Recently celebrated universally, International Women’s Day has a proud history. It has occurred for well over a century, the first1911 celebration being in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, then spreading to the US and the UK. The first Australian rally took place in 1928.
The good news for Australian women is that the gender pay gap is narrowing significantly. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently indicated an historic low of 14.2%. Across the political spectrum, there is dedication to the aim of achieving parity in the near future.
Women’s unpaid work in households whilst children are small continues to be recognised and valued by the Family Court. Data produced by Deloitte Access Economics demonstrates that women do over 60% of unpaid work – about 1.7 times that of men. It is a sobering fact that these “labours of love” are worth $205 billion, about half the worth of Victoria’s Gross State Product.
The proximity of the federal election sees both major parties vying with each other to announce new programs to attract voters.
What about family violence and homelessness? The Labor Party claims a 13% increase in partner violence against women since 2012. It commits to setting targets to reduce such violence under its Fourth Action Plan, aiming also to ensure universities and colleges are free from sexual assault and harassment. If elected, it will offer 10 days of paid domestic violence leave and provide $43 million to reform the Family Court system to ensure that victims of violence cannot be cross-examined by perpetrators. There will also be money to establish Safe Housing for women and children needing to escape a violent household.
The Coalition has already invested funds in programs to keep women and children safe. A new program, the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, will be funded to the tune of $7.8 billion. The Coalition also supports a ban on the cross-examination of victims by their perpetrators, and will fund additional family consultants to assist in early management of family law cases.
For Australian women things are improving. This is not the case, though, in many of our near- neighbour countries. In celebrating International Women’s Day, the trenchant difficulties of our sisters in other countries, particularly Third World ones, should be a focus of our care and attention.