Helen L’Orange AM Chair, WEL National Coordinating Committee
I write to wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day as we celebrate WEL’s 40th Anniversary.
WEL members will be attending the International Women’s Day community picnic at First Fleet Park on 10 March from Midday. Make sure you come along, meet with fellow WEL members and talk the future of feminism in good company.
WEL continues its advocacy for women’s equality and the protection of women’s rights.
WEL has lobbied successfully for many reforms over the past 40 years.
In 1972, when WEL began, women won equal pay, but only when they were performing identical work under the same award as men. This was only about 18 per cent of women. The February 2012 Fair Work Australia decision means that at last women have a law that should apply wherever work is undervalued simply because it is done by women.
Australia now has 18 weeks paid parental leave. In the first year of the scheme 126,000 expectant and new parents applied for the payment.
Since 1972, Australia has introduced, and improved, both sex discrimination and equal opportunity legislation. This year we are optimistic that both sex discrimination and equal employment opportunity laws will be strengthened to tackle underlying discrimination.
With violence against women, Australia now has a zero tolerance to violence policy. We have some of the strongest laws and best funded programs in the world to stop violence against women in all its forms.
In 1972, there were a small number of childrens’ services in Australia with governments spending around $50 million a year. Government spending on early childhood education and care is now around $5,300,000,000. By 2013, the aim is that every child has 15 hours per week of preschool education in the year before they start school.
In the early 1970s more girls left school at younger ages than boys. There was strong lobbying about sexism in schools, including by WEL. Since 1984, female students have been more likely to continue through to Year 12 than male students. In 2010, the Year 12 retention rate for female students was 83% compared with 73% for male students. This improvement flows through into higher education.
WEL is working on many key issues at the moment.
For girls’ education, WEL advocates
Expand girls’ career aspirations and encourage them in to Maths and Science streams in high school and beyond.
For women in the workforce WEL advocates:
- Eliminating systemic discrimination
- Closing the full time work pay gap (currently17.2%) between men and women.
- Properly valuing of the work of early childhood and aged services sector workers and pay them accordingly. Women are very much in demand in the every expanding services sector. By 2050, Australia will need 800,000 paid workers to care for the aged- up from 300,000 at present
- Making women’s jobs more secure with acceptable pay and working conditions.40% of jobs in Australia are casual/ insecure and the growth is in part time work.
- Improving women’s access to decent superannuation
For women in need, WEL advocates:
- Eliminating all forms of violence against women
- Provision of affordable housing. At present women over the age of 45 outnumber older men in government funded shelters
- Stopping the inevitable slide into poverty that retirement brings to many single women. There are nearly 3 times more single female aged pensioners than there are men, with the majority of women having little in the way of housing wealth, savings and superannuation
- Breaking inter- generational poverty including through special programs, by governments increasing benefits to sole parents to match those on other pensions, and by ceasing conditional welfare policies
- Introducing a National Disabilities Insurance Scheme
- Eliminating problem gambling - Women account for 64 per cent of the use of poker machines, which in turn accounted for 74 per cent of the growth in gambling in Australia in recent years. Research shows that compared to men, women were found to have a more rapid progression into problem gambling.
Governments needs to take far more account of women’s needs and economic status when developing policies and implementing programs.
Throughout 2012 WEL is holding 40th Anniversary functions in nearly all states. Please come along and celebrate WEL’s achievements and talk about what we need to do over the next ten years. If you would like to come to a function please email WEL at firstname.lastname@example.org . We will gladly put you on the list.
If you would like to join WEL that would be wonderful – you can download a membership form (and read lots more about our polices and achievements) here.
Happy International Women’s Day 2012 and Happy WEL 40th Anniversary!