International Women's Day - Matter of Public Importance

I contribute to this matter of public importance as the New South Wales representative of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Steering Committee. I am happy to report that this Parliament has seen an increase in the selection of women to an all-time high of 30.1 per cent. However, I reflect on the meaning of International Women's Day. Many people talk about the purple ribbons that we are all wearing today and I shall give some context to that. The colours of International Women's Day are, of course, the colours of the suffragettes—the women activists who sought to achieve universal suffrage for women. I say "universal suffrage for women" because we in this country must remember that not all women could vote in those early days. It was not until 1967 that Aboriginal women, and indeed men, were given the vote, so it was not universal suffrage at that time. The colours of the suffragette movement were green, white and violet, which stands for "Give Women the Vote" and it was a very political struggle. We have seen depictions of their struggle. The first depiction I saw in film was actually in the Mary Poppins movie. The wife whom Mary Poppins helped as a child carer was actually a suffragette. At that time suffragettes were depicted as not strictly strong and radical. It was extremely important for women in those times to fight for their ideals and for the right to be heard equally in discussions and decisions about their nations. The suffragette movement was not a nice sanitised Disney movie scenario. I have not had a chance to see the newSuffragette movie, but I hope to do so. I place on the record today the thanks of every woman in this place for the women who have gone before us, the women who have been trailblazers, and who hold and held prominent positions such as the current Speaker of this House, former Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Kristina Keneally, and former President of the upper House, the Hon. Meredith Burgmann, MLC, and to pay homage to their efforts to achieve better things for the lives of women. When we talk about leadership and women's issues it is easy to think that it is just about getting into positions of leadership. We should consider all the contributions that have been made today and remember that we are all fighting for equality at every level of society. As long as there are those battles to fight we will continue.

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