In Parliament

Motion - International Women's Day



Wednesday, 8 March 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (12:54):

Today the Parliament rises, as it should, to acknowledge and celebrate International Women’s Day. It is a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

As we think through the importance of the last 100 years and the importance of the motion and what we stand for today, we think about the equality movement and we think about social change and the way that social change happens in our society.

A number of speakers have eloquently spoken about that last hundred years, but I would like to make a few points in relation to the future and the way that we can progress and move forward and make social change in the future, because it is something that our Parliament should think through as to whether or not we as a Parliament are connected in the community in a way that brings through the social change that is needed in a timely way, brings through the changes in laws and brings through the changes in culture.

I would like to raise a few instances of women who have made those changes – for example, Cathy Freeman, who at the Commonwealth Games, in the victory lap of the 200-metre sprint, carried both the Australian and Aboriginal flags, in contrast to the Olympic committee’s protocol. What an incredible movement of power we watched as she did that.

Or there is Chanel Contos, who asked on Instagram whether anybody had been sexually assaulted and initially had 200 people reply ‘yes’. She then started an online petition which saw 45,000 signatures, mostly from children. Her work went on to lead the nation in terms of consent-teaching in schools around Australia and reform of sexual assault reporting by police.

Or there is Tayla Harris, who posted a simple photo of herself at work kicking a football as a significant women’s football team player and was harassed to the point of reconsidering whether or not she could even have social media accounts. She has spoken publicly about the effect of the behavior on her mental health. She said at the time:

Here’s a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals.

I think her words were words that so many of us felt, and we were I think as a community disgusted by what she experienced.

Or there is Grace Tame, who stood up and had Tasmania’s Evidence Act 2001 changed following a court action. The abuser in her case had bragged about sexual assault crimes in relation to her – outrageous. She stood up, and after a long fight the law in Tasmania was changed.

But there are even other instances – and I think we will see some of these social changes play out over coming years – like Jelena Dokic, who stood up recently
in relation to body-shaming and the type of body-shaming she has received, again online, by anonymous, hidden people who hide their names.

I think as a Parliament we need to think about these women and say, ‘This motion shouldn’t just be about celebrating the past.’

We as a Parliament need to reflect on the types of changes these women have pushed for and how we can do better to ensure that the changes we need to see happen. The pushes that are happening in the community from many strong, young women – we need to reflect on how we can see our laws changed and reformed, how we can see our culture as a community change and what we as members of this place can do to ensure that. Because we are not here as peers of the community, we are part of the community. And what all of these women have shown us is that it took too long for them to achieve what they were pushing to achieve.

Many of these changes happened, which is fantastic, but we should also reflect not only on the past but on what we can do as a Parliament and as parliamentary representatives in the future to make sure that social change and equality happen more quickly.