Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Students Take Over Parliament! Spread the word to schools

 



The outstanding annual student event My Vote My Voice, conducted by the National Council of Women of Victoria, is being held in the Legislative Council Chamber of Parliament House Melbourne on Monday August 9th 2021, 9:00-12:30pm.

Students from government and independent schools in Melbourne and Geelong, covering the full spread of multicultural backgrounds in our Victorian community, will address the topic: My Vote My Voice: Democracy - Past; Present; Future.  Is politics structured to benefit society in the future?  This is designed to encourage students to consider what the future political system may look like in order to benefit all of society in the future. 

Students may carry out research, collect data from their peers and others to gain views on the future of our political system. Students are invited to make a group presentation of their findings in the Legislative Council Chamber.

At this event, we will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the forerunner to the League of Women Voters, Australia and the 75th+1 of LWV Victoria. To do this, there will be a speaker sharing the history of voting in Victoria, when women were first able to vote, when voting became compulsory and the part LWVV played.

The quality of past student presentations has been outstanding and inspiring, so there is no reason why these students should not make a genuine and valuable contribution to the challenges of improving the participation of Victorian Youth in our democratic processes.


For further information please contact Pam Hammond, Convenor

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Workplace Gender Equality by Guest Speaker Libby Lyons

NCWV April Forum Guest Speaker Libby Lyons

At the April 2021 Council meeting, guest speaker: Ms Libby Lyons, Director, Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) 
 dealing with non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees – including Victorian organisations, spoke about gender Equality. 



She was appointed in October 2015. She has chosen to leave her current position, after 5.5 years. On a personal note, Libby is granddaughter of Australian PM Joseph Lyons (1932-39) and equally eminent Dame Enid Lyons MP.

Libby is excited that new legislation in gender equality is coming but sexual harassment is common in the workplace. WGEA’s budget is $5 million per annum and she is proud of the many achievements of her “great staff”. Data collected annually over 8 years, from 4.3million employees in 11,000 organisations with 100 plus employees, makes Australia the envy of the world.

There has been improvement for women in 5 of the past 7 years. However there is concern that the reality of gender equality is stalling in the last 2 with some complacency, box ticking, apathy and loss of momentum.

Action plans are needed as gender pay gap has increased by 5%, a result in part of higher bonuses, shift allowances etc paid to men, hiring biases and women moving in and out of the workforce to have children. However, more companies are analysing their actual pay gaps to identify that a gap exists. Some deny having a gap and are shocked when data shows the actual difference in take-home pay for women. While equal pay is required under legislation, gender pay gap equals the average difference in pay to men versus women, such as more men in management roles, women’s time-outs, part-time work of women which is 3 times that of men, fewer promotions.

Pre-COVID most women worked within a gender equality policy, 40% of managers were women, 45% of promotions were to women but in the ranks of CEOs, only 18.3% were women. Sadly, the glass ceiling is alive and well. No paid parental leave was paid by 25% of companies (and thus no superannuation accruing during leave). Libby believes that men should be paid parental leave, particularly so that the female partner can return to work sooner if desired.

Victoria leads the way in gender equality and 70% of companies in Victoria have a Domestic Family Violence Policy. Ms Lyons spoke about the complimentary work done by SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equity), WGEA and the Victorian Gender Equity Commission to address gender equity without replicating employer reporting obligations.

Ms Lyons highlighted the following

1. Provision of affordable childcare which is a State Government issue, saying childcare should be an add-on to universal education for children.

2. Paid parental leave should exist for all eligible parents. Men need to be able to take parental leave to free up their partner to return to work if desired.

3. Flexible working hours for men should be normalised. However, men tend to be present in person in the workplace more often than women, making decisions and sharing ideas. Women may miss out on promotions at times through not requesting it, or being on leave.

