On Thursday 3rd March feminists gathered at parliament house for the WEL State Election Forum. Women’s groups quizzed The Minister for Women, Jodi McKay, Shadow Minister for Women, Pru Goward, and Greens Spokesperson for Women, Cate Faehrmann, on a range of policy issues,
From how address to disadvantage experienced by women with a disability, to discrimination against women for wearing the burqua, and protecting the rights of sex workers. Abortion law reform was, of course, a central issue of the night.
All the speakers confirmed that if a conscience vote to decriminalise abortion was called they would support such a bill.
Cate Faehrmann took this one step further. She committed to introducing a private members bill to remove abortion from the Crimes Act.
Quite a juxtaposition for Parliament House which just a few hours before held a forum hosted by Family Life International (previously Right to Life).
WEL NSW – and everybody present – was thrilled with the commitment from Cate and the Greens.
We will continue to work to keep abortion on the agenda, and encourage broader community discussion.
It is now up to the representatives from the major parties to engage more support within their parties and for women’s groups to build support in the community.
WEL’s other major issue – pay equity – was also a big talking point of the evening. This discussion was not as inspiring as that on decriminalisation of abortion.
It was disappointing to see both major parties shying away from committing to support, or fund the outcome of, the Australian Services Union Equal Pay Case that is currently before Fair Work Australia.
WEL NSW felt there was a lack of real engagement with the issue of pay equity and measures to address the rising gender pay gap.
Both parties had policies to encourage young women to enter non-traditional professions, such as plumbing or even truck driving. While this is a good move, it fails to address the problem of the undervaluing of work traditionally done by women and the underpayment of highly feminised industries.
As feminists, WEL demands that caring roles and work traditionally done by women be valued in our society; that the patriarchal value systems of our society need to be dismantled.
It was clear from the night’s discussion that there is still a lot of work to be done around the issues raised.
However, it was a productive evening not just for the discussion with the politicians, but also for the networking afterwards. There was a positive buzz in the room, and a lot of energy to “move forward”. The women present were all committed to working together to tackle the big issues.