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Girls & Women

Victorians Are Being Asked to Take Action on Australia's First Gender Equality Bill

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Women currently are not treated as equals nor given equal opportunity to climb the corporate ladder. Girls and women deserve, and now demand, to be treated as equals. Global Citizen campaigns on the UN Global Goals, including uplifting women and promoting diversity. You can take action on the issue of gender equality here.

In an Australian first, the Victorian Labor government has announced they intend to enshrine gender equality in law through a newly proposed Victorian Gender Equality Bill.

Victorians are being asked for their input and guidance on the drafted legislation, which will see action plans and diversity quotas applied throughout government departments and public sector entities. A citizens jury will convene and report on the proposed bill to Victorian Minister for Women Natalie Hutchins on Sept. 15.

“While Victoria does have laws that prevent discrimination based on gender, there is currently no law to proactively progress gender equality,” Hutchins stated. "The equality between women and men needs to be law, good intentions aren't cutting it.”

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The bill proposes that all public sector organisations identify strategies that promote and strengthen workplace gender equality, including ensuring a 50% appointment of women executives and equal representation of women in new appointments. The historic legislation is part of the Labor governments Safe and Strong Strategy, a framework that seeks to see "enduring and sustained" action on statewide gender equality.

Victorian radio and television personality Tom Elliott disagreed with Hutchins over the drafted bill due to his belief that quotas prevent the best candidate from getting the job.

“I believe in always hiring the best person for the position,” Elliott told Hutchins on his 3AW Radio Drive program. “It is my opinion that in business, public service, and politics you should not appoint people based on their gender, the colour of their skin, their religion, or their ethnicity. All you need to ask is whether the person is best qualified to do this task.”

For Hutchins, however, the evidence speaks for itself. According to the International Gender Gap Index, the nations with the best gender equality — Finland, Iceland, and Norway — all enshrine gender equality in law. 

“When public bodies are compelled to promote gender equality by law, gender equality improves,” the index states.

The Centre for Non-Violence in regional Victoria has rallied behind the initiative, with chief executive Margaret Augerinos stating the bill was a fantastic first step towards a more equal world for women.

“Government policies and practices can help influence the behaviour and actions of decision makers and senior executives to be more mindful as to how their policies and services impact on women and men,” she told the Bendigo Adviser, before announcing that a gender equality law should similarly see a major upheaval of long-held discriminatory cultural expectations and social norms.

“Many in the community believe gender inequality is a myth and reject outright any suggestion that women’s experience of inequality is structural,” she stated. “Gender inequality is real and manifests itself in all sorts of ways.”

A State of the Public Sector Report released in February revealed the gender pay gap within the Victorian public sector sits at 12%, predominantly due to the enormity of women employed in "traditionally female-dominated areas" like junior clerical jobs and welfare support positions. 

The report follows recent statewide studies that disclosed women often suffered unfairly in terms of workplace flexibility and were significantly underrepresented in senior management positions. 

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“Every Victorian deserves a fair workplace and that’s why we’re determined to reduce the gender gap in workforce participation and pay,” Hutchins stated. “Through Safe and Strong and the proposed Gender Equality Bill, we are driving landmark gender equality reforms to set a new standard in Victorian workplaces.”