Middle age is now defined at around 56 and we are not deemed “elderly” until we reach 80. Many want to work into their 60s but are overlooked for being too old, with some young people missing jobs due to inexperience! The plan is for date of birth of employees to be collected to assist in following the career trajectory of individuals, age of various groups and the age at which people leave jobs, to help policy development. This will be vital data.

Data regarding training against harassment and discrimination is not available. Many women are angry about discrimination and concerned about treatment of women in the justice and legal system being dominated by men, with too often women deemed to be the “guilty party”.

Most men are good so we should not develop a women vs men mentality. The Federal Government is beginning to see the need for change with PM Scott Morrison appointing more women and to new positions. We must bring men with us, not push them away.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Equal Opportunities for all Women in Australia and Overseas by Guest Speaker Dr Niki Vincent



At the February 2021 Council Meeting, guest speaker, 
Dr Niki Vincent, appointed Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector for Victoria in September 2020, spoke about her new role and passion for equal opportunities for all women in Australia and overseas She shared a little of her own story, telling us that she left home at 15, was married at 18 and had four children by 28, but had not let obstacles stand in her way, fighting for better conditions for women, especially those who are working and caring alone for their families, while men advance without the dual role of homemaker and primary carer. Some employers do not make allowances for women’s unique situation or for the constraints imposed more significantly on them by COVID-19 . There is also no measure of unpaid care. 

The new [Victorian] Gender Equality Act that comes into law from 31 March 2021 excites Dr Vincent as it covers the work practices and gender equity realities of 300 Public Service entities with more than 50 employees imposing mandatory Gender Equality Action Plans with indicators including gender composition, recruitment and promotion policies and practices, leave, and gender pay equity. Dr Vincent told us that there is at least 10% less pay for women in similar jobs in the Public Service at present. The effectiveness of the implementation of each entity’s Gender Equality Action Plans will be audited by her Department every four years and entities are required to self-report their progress every two years. Dr Vincent informed us that she and her team are working closely with unions and the Victorian Human Rights Commissioner. The introduction of the Act will be accompanied by a travelling “roadshow” led by her, including training for leaders who will train others. She is optimistic that awareness of inequality for women in Victoria will increase and be addressed, but has grave concerns for women in third-world countries.

Link to the Gender Equality Commission in Victoria:

Gender impact assessments | Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector

Gender impact assessments from 31 March 2021. 

Guidance for defined entities to comply with the Act 2020. 

Tools and resources are located at Gender Equity Victoria Advocacy Toolkit - Gen Vic; Visit Gender Equity Vitoria for guidelines on gender advocacy in the community. Advocacy is part of a broader movement to: • advance gender equity within Victoria; • promote better health outcomes for women and girls in our ; • prevent violence against women and girls before it happens.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

60th Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony, 2021

60th Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony, 2021 was held at the Women’s Peace Garden, Kensington, a beautiful garden created by women in the International Year of Peace in 1986. This annual event celebrates Victorian Pioneer Women, conducted by the National Council of Women of Victoria, to acknowledge past and present women pioneers and includes a colour party and flag raising by Girl Guides Victoria and the singing of the National Anthem.



This year, the focus was on Victorian Pioneer Women in Medical Research

There have been many women working in medical research over the past 100+ years including: Fannie Eleanor Williams, the first female medical research scientist at the Walter and Eliza Institute, and the first bacteriologist and serologist. She was an expert in dysentery due to her research during WW1, and was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross for her work. She co-founded the Red Cross Blood Bank. Dora Lush, an accomplished bacteriologist, was a close collaborator with Sir Macfarlane Burnet 1934-39 researching diseases including influenza, herpes infections and myxomatosis. 

Guest Speaker, Professor Susan Sawyer, Chair of Adolescent Health, Department of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne, research fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, spoke on three themes: 

Firstly, the importance of investing in medical research, and the value of evidence informed public health policies exemplified by reminding us of some of the highlights of our 2020 pandemic year. 

