46th Session of United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

New York, 4 – 15 March 2002

Madam Chair

Australia is honoured to be here to join with other member states to progress the commitments to women we all reaffirmed at Beijing Plus Five and to contribute to enhancing CSW’s working methods and communications procedures.

My delegation looks forward to opportunities over the next two weeks, to help build even stronger links among member states – so that together to we can help deliver real improvements in the lives of women and girls around the world.

Australia hopes that we will be able to achieve significant outcomes for women from our discussions on environmental management and poverty reduction, as well as the critically important issue of the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. These are vital issues that deserve our urgent attention and action.

We also look forward to hearing about country’s progress in implementing the outcomes from Beijing Plus Five, including important lessons learned and new directions forward.

Today, I am very pleased to outline Australia’s significant measures to progress the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and Beijing Plus Five Outcomes Document to advance equality for women in Australia and around the world.

Australia’s Beijing Plus Five Action Plan

Over the past twelve months, the Australian Government has taken significant steps to implement Australia’s Beijing Plus Five Action Plan 2000-2005. The Action Plan was developed in early 2000, in consultation with a broad range of women’s groups from diverse backgrounds. Australia has made copies of the Action Plan available for this session.

Last year, the national Office of the Status of Women in Australia commenced a three phase implementation strategy, targeting government departments, businesses and the community.

  • A Beijing Plus Five Roundtable was held in May last year with senior officials across all government departments. The aim of the Roundtable was to raise awareness about the Action Plan and encourage departments to implement new actions to reduce gender inequality in the remaining areas where there is scope to do so. The Roundtable was followed up with high level meetings with Heads of government agencies.
  • A Beijing Plus Five Kit has been developed – in consultation with government agencies and trialing – which provides resource materials to help government departments integrate gender into their business. The Kit comprises: information sheets on the Beijing Platform for Action and Beijing Plus Five Outcomes Document; practical strategies; ‘how to’ guides and checklists for project managers, policy makers and service providers; and a best practices booklet.
  • A gender mainstreaming telephone advisory service for government agencies.

The Australian Delegation is very keen to share information about Australia’s approach with other delegates during this CSW Session.

Elimination of violence against women

The elimination of violence against women and girls remains a major priority for the Australian Government. The Government supports a national family and domestic violence initiative (more than $50 million over four years), and last year, established a new National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault ($16.5 million over four years).

Recent new directions of the domestic violence initiative include: building cooperative partnerships across all players (service providers, government and non-government agencies, and the business sector); expanding and enhancing early intervention approaches; increased efforts to eliminate family and domestic violence in Indigenous communities; and expanding innovative approaches to encourage perpetrators to take responsibility to end their violence.

The Australian Government’s new National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault – introduced in 2001 – is funding a wide range of measures (currently in development) to reduce the incidence of sexual assault. Key measures include: national community education campaigns; improved collection and use of data and information systems; and sharing innovative approaches to reducing and better responding to sexual assault.

Indigenous women

Australia is also supporting a number of significant initiatives to address the significant disadvantages faced by some Indigenous women. Important new work is under way to eliminate, and better respond to, family and domestic violence in some indigenous communities. The National Indigenous Family Violence Grants Programme – a $6 million dollar initiative – provides funding to local indigenous organisations to run projects at the community level.

  • The Goreta Aboriginal Corporation is providing services to a range of Aboriginal groups in the Yorke Peninsula (South Australia). Culturally appropriate support services and early intervention and prevention strategies are being developed through community consultations and partnerships with service providers. Education workshops are providing information about family violence, advocacy and referral services.
  • The Yawarra Meamei-Safe Families Project is providing education and training to a group of indigenous men and women so they can pursue roles as peer educators and mentors.

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Women in leadership

Last year, the Prime Minister of Australia launched the Honouring Women initiative that aims to encourage the community to nominate more women for honours and awards.

Some 28 high profile women Ambassadors are actively involved in promoting the nomination of women, through their networks and various official engagements.

