The Hon. J.S. LEE (14:52):
My question is to the Minister for Human Services about celebrations for the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in South Australia. Can the minister please explain to the council why marking this momentous occasion is important in promoting women's leadership and equality amongst both Australians and our international neighbours?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:52):
I thank the honourable member for her question and for her ongoing interest in this issue. As I have stated in this place before, a range of state government, local government and community organisations are very involved in the celebrations for the 125th anniversary of suffrage in South Australia.
I was really pleased that the South Australian state office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade organised an event here at Parliament House last week on Friday 31 May that included a range of students from Pacific nations who are in Australia studying. The Australian government, through the Australian aid program, funds a number of programs to support women's leadership and equality in the Pacific. Women's empowerment is a key component of Pacific regional programs that support women to fully participate freely and safely in legal, economic and social life.
There are a number of outstanding women leaders and scholars from Pacific countries studying in Adelaide, and celebrating 125 years of suffrage was an excellent opportunity for the students to learn about South Australia's social and political heritage and build closer ties between South Australia and the Pacific into the future.
I was privileged to be one of the guest speakers, and was able to tell the story of suffrage and the lead-up to the vote. We also heard from Dr Sharman Stone, the Ambassador for Women and Girls appointed by the federal government. She advised that 80 per cent of the $4 billion to be spent in that portfolio is to ensure that women receive the support they need. Women's representation is only about 5.6 per cent in Pacific nations compared with some 30 per cent globally, and one of their key roles is to eliminate gender-based violence.
We also heard from Anna Apop, who is one of the students from Papua New Guinea. She was able to advise us how her grandfather was around during the independence from Australia and involved in Kokoda. The conclusion we reached was that leadership change is incremental. We would all like to see greater representation of women in our parliaments, particular in Papua New Guinea, which has actually no female representation at all from 111 parliamentarians.
In those situations, the advocacy of the women's non-government organisations has been extremely important. From there, we have been able to draw parallels with South Australia, where the non-government organisations were incredibly important in women gaining the right to vote and, as we saw as recently as last evening, in terms of issues that are very important to women.
We always need to reflect with these things that there's a long way to go but also to look at how far we have come. I was also able to refer to our previous clerk, Mrs Jan Davis, who was very active in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, assisting a range of nations in the global Pacific with their constitutions, governance and a range of areas. I think there is potentially interest in engagement from DFAT with Mrs Davis as well to see what further connections may be made.
We also had a number of people who were from Timor-Leste, some of whom are studying at Flinders University. We wish all of the students who were in this program the best and hope that they can take some learnings back with them, which will assist them in their leadership back home into the future.