The second theme was about the strong track record of Victorian women in medical research, sharing the achievements of two remarkable Victorian women pioneers of medical research, one, Vera Scantlebury Brown, in research and public policy from 100 years ago and the other in virology, Dr Ruth Bishop, from 50 years ago. 

Thirdly, Susan shared her background in ground-breaking adolescent health and medicine. 

>> Click here to read Professor Susan Sawyer, speech





Wednesday, 23 September 2020

August Council Meeting Speaker: The Honourable Diana Bryant AO, QC

 


Diana retired as Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia in 2017 after 13 years, and 4 years prior to that as inaugural Chief Federal Magistrate of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia (now Federal Circuit Court of Australia).

Prior to her appointment to the Bench in 2000, she worked as a solicitor and barrister for 23 years in the area of family law. She was one of two Hague Network Judges for Australia in relation to the Hague Children’s Conventions and is Australia’s representative and Chair, international Working Group for The Hague Conference on Private International Law in relation to Child Abduction Convention.

She spoke on the review of the Family Law Court, by informing the meeting that the original Bill to merge the Family Court with the Federal Circuit Court was withdrawn. There were many submissions received and amendments included, incorporating recommendations from these submissions. The updated Bill has gone to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee who will report to Parliament in November. This is Parliament working positively to ensure appropriate change occurs. One structure has been recommended with two Divisions – Family Law and Federal Circuit, which Diana believes is desirable, more practical, one set of rules, with one point of entry and one head for both the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFC). This also provides regulation of the number of trained judges in the Family Court. Diana would like to see this legislated. Paragraph 11(2) provides that, by reason of knowledge, skills, experience and aptitude, the person is a suitable person to deal with matters of family law, including matters involving family violence…to be appointed as a Judge of the FCFC (Division 1) and exercise family law jurisdiction.

There is currently a separate Appellate Division for appeals in the Family Court with 3 judges. This is under review with the possibility of one judge hearing appeals. There needs to be consistency with the trial judge. Submissions from women’s organisations and the legal profession have been mainly supportive of amendments with some reservations e.g., risk assessment and need for robust qualification process. There needs to be transparency in appointment of judges, with proper process, with specialist judges.

Most issues suggested remain and are working well. The Appeals Division needs to be maintained. The Government is funding a risk screening and triage pilot in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta registries of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The pilot program is being implemented under the Lighthouse Project to provide guidance and support to families experiencing, or at risk of, family violence and other risk behaviours, much as a lighthouse provides light and navigation waypoint for ships.

July Council Meeting Speaker: Tiffany Overall, Advocacy and Human Rights Officer at Youthlaw


Speaker: Tiffany Overall, Advocacy and Human Rights Officer at Youthlaw, which is a specialist community legal centre in Victoria for young people under 25 years. Tiffany is also Convenor of Smart Justice for Young People (SJFYP).


Youthlaw works to achieve systemic responses to legal issues facing young people, through
casework, policy development, advocacy and preventative education programs, within a human rights and social justice framework. The SJFYP is a coalition of more than 50 organisations from the youth, legal and community sectors advocating for smart, evidence-based approaches to youth justice. Launched in November 2011, SJFYP promotes awareness of youth justice issues amongst the community, media and decision makers, to foster discussion, inform debate, encourage involvement of all concerned, and influence decision makers. Tiffany emphasised the focus on preventing young people becoming part of the justice system by supporting families and communities with strategies and practical methods to engage youth.

They also work with government departments and the police when young people do have
connection with the justice system. In the Youth Parole Board Annual Report, the Chairman
stated that “We need to be recognising and confronting that 60% of those incarcerated are from the disadvantaged especially Aboriginal, Maori and Pasifka, East African; but also child
protection and ex-child protection children and young people.” Tiffany regrets that the ‘law and
order’ narrative continues to hold, preventing a lot of what they are trying to do. Prison needs
to be the last resort, with cautioning and diversion programs a priority. The earlier young people have connection with the justice system, the more likely they are to get into crime. Solutions tailored to, and working together with, each community has shown to be the best way of avoiding this.

