Published: 16 November 2022

Legislative Council, Tuesday 15 November 2022

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President. Most, if not all, members would know that the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) is an integral part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The CWP works for the better representation of women in legislatures and the furtherance of gender equality across the Commonwealth.

The strategic purpose of CWP is: to increase female representation in parliaments and legislatures in the Commonwealth; provide a means for building the capacity of women elected to parliament to be more effective in their roles; to improve the awareness and ability of all parliamentarians, male and female - encouraging them to include a gender perspective in all aspects of their role - legislation and oversight in representation; and helping parliaments become gender sensitive institutions.

The CWP has an active presence in all Australian parliaments and members use various methods, such as motions, parliamentary debates, hosting forums and inter-parliamentary events to raise awareness of the work and focus of CWP.

Along with the strategic purpose of CWP, overall, our Australian branch of CWP aims to: increase the number of women in Australian parliaments - we have done that reasonably successfully in recent times; to provide a network of current women members of parliament; to encourage young women to engage with democratic processes, build careers in the political sphere and learn more about the Commonwealth; educate all members of parliament on the work of the Commonwealth women parliamentarians; and encourage them to get involved in such activities.

The CWP is a nonpartisan network of women parliamentarians who are committed to the advancement of women in politics. Each of the states and territories in the Federal Parliament elect a representative to the CWP, who then make up the Australian Regions Steering Committee. The steering committee is a body of 10 women MPs, representing each of Australia's federal, state and territory parliaments, plus the Chair.

I have been fortunate enough to serve on the steering committee on behalf of the Tasmanian Parliament for a total of six years, with my second three-year term finishing this year. It has been a little bit frustrating for this last term, with COVID-19 resulting in the cancellation of a number of events that were planned, including educational functions for our members; the 2021 conference - which was successfully held in July this year; and two previous Stepping Up events. Stepping Up, is the CWPs Young Women in Leadership Day, and that is today. Each school - public and private - and home-schooled students are invited to send two Year 9 students to parliament with support staff, to spend a day in our workplace under the excellent guidance of our Parliamentary Education Service and education officers Colette Goyne and Kimbra McCormack. I sincerely thank them both, in particular Colette who has done a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make this event such a success; and I am privileged to welcome the students to our parliament this morning.

This year we have students from 12 schools; actually, it is 11 schools because Leighland Christian School, Ulverstone, had to turn due to weather conditions on the highway and illness. The schools that are in attendance are: the Australian Christian College, Hobart; Calvin Christian School, Kingston; Cape Barren Island School; Clarence High School; Hobart City High School; the Indie School, Burnie; New Norfolk High School; Scotch Oakburn College, Launceston; Southern Christian College, Kingston, St Michael's Collegiate, Hobart; and the Tasman District School, Nubeena.

Stepping Up is an event to encourage young women to attend our parliament to meet as many female MPs as they can; to learn about the importance of parliament in our democracy; and to introduce young women to some of the skills required to be an effective member of parliament. As we know, these skills will be useful in leadership positions and generally in the workplace. The young women will also learn about various aspects of an MP's role and that of parliamentary staff and electorate officers.

Mr President, the commonly-stated reality - 'You can't be what you can't see', is a reality the Stepping Up program seeks to address and to encourage young women to consider engagement with and involvement in politics.

I was hoping they would join us in the Chamber, but they are obviously tied up elsewhere; but you will see them here later in the morning when they finish what they are doing.

I appreciate that due to cost and time away from school and other issues, it is not an easy program for our rural and regional students to attend. I hope we can find some way to fund these opportunities for schools from our regional areas, to enable equity of access in the future.

I encourage all members who see the young women around the parliament today to warmly welcome them, and let them know a bit about why you put yourself forward for election whether you are male or female. I also suggest you encourage them to consider engagement in politics and democracy as an important part of our society and a role where they can make a change and make a difference.

Mr President, I warmly welcome the young women and their support staff who are participating in Stepping Up today and wish them well in the future as they embark on, or continue, their leadership journeys.


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