Reception to Celebrate International Women’s Day 2015
Kaye and I warmly welcome you to Government House this evening. While International Women’s Day was yesterday, we are very pleased that you could join us here tonight, on what, coincidentally, is another notable day, Commonwealth Day. It is a great pleasure and privilege to be addressing such a vibrant group of women, and with men, who, though small in number, nonetheless provide ample support.
First and foremost, we seek tonight to recognize achievement, alongside a steadily diminishing while still significant enduring struggle.
May I say that I am pleased to have been Australia’s first vice-regal representative to swear in a ministry comprising more women than men – as occurred on 16 February last. It is the first Queensland ministry to include an Indigenous woman, Minister Enoch, who is also the first Indigenous woman to be elected to Queensland Parliament.
This year carries additional vice-regal significance. When former Family Court judge and the AFL’s second-ever woman commissioner – itself interesting – Linda Dessau, assumes office as Governor of Victoria in July, every State and mainland territory vice-regal office will at some stage have been occupied by a woman.
Indeed, sixteen of the past 23 International Women’s Days have been celebrated in Queensland by woman governors.
These are all significant milestones, and indicative of wider community progress. They reflect what we know to be innate – in our modern world, no one gender has ever had a monopoly over ability and proficiency. Our society is reassuringly, albeit slowly, publicly recalibrating that ledger.
This year’s International Women’s Day commemorated 20 years since the signing of the historic Beijing Declaration.
The UN has for this year suggested the theme ‘Empowering women, empowering humanity’.
Now the UN has something of a capacity for stating the obvious. Maybe that is what comes of running on consensus. But then that wisdom as to the empowering capacity of women was not accepted as so obvious even 2 decades ago.
I have sometimes thought it odd that such axiomatic messages need to be ‘sold’ – in governmental terms; that they need to be promoted by ‘advocates’; that we do not all at once recognize these traits and live by them. But then again, our Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has reminded us all dramatically of one ever present wildcard.
That is the scourge of family and domestic violence, more often at the hands of males. It eviscerates the potential of many women, and is a powerful corrosive force on our broader social cohesion. Rightly it is increasingly the focus of vocal community denunciation, and I respectfully note the recent clarion call by Dame Quentin Bryce.
International Women’s Day is, therefore, poignant not just because we reflect on the tone of women’s past and future contributions. Men, too, we recognize, have attendant obligations.
All must be recognised to ensure we develop optimally as individual human beings, and truly advance our communities.
Then may I acknowledge the contributions your family and friends, particularly on this occasion the many wonderful women, will have made to your accomplishments.
They have, almost undoubtedly, provided you with abiding support, as indeed they have for me.
In talking about men and islands, John Donne was not being gender specific. The stipulation is really pretty obvious – we all need to, and should, support each other equally.
Kaye and I are greatly honoured to welcome you all to Government House this evening, and to join, with you, in acknowledging the continuing significance of this important annual event.