27 February 2015


I am prompted to write this contribution for two reasons. One, International Women’s Day is approaching on the 8th of March, and two because of the 128 Members elected to serve in the 58th Victorian Parliament, just 47 are women. Now contrast this with Australia’s population. At June 2013, there were 98,900 more females than males residing in Australia, with 11.5 million males and 11.6 million females. We are the majority (albeit barely), yet we have the quietest voice which is sadly still often sidelined.

I have one piece of advice for today’s young woman. Aim for the moon. If you miss you will still be among the stars. The women who have ‘reached the moon’ are those who have had the most public success. Perhaps our best local example is Dame Nellie Melba who was the first Australian to achieve international success as a classical performer. A little known fact is that Dame Nellie also owned race horses and used the colours of purple, green and white which were the colours of the suffragettes who fought for the female vote.

Another woman who has achieved amazing things is the Deputy Leader of Australia, Julie Bishop. I had the privilege of listening to the Deputy Leader talking about her role as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade at a recent event in the Yarra Ranges. Before entering politics she was an accomplished lawyer. As a Minister she has been dealing with some of the toughest, high profile issues for Australia including the plea for clemency for two Australians facing the death penalty in Indonesia and the recovery of Australian bodies following the attack by Russia on the Malaysian airlines flight that saw 38 Australians lose their lives. I think the Deputy Leader’s secret for success can be attributed in part to the way she balances her warm, compassionate nature with her strong mind.

Then there are those women who are ‘among the stars’. These women are our quiet achievers. The women who make things happen every day often without much recognition. Women such as the organisers of the 2015 Women on Farms Gathering whose theme this year is “Making Every Woman Count”. This three day event starting on the 20th of March, will bring rural and regional business women together to promote their businesses and share knowledge. It demonstrates that the entrepreneurial spirit is as much in women as it is in men.
The women who shrug off their role in society, but whose contributions perhaps leave the biggest imprint on the planet includes our mothers. Mothers are leaders in their households. They are looked to for guidance, support and love. Their words are the foundation of their daughter’s confidence and feelings of self-worth. Although we are often unaware, daughters observe our actions quietly but closely to a develop a sense of what they may be able to achieve in their own right.

Then there are today’s young women whose personal achievement inspires them to achieve more. The other day one of my staff asked her daughter “who inspires you?”. Her answer was “I inspire myself”. That simple response made me think how far women have come. That is not to say that the contributions of all those women before us are no longer valuable. After all, it was their efforts that made us realise in the first place that “yes, we can”. But how wonderful that today’s woman doesn’t necessarily have to seek external inspiration for courage to achieve. She can look within and create her own rules and set her own standards. That is true freedom in practice.
Perhaps instead of honouring a football match with a public holiday on Grand Final eve, Premier Daniel Andrews could have declared a public holiday in honour of our inspiring women who have and are continuing to achieve so much.

Media: Ruth Barendse – 9735 3208

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