11:06, 26/03/2018: Thank you to the member for Newcastle for calling for this debate today. International Women’s Day is perhaps the most important issue day in the calendar. Women are half of our population, but not half of this parliament and not half of most workplaces. They aren’t equal to men in pay and, devastatingly, they are dramatically overrepresented in statistics regarding domestic violence and sexual assault. This year we have seen the rise of the #MeToo movement, outing numerous predatory males who for years have been feted as exemplars.
My mother was a teacher. When she married my father she was forced to leave her job because having a female breadwinner just wouldn’t do. Decades later my sister followed her into the teaching profession. On her marriage in the sixties, she was downgraded to a temporary employee. Today, thankfully, these are both abhorrent ideas that would be rightly criticised, so we have come a long way or, as when women’s professional tennis began and Virginia Slims was their advertiser, the motto was: ‘You’ve come a long way, Baby.’ But there is still much further to go.
I was fortunate enough to celebrate the day at Medtronic, one of our great local medical companies. They put on a breakfast to commemorate the day, and I was honoured to be invited to speak. There was a lot of talk and aspiration about teaching gender equality in the workplace, but Medronic have put their money where their mouth is, with over 50 per cent of their employees being women and 40 per cent of the executive positions held by women. The sector, more broadly, much of which is based locally, also boasts fantastic results in this area. Health care has one of the highest proportions of women in senior leadership roles across any industry, with 70 per cent, according to the recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency report.
I would like to take this opportunity today to recognise the thousands of incredible women in the electorate I have the honour of representing. Bennelong is an incredible electorate with a fiercely vibrant community. Everywhere you look, we have people working together with businesses leading the world and strong cohesive narratives. But look a little closer: so much of this is because of the women who are giving their all to make our community a better place with people like Roseanna Gallo, who is giving our community a voice and getting us all to sing in tune together—a work in progress. Or, on the sporting field, Anne Doring has been getting girls into netball and sport by the thousands for decades. Every Saturday, through winter, Meadowbank courts are packed to the rafters with players from Anne’s Eastwood Ryde Netball Association—one of the largest in the country. There are also groups like Ryde District Mums, promoting women across our community, giving them support and ensuring they have access to everything they need.
Of course, our community is one of the most ethnically diverse in the country, and there are many women in the many community groups representing their different diasporas. Agnes Shim from the Korean Women’s Association and the ladies of the Australian Asian Association of Bennelong, including Melissa Foong and Ester Lee, exemplify this. These groups help new arrivals to fit into their new home and ensure those who have been here for a long time retain memories of their roots. They are responsible for the vitality of our community and we can’t thank them enough.
Bennelong is also home to over 14,000 small businesses, many thriving and many run and supported by women. There are clearly too many to name, but I’d like to highlight the great work done by some who bring this all together. Nora Etmekdjian has been a stalwart of the Ryde small business community for many years now and was integral to the success of the West Ryde Easter fair, which was celebrated this past weekend. Similarly, Lydia Scuglia and her sister Marcella Letteri are small business owners who manage to juggle their workload with work for the Riverside Business Forum, which brings together and supports businesses across the electorate.
Time is short, shorter than I hoped. So many of the people I would like to mention here today, I can’t. Many know who they are, and I hope all the women that I deal with through representing Bennelong know how grateful I am to them. Before I conclude, I do need to mention my family, in which my son and I are thoroughly outnumbered. Thank you to all the women in my life: my mother, my three sisters, and now my daughters, who take up the task.