Government Senators acknowledge that a complex range of social and
personal factors can contribute to the to the incidence and severity of
domestic violence and reaffirm that the government is committed to creating a
nation that respects all people including women and children, and that violence
against others is never acceptable.
The need to respect women in particular was recognised by the Prime Minister
the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP:
...disrespecting women does not always result in violence
against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women.
We, as leaders, as a government, must make it and we will make it a clear
national objective of ours to ensure that Australia is more respecting of
women. Women must be respected. Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is
unacceptable at every level. At home, at the workplace, wherever. And I'd say
that as parents, one of the most important things we must do is ensure that our
sons respect their mothers and their sisters.
Because that is where this begins. It begins - violence
against women begins with disrespecting women.
Gender inequality can contribute to the prevalence of domestic violence,
when gendered beliefs become values that build attitudes. However,
government Senators recognise that gender inequality does not in-itself or
alone cause domestic violence.
Government Senators note the prevalence of gender inequality in
Australia, and are pleased to see that attitudes of violence towards women are
gradually changing in Australia but
recognise there is more work to do.
In addition to the government led initiatives outlined in the committee
report, below are further programs the Commonwealth government is supporting to
address gender inequality.
As discussed in the committee report, the government continues to support initiatives
such as the work of The Line in the Second Action Plan of the National
Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children:
Successful social marketing campaigns, including The Line,
have been able to support young people to change their attitudes and behaviours
that contribute to violence. The Commonwealth Government will extend funding of
The Line social marketing campaign until 2017 to ensure young people continue
to have a safe place to discuss and debate relationship issues and form their
own conclusions about what sort of behaviour crosses the line.
Government Senators support national efforts to overcome the cultural, institutional
and organisational factors that discourage girls and women from studying in
typically masculine professions.
Government Senators note Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) findings
that young Australian men and women are continuing to choose different
educational pathways after school.
The ABS shows that women tend to be under-represented in Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and training:
Of the 2.7 million people with higher level STEM
qualifications in 2010-11, men accounted for around four-fifths (81%). This is
in stark contrast to non-STEM fields, where women make up the majority (60%) of
those with qualifications at the Certificate III level or above.
This disparity was further articulated by the Australian National
Innovation and Science Agenda:
Only one in four IT graduates and fewer than one in 10
engineering graduates are women.
Further, women occupy fewer than one in five senior
researcher positions in Australian universities and research institutes, and
around one quarter of the STEM workforce overall.
Recognising the poor participation of young women in STEM fields, the Australian
Government has provided $13 million over five years to encourage women to
choose to study and stay in STEM fields
where the funding:
...builds on other National Innovation and Science Agenda
initiatives designed to support girls and women.
The government has also committed to investing:
$31.2 million in internships and post-school career advice to
increase support for women and girls to choose to study and work in science, technology,
engineering and maths...
The government is providing $2 million over four years to the Australian
Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) for its new national project: Securing
Australia’s Mathematical Workforce. A core component of this project is to
...support to strengthen participation of women and Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples in graduate programs in the mathematical
The government is also encouraging women to participate and stay in STEM
fields by supporting the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Program
A game-changing program that aims to improve the gender
balance in Australian science....
...Diversity underlies innovation. This government support will
enable us to grow the diverse, talented research sector that Australia needs to
create, shape and maintain the innovative society we want in the future.
Current national initiatives
Third Action Plan 2016-2019
On 28 October 2016, the government launched the National Plan to Reduce
Violence against Women and their Children, Third Action Plan 2016-2019, which
of a long term commitment by governments to work together to change Australia’s
attitudes to, and tolerance for violence against women and their children.
Third Action Plan outlines what all governments, communities, businesses and
individuals can do to reduce violence against women and their children. It sets
out 36 practical actions, across six national priority areas, to be undertaken
over the next three years.
Below is an outline of further national initiatives being championed by
government through the Office for Women to progress gender equality.
Secretaries Equality and Diversity
As discussed in the committee report, in April 2016 the government
released the APS Gender Equality Strategy.
As part of the strategy, the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council (the
Council) was formed. The Council comprises of 'all APS departmental secretaries
along with two external members to provide insights and experience from outside
of the public sector'.
