International Women's Day
In light of International Women’s Day next month, I rise today to speak in full support of empowering women to reach their full potential. As a member of the Liberal Party, I am deeply committed to the rights of the individual. I believe fully in the great human freedoms that have given us unequalled prosperity, just and tolerant societies, and a flourishing of all that is good and beautiful in human nature. These include the freedom to worship, to think, to speak, to choose, to be ambitious, to be independent, to be industrious, to acquire skill, and to seek and earn rewards.
I specifically wish to speak today about local Canberrans who are doing important things to help empower women. There are so many examples that I could share, but I have time to mention just a few.
I express my thanks to the Migrant and Refugee Service and the great work they do assisting women newly arrived in Canberra from overseas. In many cases, these women do not speak English very well and/or lack other skills necessary to enter the workforce in Canberra. In Response, MARSS providing all kinds of English courses, including English for Living and English for Employment. They also teach computer skills classes, driving classes and sewing classes. In addition, they run an outreach program just for women. I have personally met with dozens of female migrants and refugees in Canberra who have been empowered by this assistance, finding both employment and confidence in their adopted home. This strengthens these women as individuals and also blesses their families.
I also wish to thank Canberran Sophie Fisher and her brilliant Girls on Bikes program. Whilst working as a tutor, Ms Fisher realised that most of her migrant and refugee students had never learnt to ride bicycles. With a great desire to help empower these women with increased mobility as well as an increased sense of community, Ms Fisher obtained a grant from the Canberra YWCA to develop a free learn-to-ride program for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds. The five-week program includes a fee bike and helmet and helps bring together more established Canberrans with these new arrivals. What a fantastic idea!
I likewise wish to say thank you to Initiatives for Women in Need, a volunteer Indo-Australian organisation based here in the ACT that seeks to support and advocate for women and children who come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. I have attended several of their events, and Dr Madhumita Iyengar and her team do an amazing job of raising awareness about violence against women, gender inequality, discrimination against migrant women and similar issues.
Lastly, I wish to publicly acknowledge Westfield Belconnen’s Local Heroes for 2019 – all of them powerful women committed to empowering others. Though only 21 years old, ANU student Camille Schloeffel raised funds and launched the STOP Campaign designed to educate students and help prevent sexual violence. Well done, Ms Schloeffel!
Hannah Andrevski was herself on maternity leave when she felt inspired to help needy families to obtain essential items like safety-checked car seats, cots, prams, clothing and toys. With no previous experience, Ms Andrevski recruited volunteers to assist her and successfully launched Roundabout Canberra, assisting more than 400 children within the first 12 months. Again, well done!
Finally, Natalie Malcolmson is a full-time carer for her husband, who experiences borderline personality disorder or BPD. Ms Malcomson not only learnt all she could to help herself provide better care for her partner but then started BPD Awareness ACT to help provide community support to others in similar circumstances. What an example to all of us!
Madam Speaker, I share these specific examples to remind all of us that empowering women is more than just what we say in this place. We all have roles to play in our communities, in our workplaces, in our families and in our personal lives. I am grateful for good organisations and inspired women who do so much to lift, serve and empower others. I hope that we will each contribute to this important work. Thank you.