In May 2001, the Australian Government introduced the National Women’s Leadership Programme to promote women with limited support networks, such as indigenous women, rural women, women volunteers, non-English speaking women and young women. Significant initiatives include:

  • a video series for young women in school to build skills that will help them achieve financial independence;
  • working with indigenous women and research to gain a better understanding of leadership in indigenous women’s communities; and
  • a national strategy to increase women’s representation in local government.

Women’s economic independence

The Australian Government is establishing a women’s data warehouse that will bring together key data sets held by government agencies that provide essential statistical information on the circumstances and needs of women, including women from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. The data warehouse is a joint project with the national statistical bureau and will make available on-line standard and ad hoc reports on aggregate data across a range of data sets. This new resource will greatly facilitate policy analysis and advice for government, government and non-government agencies and academics. The data warehouse is part of a national communications strategy for women funded by the Australian Government from 2001.

At the regional level, Australia is taking a strong leadership role in the Asia Pacific region to advance women’s participation in leadership and economic independence. In January 2001, Australia took up the Chair of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Gender Integration. This group was established to increase women’s involvement in the activities of APEC, particularly in the areas of leadership, trade and enhancing women’s financial well-being.

The Australian Delegation will be looking for opportunities to share information and materials on these and other Australian best practices with delegates during the session.

National Women’s Conference

Last year, the Australian Government funded the inaugural Australian Women Speak national conference on women. The Conference was attended by more than 600 men and women. The Conference made a significant contribution to advancing efforts to address key issues affecting women in the areas of: women’s health and well-being; economic status and financial independence; women’s participation in leadership and decisionmaking; women’s human rights; and justice for women in the legal system.

A second national women’s conference will be held in October this year.

Gender mainstreaming

Another key development in Australia is new work to advance gender mainstreaming in the planning, development and implementation of government programmes, policies and projects. A range of measures are being undertaken to help government departments in this area, such as:

  • a gender mainstreaming kit which contains practical ‘how to’ guides and checklists for policy makers, programme managers and service providers;
  • work to encourage government departments to work jointly with the Office of the Status of Women on some projects;
  • a gender mainstreaming telephone ‘hot-line’ service where departments can get personalised assistance.

The Government’s gender mainstreaming resources are available on the Office of the Status of Women’s web site.

Greater involvement of men and boys

Another important area of work that Australia is taking forward is promoting men’s greater involvement to advance equality for women. This is one of the significant new directions that was identified at Beijing Plus Five and will be one of the two major thematic areas for CSW in 2004.

Over the past year, the national Office of the Status of Women developed several measures to increase men’s involvement in strategies to increase gender equality – particularly in the areas of eliminating violence against women and girls.

The Australian Government funded the White Ribbon Campaign in Australia, held on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, (in November 2001) to raise community awareness about violence against women – particularly among men and boys – and to promote changes in attitudes and behaviours. Key men’s organisations (such as Men Against Sexual Assault and No To Violence) and individual men (eg academics, celebrities and sportsmen) helped distribute the white ribbons, raise community awareness and participate in various community activities.

Senator Vanstone, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women, officially launched White Ribbon Day, outlined the Government’s strong commitment to eliminating gender based violence and measures to combat violence against women, in addition to the White Ribbon Campaign. My Delegation has information on these initiatives – and others in this Statement – to share with other delegates during CSW.

Last year, the Australian Government established White Ribbon Day Patrons – high profile men in the community (such as sportsmen and musicians) who volunteered their support at no charge – to increase awareness among other men and boys and encourage them to speak out to help reduce violence against women and girls. The Patrons are lending their on-going support throughout the year.

Australia is currently exploring other approaches to further progress these achievements. The Australian Delegation is keen to hear from other delegates about their plans to take this area forward – particularly ways to combat entrenched gender stereotypical attitudes and behaviours that are harmful to both men and women.

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Recent advances for Australian women

The Australian Government’s strong commitment to, and significant success in, the pursuit of gender equality can be measured by some of the recent important advances for women in Australia.