The Council was formed to:
...drive initiatives to break down formal and informal
barriers to ensure the APS provides an inclusive and respectful workplace for
everyone. This includes a focus on removing employment-related disadvantage
On 21 July 2016, the first meeting of the Council took place. During the
meeting the Council agreed that:
Each Secretary will develop their own action plan, including
gender equality stretch targets, for their departments and measures to meet the
G20 target to reduce Australia's workforce participation gender gap by 25 per
cent by 2025. These targets will be published, and progress against these
targets will be measured and published annually. The Council also agreed to
adopt the Panel Pledge, which will require us all to step up our advocacy for
the higher representation of women at public and professional forums.
Grants and Funding
The Office of Women has administrative responsibility for the Women's
Leadership and Development Strategy (WLDS) which:
...provides funding and support to organisations aimed at
improving gender equality and support for women’s economic empowerment and
opportunity, safety and leadership.
In addition to providing grants to organisations which improve gender
equality, the WLDS funds five National Women's Alliances:
The five National Women's Alliances (the Alliances) represent
over 180 women's organisations. They bring forward the views, voices and issues
of Australian women and, in particular, women from marginalised and
disadvantaged groups. The Alliances take the lead in ensuring that the voices
of as many women as possible are heard, especially those who in the past have
found it difficult to engage in advocacy and decision making.
In line with their Funding Agreements, the role of the
Alliances is twofold:
bring together women's organisations and individuals from across
Australia to share information, identify issues that affect them, and identify
engage actively with the Australian Government on policy issues
as part of a better more informed and representative dialogue between women and
Helping working parents
The Australian Government has established the 'Supporting Working
Parents Website' which contains information for employers and employees about issues
such as understanding the legal framework, leave and returning to work.
The government is working to ensure that women are able to access information
to achieve greater economic security because:
Greater financial literacy has a direct link with boosting
women's economic participation, including strengthening women's retirement
The government has now established several educational tools to boost
The Women’s Money Toolkit is
a free online resource providing practical tools for women to better manage
their finances. The toolkit was developed in partnership with the Australian
Securities and Investment Commission, who provide a number of other financial
literacy tools on their Money Smart website. 
Further, the government is working to address the financial abuse aspects
of domestic violence:
In partnership with Good Shepherd Microfinance the Government
has launched online training to help financial
councillors to identify financial abuse and assist victims of abuse to access
The government is committed to the equal representation of gender on
government boards. In September 2016 the Gender Balance on Australian
Government Boards Report 2015-16 was released. The report shows that the
government has achieved its target of women holding at least 40 per cent of
government board positions.
Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, commented on the work to increase female
representation on government boards and the achievements made by the government:
...the proportion of female board directors has increased from
39.1 per cent at 30 June 2015 to 40.5 per cent at 30 June 2016, exceeding the
40 per cent target for 2015-16.
The report shows that a concerted effort by Government to
increase female representation on government boards is translating into
meaningful results...Women comprised 46.5 per cent of new appointees over
2015-16, up 8 per cent from 2014-15. Encouragingly, the report also showed the
number of women holding Chair and Deputy Chair positions has risen to 32 per
On International Women’s Day 2016, in an address at the National Press
Club, Minister Cash announced new government targets:
...I am pleased to announce that the Government will now commit
to increasing this target to 50 per cent representation across
all Australian Government boards, with a minimum of 40 per cent on each
board. Correcting the imbalance will require concerted efforts by all portfolio
Ministers, including myself. I am very confident that with pro-active efforts
by all Ministers, we can achieve this target.
The Government is taking a whole of government approach to
increasing the number of women on boards.
To strengthen the government's ability to meet its new targets, the
government has invested in the Boardlinks website, a database that 'connects
Australia’s industry leading women with opportunities to be considered
for Australian Government board appointments.'
As outlined by Minister Cash, a
revamped Boardlinks website is key in supporting
the government to achieve this target:
This new website will mean candidates interested in applying
for a Government board position can now create and update their individual
profiles, enabling decision makers to access the most up-to-date information
and find the best candidate for the position...
We want to make it as straightforward as possible to find
suitably qualified women so we can continue to increase female representation
on Government boards.
