I too begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands we are meeting on today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
I thank UN Women Australia for hosting this event, and I acknowledge the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Foreign Minister, special guests and my many other parliamentary colleagues here today.
In particular, I acknowledge my friend Katy Gallagher, Minister for Women. People here will remember Susan Ryan, Minister for Education in the Hawke Government and Australia’s first female Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women.
Knowing the work that Susan did, I am confident that people will similarly remember the contribution to gender equality that Katy Gallagher is making to this nation.
This parliamentary International Women’s Day Breakfast feels quite different. Our country feels different.
There are more women in parliament, more women in the Government, more women in the Cabinet – and a prime minister who respects women, and listens to women.
All the result of women so powerfully and clearly exercising the suffrage that previous generations of women fought so hard for, all of us today standing on the shoulders of giants.
And in all the ways Anthony outlined, we are already seeing what it means to have a government that puts the needs and aspirations of women front and centre.
But beyond our shores, over the past year, gender equality has gone backwards.
The World Economic Forum reports that last year the global gender gap receded to 2016 levels – and it’s now estimated that it will take 132 years to close the gender gap and reach full parity.
In Ukraine and Myanmar, we have seen a surge of sexual violence in conflict.
In Afghanistan we see women and girls losing basic rights since the return of the Taliban – now banned from tertiary and secondary education.
And in Iran, where women like Mahsa ‘Jina’ Amini stood up for their rights, they have faced a deadly crackdown – that has also seen male allies executed.
Efforts to resist progress and wind back hard won gains reminds us that we have to always be vigilant, not just in pressing for further progress, as Anthony said, but in defending hard won progress.
And the Australian Government’s international advocacy is doing just that.
Today we are deeply engaged in every possible forum to advance gender equality.
Starting with the UN Commission for the Status of Women – where we have worked with our partners to have Iran removed.
And the Human Rights Council, where we co-sponsored and advocated for the successful resolution establishing an independent investigation into human rights violations in Iran.
I am glad to have with us today Australia’s new Ambassador for Gender Equality, Stephanie Copus Campbell, who will spearhead our international advocacy.
We are developing a new international gender equality strategy.
Our new international development policy, to be released in coming months, will make gender equality a priority.
It will build on the work we have already been doing, focused on our region.
As part of that growing commitment to supporting women through our development program, we have established a new initiative to elevate the work of local women human rights defenders providing essential, life changing support and advocacy for women in the most marginalised of communities – groups like the Pacific Feminist Fund, which will become the first regional women’s fund in the Pacific.
We work with women-led businesses in Southeast Asia to help leverage finance they would otherwise not have been able to secure.
Think what more our region would be if half the population wasn’t so often held back.
Think what that would do for the aspirations we champion in our region, the aspirations that are the encapsulation of our national interest – peace, stability, prosperity.
And so when I say the Albanese Government doesn’t just take the world as it is, but that we seek to shape it for the better – it’s not just a matter of idealism.
It’s time, this International Women’s Day, for us to go beyond the idea that we seek gender equality because it is the right thing to do – though it certainly is – and recognise that gender equality is a vital national interest.