School engagement is area in which they collaboratively work with partners, focusing on early
intervention suited to specific cultures, with clear commitments and targeted programs.
Children being held on remand do not have access to education programs. SJFYP tries to support them back into education or work on release. For those incarcerated, restorative programs are an option for courts, including conferences linking perpetrator with victim.

There is a national campaign to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, as called for by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and implemented by several countries. Children’s brains are still developing at 10 years, especially in the part that controls
responsibility. Link to the National Campaign: https://www.raisetheage.org.au/

Monday, 29 June 2020

May Forum 2020: Gender Equity in Workplaces

The National Council of Women of Victoria’s May Forum was cancelled due to COVID-19. The focus “Gender Equity in Workplaces”, instead became the topic for our May ZOOM Council Meeting. 

One of the proposed forum panel members, Professor Beth Gaze spoke at this meeting. Beth teaches Equality and Discrimination Law and Administrative Law at Melbourne Uni Law School. Her research interests are in anti-discrimination and equality law, feminist legal thought, administrative law and socio-legal research. She has conducted research into the enforcement process under Australian anti-discrimination law, experiences of applicants in the social security appeal tribunals, and the operation of adverse action provisions of the Fair Work Act. Beth spoke about the new Victorian Government Gender Equality Act 2020. 

The Act seeks to promote and improve gender equality across the Victorian public sector, local councils and universities. It involves innovative powers and processes that have not previously been used in Australian law. It will commence on 31st March 2021. The government is working on developing the framework for its implementation, driven by the Minister for Women, the Hon Gabrielle Williams, with input from the public including a Citizen’s Jury. It aims to take necessary and proportionate action towards achieving gender equality in policies and programs and delivering public services. Organisations need to undertake workplace gender audits, to assess gender equality and inequality in the workplace. These must be based on gender-disaggregated data and, if available, data about Aboriginality, age, disability, race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion and sexual orientation. They need to develop and implement Gender Equality Action Plans in 2021, updated every four years, with Progress shown every two years against gender equality indicators. The Minister is also required to develop a State Gender Equality Action Plan every four years that will set a framework for taking coordinated action in Victoria to build behavioural, attitudinal, structural and normative change to improve gender equality, including a framework for progress on workplace gender equality, programs and services. The Office for Women is developing guidance documents to support organisations in doing the audit, action plan, assessment and progress reporting. The Act also provides for creating gender targets or quotas requiring these to be taken into account in gender audits with ‘reasonable and material progress’ to be made towards targets and quotas, a first in Australian equality law. 

Dr Deborah Towns OAM then spoke on other Gender Equity issues. The private sector is covered nationally by the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. Commonwealth Government in 1984 introduced the Sex Discrimination Act. Other legislation at State and Federal level have passed, with Human Rights Commissioner and officer appointments. 

Progress towards equal pay has a longer history. In 1903 equal pay for equal work was on the agenda at NCWV’s Congress. The industrial relations system endorsed this in 1969. However, there is still a gender wage gap today, with overall gender pay gap of 13.9% in Australia for full-time workers. When broken down into sectors it gets interesting, e.g., in finance and insurance where 1000s of women work the pay gap is 22%, also in professional, scientific and technical work; and 22.3% in health care and social services. In education and public administration (70% are women) the pay gap is 12%. Many women work in caring, cleaning, catering and retail, often not full-time, poorly paid, with little opportunity to adequately support themselves, or their families if they are sole parents, and save for their retirement through superannuation and in other ways. 


The Male Champions of Change was established in 2010 to lead action on gender equality in workplaces, now with over 200 leaders of business, government, universities and military representing many different workplaces across Australia. They publish annual reports on progress and guidelines on how workplaces can change gender pay gap. Despite this there has been little to no change.