Celebrate achievements but keep fighting for gender equality, Tanya Plibersek told an International Women’s Day breakfast at UNSW

Speakers from the UNSW International Women's Day breakfast included the Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek, AHRCentre Director Professor Andrea Durbach, Associate Professor Jan Breckenridge, National Union of Students president Sophie Johnston, Professor Laura Poole-Warren, Professor Rosalind Dixon, Professor Annie Cossins, Professor Eileen Baldry, SRC Women's Officer Lizzie Butterworth and Dr Kyllie Cripps.

During her speech, the Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek told a breakfast at UNSW on Wednesday that International Women’s Day was both an opportunity to celebrate and a reminder to continue campaigning for gender equality.

“The first thing to think about on International Women’s Day is to feel a little bit of gratitude for the people who’ve fought these battles in the past, who’ve made our lives very different to the lives of our mothers and grandmothers,” said Ms Plibersek, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Member for Sydney.

As someone whose mother came to Australia in the 1950s, Ms Plibersek’s thoughts turned to her own grandmother.

“She could not imagine the life that I lead today, the choices I have, the autonomy I have. So, in a relatively short time we’ve seen great changes in this country,” she said.

Those changes included equal pay test cases, affirmative action policies, the opening of the first women’s refuges and the funding of rape crisis centres.

But being proud of those achievements and grateful to the people who won them “should not for a moment make us content that we have achieved enough”, Ms Plibersek said.

“Last year, 71 women were murdered by an intimate partner. Today Australian women working full-time earn $27,000 less than men working full-time. In a lifetime, if you take women’s unpaid work and the gender pay gap, women are likely earn more than $1 million less than men (and) they will retire with half the superannuation savings of men.”

One in five women would experience sexual assault in her lifetime and one in three would experience domestic violence.

“This is not good enough. It is not good enough for any country but it’s not good enough for a country like Australia,” Ms Plibersek said.

“So, my two pleas to you today are to celebrate what we’ve achieved and never ever be content because we have generations of young women who deserve to grow up in a country where they are respected for who they are; where they are safe in their homes and safe to walk home late at night if they want to; where they can expect to earn the same as men doing whatever career they want; where caring work is valued – and valued in a way that makes men do half of it at home.

“That’s the sort of country I want to live in and that’s the sort of country I ask you today to be part of building.”

The day also saw the launch of the Athena SWAN Gender Equity Survey to explore issues around workplace culture, participation and promotion, training and career development, flexible work, parenting and carer responsibilities.

And in the NSW Women of the Year Awards, Kristal Kinsela, a student at AGSM @ UNSW Business School, was named Aboriginal Woman of the Year. Kinsela, an entrepreneur who was recently made Sydney Ambassador for the non-profit network Indigenous Women in Business, was chosen from four finalists by the NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Sarah Mitchell.

Photo by Quentin Jones