SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

8 March 2019

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY BREAKFAST

ADELAIDE

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(Acknowledgments omitted)

International Women’s Day is a day of celebration.

It is a day where we honour the women who have come before us.

And it is a day where we take stock and reflect on the challenges that lie ahead.

This Breakfast is also a day of significance.

By coming together – all 2500 of us – we put the principle of women supporting women into action.

Friends and colleagues gather together and book their tables – many who return year after year.

And each year we welcome the next generation of feminists – with over 360 attendees from 27 schools across South Australia.

A special mention must go to Blackwood High School – the winning entrants in our video competition this year on “Why Gender Equality is important to you”.

This year is an important year for South Australia.

We celebrate 125 years of universal suffrage, the result of a campaign to enshrine the right for women to vote.

A campaign which was led by women like Mary Lee and Catherine Helen Spence.

It was a campaign that made South Australian women, including Indigenous women, the most highly enfranchised women in the world.

South Australia was the first place in the world where women could both vote and stand for parliament, something we are very, very proud of.

This was a foundational moment in our nation’s history.

And let us not forget that demands for universal suffrage formed part of the marches that were the foundation for the day we celebrate today.

125 years later – we are much further along the path to equality.

But just as our great-grandmothers fought the battle for suffrage, our daughters will continue to fight the battle for equal representation in our parliaments.

But of course equal representation is only one part of the challenge for women today.

Despite being equal in the eyes of the law women still have a 14.1 per cent gender pay gap.

Women still retire with $113,000 less in superannuation on average than men.

Women are still much more likely to experience violence, or to die, from the hand of their most intimate partners.

These issues affect women of all ages, all classes, all ethnicities, and all backgrounds and sexualities.

That is why it is so important for those of us who have the capacity to deliver change to work together.

Instead of shying away from controversy we should build bridges and find common ground.

In our state women’s sexual and reproductive health remains a question of criminal law instead of a health issue.

Many years ago, Labor women like Steph Key, led the way by arguing for full decriminalisation of abortion.

I am pleased to see that Stephen Marshall’s Government, Tammy Franks and women in the Labor Caucus are now seeking to chart a path to full decriminalisation.

Because when women feel insecure about their reproductive choices, when women don’t feel safe in their homes or on the streets, when women lack the financial security to make decisions that enable them to lead fulfilling lives, we are still some way off achieving gender equality.

As we turn our gaze outwards we recognise that the challenges for women in our region, and those beyond, are even more existential.

We know that there has been progress – maternal mortality worldwide has dropped by 44 per cent between 1990 and 2015.

But according to the World Health Organisation, 99 per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Just pause for a moment to consider that. 99 per cent of all women who don’t survive childbirth are in developing countries and we can do something about that.

It is one of the most profound examples of the disparity between our challenges.

Ultimately, women’s participation in the economy, in our parliament, in our community, our full participation, can only be achieved when women are confident and secure in their most basic rights.

That is why we need to invest in women’s security, in women’s economic security, in women’s personal security, in women’s health and women’s education and why we must work to ensure a world free from gender based violence.

This is why it remains so important to support the work of organisations like UN Women and that is why I thank all of you for your continued support of this Breakfast.

It is why I hope that 125 years from now, those that come after us will be acknowledging more legacies that South Australian women have generated.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.