Statement delivered by the Hon Jackie Kelly, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
(Head, Australian Delegation to the Commission)
Australia is honoured to be here to join with other member states to further progress the commitments to women made at Beijing Plus Five and to contribute to this year's meeting.
The Australian Delegation looks forward to opportunities to help build stronger cooperation so that together we can continue to achieve real improvements in the lives of women and girls around the world.
The two theme areas for this meeting are of major importance to women. Australia believes that it is vital for the Commission to forge future actions that will deliver lasting improvements for women and girls in these areas.
Today, I am very pleased to outline the measures Australia has introduced to progress the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and Beijing Plus Five Outcomes Document to advance equality for women in Australia and around the world.
The Australian Government's strong commitment to gender equality can be measured by the continuing important advances for women in Australia.
- Over 4.2 million women are engaged in paid employment in Australia, with 68 per cent of working age women and 56.3 per cent of all working age females participating in the paid work force.
- 55 per cent of students commencing higher education courses in 2001 were female.
- The gender gap is closing between men's and women's earnings, with women earning 84 per cent of men's full-time average ordinary time earnings in December 2002.
- 33 per cent of Australia's 1.6 million small business operators are women.
- 26 per cent of Commonwealth parliamentarians are women, almost double the international average of 13.8 per cent.
- Women hold 33.9 per cent of Commonwealth Board positions.
Over the past twelve months, the Australian Government has continued to support implementation of Australia's Beijing Plus Five Action Plan 2001-2005 . The national Office for Women has conducted a Beijing Plus Five roundtable with senior officials and one-on-one meetings with heads of government departments. The forums encouraged departments to integrate gender into their business and deliver further improvements for women.
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Eliminating violence in the lives of women and girls
Eliminating violence from the lives of women and girls is a major priority for the Australian Government. In 1997, the Australian Prime Minister launched the first National Summit on Domestic Violence and established the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence initiative (a $50 million commitment).
The initiative supports the development, trialing and evaluation of new approaches to preventing domestic violence. Some recent innovative projects include: finding safe ways to reduce women's homelessness; raising young people's awareness of healthy relationships; and working with perpetrators of violence, through techniques such as mentoring and early intervention support in crisis situations.
The Government is funding innovative measures to tackle family violence in Indigenous communities. Local Indigenous organisations are being funded to develop better ways of responding to and preventing family violence. Some key projects include: engaging young people and elders to find culturally appropriate alternatives to using violence and restoring self worth; and building community capacity for Indigenous leaders to take the lead against family violence.
In 2001, the Australian Government established the National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault , a commitment of $16.5 million. The initiative aims to: promote cultural change in attitudes and behaviours to reduce the incidence of sexual assault; and to establish an early intervention and prevention framework across all levels of government and the community. Some key measures include: an Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault; a National Community Awareness Campaign; Australia's participation in the first International Violence Against Women Survey ; development of a Sexual Assault Information Development Plan ; sponsorship of national mainstream media-based arts festivals, inviting young people to express their views about sexual assault to the Government.
Australia's aid programme
Australia is working with partner governments and NGOs in developing countries to find ways to change attitudes towards violence against women and children. The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is the Secretariat of the Pacific Women's Network Against Violence Against Women. The Centre supports efforts to eliminate domestic violence in the region including by coordinating the services and advocacy of 23 agencies across 11 Pacific Island states. Australia also assists the Vanuatu Women's Centre to fund mobile clinics which give women access to counselling, education and legal advisory services.
The unique needs of women in post-conflict situations are being supported through a number of projects in our region. In Bougainville, the Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency disseminates information about women's rights and provides counselling and legal advice. In East Timor, Australia provides capacity building support for community based mental health services.
Australia is very concerned about the continuing escalation of trafficking against women and girls around the world, and continues to support international, regional and national efforts to tackle this serious crime. Last year, Australia and Indonesia co-hosted a regional ministerial conference on 'People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime' in Bali. The Government also funds a range of anti-trafficking projects including one that provides information exchanges for early warning systems and the apprehension and prosecution of traffickers in Asia.
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Women and information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the media
Women's access and participation in the media and information and communication technologies (ICTs) is also a very important priority for Australia. Australia has achieved some significant successes here. Women in Australia are well represented as senior decision makers in several public broadcasting and media agencies, comprising between 40 to 60 per cent of many of these. Approximately 71 per cent of Australian women aged 16 and over have access to the internet compared to 73 per cent of men. Australia has the third highest level of female internet access in the world.
The Australian Government supports a range of innovative measures to increase women's access and participation in the media and ICTs such as: the Women and IT Scholarship ; the Australian Broadcasting Commission Women in Engineering (Broadcasting) Scholarship ; and an industry wide Women in Television initiative.
The Government supports a suite of information resources for women. Australia's first Women's Portal - to be launched at the end of this month - provides a single point entry to access online government information, research, services and resources that are relevant to women. Another first, is a women's data warehouse - Window on Women - an online facility for accessing data and research for and about women across a variety of issues of importance to women.
Australia will continue to support efforts aimed at ensuring that women in Australia and around the world have the adequate protection and support to give them access to the full range of opportunities and choices in today's world.
The Australian Government recognises that there are still many challenges ahead, particularly in regard to violence in the lives of women and girls and other human rights violations. Much more needs to be done to eradicate and better respond to these crimes that are a daily reality around the world - trafficking, female genital mutilation, gender-based persecution particularly during armed conflicts, 'so called' honour crimes, domestic violence and sexual assault.
My Delegation is particularly keen for this CSW Session to focus on efforts that will lead to specific, tangible outcomes for women. Australia is looking forward to contributing toward this. We are very interested in exploring ways that the United Nations can help take forward global strategies from Beijing Plus Five - such as a global 'Zero Tolerance' Campaign Against Violence Against Women and international indicators on violence.
The Australian Delegation looks forward to working on these challenges during this meeting. We hope to be able to contribute to the development of innovative and practical approaches that will deliver lasting improvements for women around the world. We look forward to working together with you to further advance women's human rights around the world over the coming days and into the future.