3rd Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Australia Regional Conference in South Australia held on the theme of ‘125 years towards getting even’ 

From 8 to 9 October 2019, over 50 women Parliamentarians from all sides of politics and all state, territory and federal Legislatures in the CPA Australia Region attended the 3rd Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Australia Regional Conference, which was hosted by the Parliament of South Australia in Adelaide. 

125 years ago, the Adult Suffrage Bill was passed in South Australia which gave South Australian women the right to vote in general elections and to stand for Parliament for the first time ever in Australia, one of the first places in the world to see this change in legislation. The two-day CWP Regional Conference was held as part of the celebrations of 125 years of women’s suffrage in South Australia and the Regional Conference programme included consideration of the gains that women have made toward parity of representation in Australia and the further work that needs to be done.

Currently the Australian Capital Territory Legislature and the Tasmanian Parliament have over 50% of women in their membership.  At the CWP Regional Conference, delegates spent time discussing how the CWP Australia Region might encourage more women to stand for Parliament and to advocate for and support those who have already won their places in Legislatures around the country.  

Former federal Senator, Minister and Australian Ambassador to Italy, Amanda Vanstone made an opening address to the Regional Conference and spoke of the importance of celebrating the women who have put themselves forward and stood for Parliament, and encouraging those who may do so in the future. 

Similarities were noted with advances for women in politics compared against women in the male-dominated world of sports journalism. Sports writer, Angela Pippos, described a ‘playing field of prejudice and discrimination’ that she has observed for the past 20 years.  She told the Regional Conference about the glacial pace of improvement and the results finally appearing.  

Dr Pia Rowe, a Research Fellow from the 50/50 by 2030 Institute, reported on national attitudes to gender equality with statistics on how the Australian population views the roles of men and women. She said that 88% of Australians believe that gender equality is still a problem. 

Hon. Vickie Chapman MP, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General of South Australia, addressed young South Australian women and delegates at a reception where the two winners of the ‘Getting It Even’ speech competition were announced.  Luci Blackborough and Rebecca Lightowler presented their winning speeches on the theme of how to encourage more women to stand for Parliament.  

The second day of the CWP Regional Conference focused on personal safety for women Parliamentarians.  Ginger Gorman, a journalist and cyber-hate specialist, explained the very real risks of internet trolls and gave some practical advice on how to counter their attacks. 

Many Commonwealth Parliaments have recognised that unacceptable levels of bullying and harassment exist in parliamentary life and that there are often no formal mechanisms for Parliamentarians to address this. Barbara Kuriger, MP, a CWP Member from the New Zealand Parliament, reported to the plenary that the New Zealand Speaker had commissioned an independent report with recommendations this year in order to begin to bring about positive change.  

Hon. Michelle O’Byrne, MP, Chair of the Australia Region CWP Steering Committee, has written to all Australian Presiding Officers and political party leaders asking them to outline how this issue is being addressed. Many Parliaments have responded and it is clear that a consistent approach to this problem is lacking. The CWP Australia Region Steering Committee continues to hold Parliaments to account for improving conditions for all Australian women Parliamentarians.  

At the end of the CWP Regional Conference, Hon. Kezia Purick, MLA, Speaker of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, advised that the 4th CWP Australia Regional Conference will be held in Darwin in 2021.

-Ends-

Updated 5 December 2019.

The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) was founded in 1989 to increase the number of female elected representatives in Parliaments and legislatures across the Commonwealth and to ensure that women’s issues are brought to the fore in parliamentary debate and legislation. The network campaigns for gender equality in all spheres. 

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association connects, develops, promotes and supports Parliamentarians and their staff to identify benchmarks of good governance and the implementation of the enduring values of the Commonwealth. The CPA is an international community of around 180 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures working together to deepen the Commonwealth’s commitment to the highest standards of democratic governance. 
 
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