so delighted that your association has taken such a powerful role in addressing the gender imbalance in leadership in this country.

Your Association has made a number of significant achievements, which this Government has been proud to support.

In the year 2000, as a result of the Victorian campaign, “Don’t Get Mad. Get Elected,” women were elected in all but three Victorian local government councils.

Ten years on, in 2010, we celebrated the Year of Women in Local Government, and the Association conceived the 50-50 Vision strategy.

The Vision is the driving force to get councils across Australia to address the gender balance of elected members and senior council staffing.

It is about setting achievable goals, implementing initiatives, capturing statistics and recognising those who enhance women’s participation in local government.

In addition, your Mentoring Network encourages men and women to work together to recognise and develop the talents and opportunities for both elected and employed women in the sector.

Encouraging men to contribute not only highlights the incredible talent pool of women in this sector but also allows men to be a part of the solution.

Yours is an inspiring vision – and one that, as a Government, we have been very proud to support.

We are also proud that local government continues to be a key partner for this Government, particularly in relation to advancing the status of women.

You deliver essential services to your communities, including child care, health and welfare services and facilities.

You are often closest to the grassroots, working hard to deliver the cultural change that we need to progress our gender equality agenda.

We should never under-estimate the power of ALGWA – you are remarkable advocates for your community.

I am proud to say that our government has delivered our first national paid parental leave scheme which came into force at the beginning of this year.

I know that your Association did a terrific amount of work supporting Paid Parental Leave and would like to thank Councillors Nicole Campbell and Juli Griffiths who championed the cause on behalf of your Association.

We also, of course, recognise how critical affordable, accessible and quality childcare is for Australian families – and particularly for women’s workforce participation.

We now fund an unlimited number of child care places to help providers expand existing services or create new services where demand exceeds supply.

I’m proud that we’ve delivered greater options, uncapping the number of childcare places which we fund- which has had tangible impacts such as the increase between September 2005 and September 2010, around 106 000 more children – or 78,000 families – have been using approved child care.  The number of approved long day care child care services has also increased by more than 1,100 over this period.

We have raised the Child Care Rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of parents’ out-of-pocket expenses and increased the maximum for each child in care to $7500 per year. We know this increased assistance is having a real impact for Australian families. In fact since 2004, out-of-pocket costs for families earning $75,000 have reduced from 13 per cent of their disposable income to 7 per cent in 2010.

I am proud to say that this Government has doubled funding for child care, making a record investment of $20 billion over the next four years.

We know though, that in so many cases it is local government who are working to support local childcare solutions, and it is ALGWA who keep this critical issue at the forefront of the agenda.

On so many issues critical to the progression of gender equality in Australia you are critical partners. For your passionate advocacy on behalf of your communities and for your quality service delivery, we thank you.

As an organisation, you can all look back proudly over the last 60 years.

The Australian Local Government Women’s Association has been responsible for so many innovative initiatives: the development of great mentoring programs, activities by Councils from the Tiwi Islands to Hobart, the development of the National Framework for Women in Local Government and the 50:50 Vision strategy.

You must all be very proud of your achievements to date and I have no doubt that Local Government will continue to lead the way in women’s representation and championing the status of women for the next 60 years.

Happy birthday!