Government Senators acknowledge criticism in the media that not all
government portfolios have women holding 40 per cent of board positions. The Minister
responded in relation to her own portfolio:
I had the opportunity to make one appointment and I did
[appoint a woman]. The issue that I have had is that the majority of boards in
my portfolio are nominated by external bodies, whether they are employer
organisations or unions.
I have no discretion. I ultimately have to accept their
The Minister announced that in an effort to address this issue:
From July next year, a gender breakdown of all
externally nominated board appointments will be made publicly
available in the hope transparency will drive change.
Addressing pay gap assertions
Government Senators refute assertions made in the media regarding pay
equity in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet:
The pay gap under the leadership of Martin Parkinson is not
imagined. It's explicit. Parkinson is not just the head of the Department of
Prime Minister and Cabinet, he is also a member of Male Champions of Change.
advertisement for Executive Level 1 advisers, in the divisions of Social Policy
and Office for Women in PM&C offer different – and unequal – salaries for
the women's jobs.
Government Senators support the response from the Secretary of Prime
Minister and Cabinet, and Male Champion of Change, Dr Michael Parkinson:
There is a pay gap for comparable positions across my
department. But the issues raised in relation to a specific position advertised
in the Office for Women compared to other roles at PM&C are not related to
Instead, they are driven by the reality that the Australian
Public Service (APS) does not have a single employment agreement. There are
many enterprise agreements across the APS, with different conditions and rates
There is consensus that accessing childcare is a barrier to
women's workforce participation. In June 2016, the Prime Minister recognised this issue and announced:
Over the next four years, the Government will invest around
$40 billion in child care and early learning support - including more than $3
billion in additional funding - under the Jobs for Families Child Care Package,
to provide greater choices for families. 
The government has also been making gains in addressing gendered
workforce participation. This year, the government, in partnership with Master
Builders, launched 'Women in Construction' to encourage women's participation
in the building and construction industry. Mr Wilhelm Harnisch, Chief Executive
Officer, Master Builders Australia, reported:
The Commonwealth Government will provide $250,000 in funding
over 12 months for this pilot program under its Women’s Leadership and
Development strategy to help increase the participation and employment of women
in the building industry.
Minister Cash outlined the importance of government initiatives to
change gendered workforce perceptions:
We know that at the moment just 11 percent of employees in
building and construction are women and in terms of the exit rate from the
industry, the rate of women exiting is 40 percent higher than men. That is why
industry-led partnerships, like the Advancing Women in Building and Construction
are just so important. In particular, though, as the Prime Minister has said,
we need to see cultural change.
The government further described the overarching purpose of the program:
The pilot programme will encourage more women to enter into
and lead successful careers in the overwhelmingly male-dominated sector.
Greater gender equality across industries will also help
address the gender pay gap, which will remain entrenched so long as certain
sectors continue to be dominated by either men or women.
The mentoring programme will match female senior industry
leaders with female industry newcomers to support them in their pursuit of
long-term and rewarding careers in building and construction.
Contributing to addressing gender inequality internationally
In 2014 Australia’s Aid Policy established gender equality and women’s
empowerment as a priority for development and the target requires 80 per cent
of all Australia's aid, regardless of objectives, perform effectively in
promoting gender equality. In February 2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade released the Gender equality and women's empowerment strategy which
outlines the government's efforts on gender equality.
The strategy will drive progress in three key areas: ending violence against
women and girls; women's economic empowerment; and women's participation in
leadership and peacebuilding.
Building on the government's efforts to prioritise gender equality
across Australia's foreign affairs and aid work, in
September 2016, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for
International Development and the Pacific, launched the Gender Action Platform (GAP)
which is a competitive grants program for non-government organisations
promoting gender equality for women and girls in the Indo-Pacific region:
The Australian Government's $10 million investment in the GAP
will enable NGOs accredited under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)
to develop and implement projects that empower and improve outcomes for women
The GAP builds on the Coalition Government's efforts to
support initiatives that promote women's economic empowerment, women's
participation in leadership and peacebuilding, and drive progress in ending
gender based violence.
Senator James Paterson
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