International Women's Day 2017

I would like to begin by commending the member for Newcastle for putting forward this motion. It is a very important motion. We still have to have a conversation about the situation facing Australian women, women in the region and women throughout the world. Yes, there have been some achievements made but there is still a lot more work that needs to be done. So I commend the member for putting this motion forward. 

I also commend my Labor sisters for engaging in this conversation, in this Listening Tour that is setting the agenda. I commend the shadow minister for women for leading that initiative and look forward to meeting with my female Labor colleagues on setting the agenda and listening to Australian women on what their needs are for the future.

I love International Women's Day, because it gives me a chance to catch up with hundreds of women, to celebrate the achievements of our sisters and to reflect on the work that still needs to be done—and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done—to ensure that we have gender equality for women and girls in Australia and right throughout the world. This year's theme for International Women's Day was 'Be Bold for Change'. It was a message that encouraged women and girls to believe in themselves, to believe that they have the right to speak up—in a way, a responsibility to speak up—to agitate for change and to realise change. It was a message that encouraged them to be fearless, to be courageous, to be brave, to stare down the naysayers and the critics and to stare down those who prefer their women and their girls timid and acquiescent.

I attended a number of functions over the course of the week and hosted nine extraordinary Canberra women at the annual UN Women's Day Lunch, which always packs out the National Convention Centre. This year was no different, as women and girls from across Canberra heard about the challenges faced by our sisters in Pakistan and the Pacific. I also attended the annual Soroptimist International breakfast, where another packed house of women heard from Kate Taplin, from the Women's Legal Centre ACT. Kate discussed the Turnbull government's cuts to this community legal service, which will mean that her organisation, like organisations right throughout Australia, will lose one-third of their core funding in 12 weeks time. So outraged were the women in the room —because there were not many shrinking violets in that room—that they organised a spontaneous petition. This petition calls on the Turnbull government to immediately reverse the cuts to the Women's Legal Centre ACT— cuts that will have a significant impact on the services provided by the centre; services that include advice on legal problems such as divorce and separation, disputes over children, property settlement, domestic violence, child support, going to court, discrimination, unfair dismissal, employment rights and compensation for criminal injuries.

The centre is run by women for women who do not qualify for legal aid. The centre looks after some of the most vulnerable people in Canberra and provides one of our most fundamental human rights—that is, the access to justice for all regardless of means. I join with my soroptimist international sisters and other Canberra women in calling on the Turnbull government to reverse the cuts to the Women's Legal Centre ACT. If the Turnbull government can afford $50 billion in a tax cut to big business, it can afford $30 million to reverse these cuts. The member for Fisher was talking about commitments made in a range of areas. Well, I ask the Turnbull government to commit to reversing these cuts to women's legal services, community legal services. These are vulnerable women; these are women who cannot access legal aid. This is the only opportunity that they have to access their fundamental human right—that is, access to justice regardless of means.

Not a day goes by when I do not meet an extraordinary Canberra woman doing extraordinary things and making a difference to our community, our nation and our world—often in a very quiet way. I always thought their knowledge and experience needs to be shared to inspire and empower young women and girls. So I have bottled their wisdom and advice, and have released it in 'Can Do Women', which I launched on my Facebook page on International Women's Day. At least once a week, I will feature an extraordinary Canberra woman who will answer questions—questions I am frequently asked in mentoring sessions. So, Canberra, please have a look at Facebook, please have a look at Can Do Women and get behind and support fabulous Canberra women, fearless Canberra women.

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