Standing up for Canberra

International Women's Day

It is with great pleasure that I'm able to speak today about the importance of International Women's Day. It's a time to observe and reflect on the progress that we've made in attempting to achieve parity for women and also to focus on the fact there are many, many areas that still need addressing if we are to achieve real progress for women.

We're pressing for progress, and we need to keep pressing for progress, because there is still a lot that we need to do to ensure equality for women throughout the world.

I want to thank my colleague and friend the member for Newcastle for bringing this motion forward. I just want to comment on those opposite. We had an opportunity for five speakers on this motion. Two speakers on the opposite side have been blokes; one of them is a woman who hasn't fronted yet, as far as I'm aware; and there are still two opportunities that are going begging. There are still two opportunities to speak on International Women's Day, which those opposite can't bring themselves to do.

They can't muscle up a speech to talk about the inequality that faces women throughout Australia, throughout their communities and throughout the world. It's an absolute disgrace that those opposite cannot muscle up five speakers to speak on something as important as International Women's Day, something as important as Press for Progress, something as important as equality for women in their communities, in Australia and throughout the world.

In speaking very proudly on this motion, I acknowledge and support the sisters who have blazed the trails for us, who have led the way over decades in some hard-fought fights in their fight for fairness and equality. Thank you, sisters, for fighting the good fight over those many, many years, over many decades, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go, so we cannot rest on our laurels.

Each day, women are confronted with injustices at every level, be it the high rates of family violence, be it the pay gap, be it underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.

Every woman has a right to feel safe in her community and in her home. We know that in Australia one woman is killed by a current or former partner every week. In my own community, Canberra was devastated by the death of Tara Costigan at the hands of her partner. Tara was killed in 2015. She was a devoted mother of three children, and her life was stolen as a result of the scourge that is domestic violence in our community.

Unfortunately, Tara's story is not rare. It's one that many Australian women face each and every day as they fall victim to family violence. One of the real concerns that I have is the fact that these women are not just suffering at the hands of domestic violence but also don't feel that they can escape these abusive relationships—because of a lack of financial independence, because of a lack of economic opportunity, or because of a lack of somewhere safe to go in terms of a home.

Globally, less than 20 per cent of women own land and 70 per cent of people living in poverty are women. We have the responsibility of ensuring that women have viable plans for financial stability, including in retirement. Relying on a man for financial security is not a financial plan for the future. This is what I tell women and girls in my community endlessly: a man is not a financial plan.

Sisters, you have to become financially independent. You have to take control of your fertility if you are to determine your own future, if you are to have choice in life and if you are to have opportunity in life. If you want to pursue the dreams that you've had since childhood, you have to be financially independent and you need to take control of your fertility.

And the framework, the premise, behind all of that is education and having access to education, no matter what your background is, no matter how much your parents earn, no matter what your gender is, no matter what race you are and no matter what your religion is.

That's why it's deeply concerning to learn that our early educators are struggling to be treated seriously and struggling to get decent pay and conditions. We've got a campaign rolling out this week that acknowledges the significant contribution these educators make to educating for our future and to ensuring that the children of our nation have opportunities to get a decent education.

I encourage Australians to support their campaign.