By Nina Richwol
WIZO members often tell me that I have the most interesting job in our organisation.
I believe it’s true! Why? because as WIZO Victoria’s delegate to National Council of Women of Victoria and United Nations Association, Victorian branch, Status of Women Committee, I meet women committed to improving women’s welfare, gender equality and matters related to the United Nations. Many of the issues discussed at meetings aim to overcome disadvantage and create opportunities for people to thrive. This is also WIZO’s purpose and the reason for our fundraising. So, I find this synergy to be truly relevant to our goals.
Below is a summary of meetings I have attended during May 2020
National Council of Women of Victoria (NCWV) 7 May meeting
Guest speaker Deborah Towns OAM, NCWV Women and Employment Advisor who spoke on Gender Equality in the Workplace.
1. Gender Equality in the Public Sector
Deborah stated that “In early 2020, the Parliament of Victoria passed the Gender Equality Bill. It is the first of its kind in Australia. No other state has such radical legislation. It is designed to bring about gender equality in Victorian workplaces in the public service, local government, universities, and other places, but does not include the private sector.
Each public sector workplace must provide a Gender Equality Action Plan every four years including targets and quotas. Progress towards equity in these workplaces will be monitored. It is considered radical as it is implementing compulsory targets and quotas for public workplaces”.
Link to Victorian Government Gender Equality Legislation https://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/as-made/acts/gender-equality-act-2020
2. Gender Equality in the Private sector
Deborah noted that gender equality in the private sector is regulated nationally by the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. The act states that businesses employing 100 staff or more, are required to provide annual reports to the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). However, the Act does not include compulsory targets and quotas.
She stated that progress towards equal pay has been slow and the current gender pay gap in Australia is 13.9% for full-time workers. When broken down into job sectors, in finance and insurance 22%, in scientific, technical work, health care and social services the pay gap is 22.3%. In education and public administration, where 70% of workers are women, the pay gap is 12%. Deborah notes that many women working part-time in caring, cleaning, catering and retail are poorly paid and have little opportunity to adequately support themselves, or their families. And, if they are sole parents, to save for their retirement through superannuation.
Elisabeth Newman, President of NCWV, reflected on the Increased tension in households due to working from home, loss of income and the marked increase in domestic violence and child abuse.
She also mentioned that the Chinese Community Council of Australia (Vic) (CCCAV) has expressed concern about the rise of COVID-19 related racist attacks on Australians of Chinese and other Asian heritage.
3. United Nations Association of Australia, Victorian Branch, Status of Women Committee (UNAAV SOWC) 12 May meeting
The following topics were discussed
United Nations Secretary General’s Plan of Action on Hate Speech:
“Let’s defeat hate speech – and COVID-19 – together”. These words were part of a speech given on 5 May by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterras.
He stated that “Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred. Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment. With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable. And journalists, whistle-blowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs. We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate. That’s why I’m appealing today for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally”.
The meeting discussed The Secretary General’s speech and UN’s multilayered approach to eliminating hate speech. For the UN Plan OF Action On Hate Speech go to: https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/UN%20Strategy%20and%20Plan%20of%20Action%20on%20Hate%20Speech%2018%20June%20SYNOPSIS.pdf
Link to Secretary General’s speech: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2020-05-08/appeal-address-and-counter-covid-19-hate-speech
4. Impact of the COVID 19 emergency on public policy
Claire Moore former Senator, spoke on the Impact of the COVID 19 emergency on public policy in Australia and beyond, especially in relation to gender equality and human rights.
Claire expressed concern about women’s financial security following the withdrawal of Job Keeper and Job Seeker schemes and asserted that women’s mental health services have not be improved during the pandemic.
She believes that in these difficult economic times Australia’s financial obligation to international development will be reduced. She suggested, Australia should be part of an international alliance sharing knowledge and experience to help nations affected by Covid-19.