  • A record 4.1 million women were engaged in paid employment in Australia as at January 2002, and more women than ever before are participating in the paid work force (56% of working age women as at January 2002).
  • The gender gap is closing between men’s and women’s earnings, with women earning 90% of men’s full-time average ordinary time earnings in November 2001.
  • 33% of Australia’s 1.4 million small business operators are women.
  • 26% of Commonwealth parliamentarians are women, almost double the international average of 13.8%.
  • Women hold 33.8% (at June 2001) of Commonwealth Board positions – of those positions under total Commonwealth control.
  • More girls are completing school, with the retention rate of girls from year seven to year 12 at an all time high – 79% in 2001.

CSW’s role in achieving gender equality

Sharing best practices is vitally important in helping to advance equality for women around the world. CSW can play a catalytic role here in helping to take this forward.

Australia believes that it is important that CSW builds strategies from the Outcomes Document into its priorities and working methods, including institutional mechanisms that could facilitate the sharing of best practices among member states and international organisations.

It is vital to focus on practical mechanisms and outcomes to achieve the goals of the Platform for Action and the Outcomes Document. For example, CSW could consider setting up a UN Gender Web Site of practical ‘best practice’ materials.

The Commission could also play a catalytic role in helping to take forward some of the key strategies designated for the international level in the Outcomes Document. Examples include: a global ‘Zero Tolerance’ Campaign Against Violence Against Women; developing an international consensus on indicators and ways to measure violence; developing mechanisms to share information on good practices, lessons learned, training models and research.

Work before this CSW’s meeting’s

My Delegation hopes that this Session’s focus on environmental management and poverty reduction – as well as the other critical issue of the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan – will lead to practical outcomes to deliver real progress for women and girls around the world. These are very important issues for many women and the effects and devastation that visits their lives and those of their families demands that CSW prioritise its efforts and activities on results-oriented actions.

I would like to briefly mention just a few some of the measures Australia is undertaking to tackle these issues.

  • Australia is funding a number of significant initiatives to promote women‘s selfsufficiency around the world. In April 2001, Australia established a new Poverty Reduction Framework for its aid programme (Reducing poverty: the central integrating factor of Australia’s aid programme). The Framework draws on recent international insights into the causes and consequences of poverty to refine and articulate Australia`s approach to poverty reduction. My Delegation will be pleased to share this approach with other delegates.
  • Australia’s aid programme also funds several specific projects for women such as a project which aims to improve school enrolments and retention rates for ethnic minorities and girls in Laos – where literacy and attendance rates are among the lowest in the South East Asia region.
  • Australia is providing strong support for international efforts to ensure that women are actively involved in peace-building, conflict resolution and rehabilitation processes. Last year, Australia provided funding to the United Nations study on the women, peace and security. Australia hopes that this will lead to new ways forward to help deliver tangible improvements to women and girls facing conflict situations.
  • Australia’s support for the Bougainville peace process, has included a strong focus on promoting women’s involvement in rehabilitation and rebuilding processes, including their active participation in negotiations.

Australia also places a high priority in continuing to improve the United Nations system and is keen for CSW to finalise its working methods and to focus on activities and approaches that will lead to tangible outcomes for women. It is very important for CSW to consider undertaking activities, such as institutional and other mechanisms that could deliver significant changes for women. It is also vital that CSW continue to encourage other UN entities and activities – such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the International Conference on Finance and Development – to substantively address the issues before this Session.

Conclusion

The Australian Government has a strong commitment to sharing best practices and lessons learned as an important strategy for advancing equality for women.

Australia commends the valuable work by member states, CSW and the entities of the United Nations system in taking forward our agreed commitments to women from Beijing Plus Five.

Australia hopes that our approaches to continuing to improve outcomes for women prove valuable to fellow member states. My Delegation looks forward to opportunities to share these further with delegates and to learn about other member’s innovative strategies for women.

We look forward to working together with you to further advance women’s human rights around the world, over the coming days and into the future.

Thank you

 

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