Australia's Country Statement
16-18 November 2009
Warm congratulations on your election.
It is my pleasure to address the Commission today.
Australia welcomes this opportunity to review our region’s implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action over the past fifteen years.
We affirm our commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly, and note the importance of the link between the Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals and our own regional and national gender commitments. We acknowledge and affirm the statement by the Minister from Palau on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum.
Australia welcomes the firm decision to strengthen the United Nations’ institutional arrangements to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. We support the effort to establish a composite UN entity for equality and the advancement of women and urge the swift appointment of a competent Under-Secretary-General to build a dynamic entity able to fulfil its mandate.
Over recent years, the Australian Government has taken a number of important steps both domestically and internationally toward gender equality and the advancement of women.
Internationally, advancing gender equality is integral to all aspects of Australian’s foreign aid program. The Government is committed to ensuring that the needs and interests of women, men, girls and boys, are considered in all development activities.
As part of this commitment, Australia has signed a Partnership Framework with UNIFEM aimed at strengthening efforts to achieve gender equality and reducing violence against women in the developing world.
In the Pacific, the Government is helping to promote women’s roles in leadership through a $6.2 million commitment over five years in partnership with UNIFEM Pacific.
Australia is strongly committed to working internationally to address violence against women.
In August, our Prime Minister and leaders of Pacific Islands committed to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence at the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns.
The Government recognises that the provision of comprehensive reproductive health care and family planning services are a critical element in improving the health of women in the developing world, particularly given our region’s poor progress toward Millennium Development Goal Five.
To this end, it has released Family Planning and the Aid Program: Guiding Principles, which have strengthened our support for comprehensive reproductive health and family planning services for women in developing countries.
Australia is proud of the robust institutional mechanisms that underpin the empowerment of Australian women.
We have three agencies that form our national women’s machinery. We have the Australian Government Office for Women which promotes equality across government and an Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency which focuses on working proactively with the private sector. We have a powerful advocate in our Sex Discrimination Commissioner, a member of our national Human Rights Commission, as well as State and Territory counterparts.
Importantly, Australia acceded to the CEDAW Optional Protocol on International Women’s Day this year.
Yet despite these achievements, we continue to face challenges in the domestic implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
We recognise that there is much more work to be done for Indigenous Australians who experience considerably poorer outcomes than other Australians on most socio-economic indicators. The Prime Minister’s apology, on behalf of all Australians, to Indigenous Australians signaled the beginning in a new era in Australia. In April of this year Australia took another important step by announcing our support for the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Violence against women continues to occur at unacceptable levels in Australia and throughout our region. Our Prime Minister takes a zero tolerance stance toward violence against women and the Government is developing an historic National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women. The Government has strengthened Australia’s response to people trafficking domestically. We continue working to strengthen our response to UNSCR 1325, on women, peace and security and UNSCR 1820, on sexual violence in armed conflict.
At the same time, the Government released the Stop Violence report which sets out Australia’s framework for reducing violence against women in Melanesia and East Timor.
Australia recognises the need to strengthen women’s leadership in Australia and our region.
In Australia about one third of parliamentarians are women and for the first time a woman occupies the position of Governor General – our highest public office. Three of the seven judges in our highest court are women. Nevertheless, women’s representation on private sector boards in Australia is low at around 8.3 per cent.
We have more to do.
Improving economic outcomes for women is also critical to gender equality.
The global recession has affected women and men differently. Our responses must be sensitive to these differences.
This year, the Government announced the introduction of a Paid Parental Leave scheme in Australia – a crucial step toward building equality between men and women. And our new industrial relations law highlights women’s workplace rights.
Finally, climate change is one of the most urgent issues of our time. Women as leaders in their communities are a valuable resource in efforts to cope with the effects of climate change. Strategies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change must involve women as well as men, and take into account their needs and interests. This includes consideration of the specific and invaluable roles that women play in promoting household and community sustainability.
Madame Chair in conclusion,
This review of the Beijing Platform for Action is an opportunity for us all to reflect on our achievements and to identify ongoing critical challenges.
Australia’s commitment is unwavering, as we continue to build on our achievements toward equality between men and women.