Sunday, 28 August 2022

As patron in chief of the National Council for Women in South Australia, it is my great pleasure to join you today in celebration of the organisation’s 120th anniversary.

On Thursday 25 September 1902, the Evening Journal, a prominent Adelaide newspaper, reported on the inaugural meeting of the National Council of Women in South Australia.

The piece is sprinkled with names of prominent women at the time – Catherine Helen Spence, author and leading suffragist, as well as your founder; Lady Colton, future Lady Mayoress of Adelaide; and Lady Way, wife of Chief Justice and Lieutenant Governor, Samuel Way – to name a few.

While the article covers a whole range of issues discussed at the meeting, a central theme runs throughout – that of women coming together.

Catherine Helen Spence is reported as saying it is “important to realise the true idea of the council… (to) bring the societies into friendly relations, and make possible united work, which (we) cannot do without.”

Today, while most of these early societies have been replaced by different member organisations, the goal of the Council remains the same: to promote the interests of women, knowing more can be achieved as a united body.

In the past 120 years, much has been done to achieve equality for women.

South Australia has led the way in several regards, and I thank the Council for the role it has played over the decades in advocating for change.

However, there is still much to do: in overcoming unconscious bias; in addressing everyday sexism; in ensuring respectful workplaces and communities; in stopping domestic and family violence; in achieving equal pay.

It’s important to be aware of the additional barriers that women can face in the pursuit of equality, by virtue of cultural background, as well as age, disability and other factors.

I thank the organisations represented here today who advocate for women particularly affected in these ways.

As Governor of South Australia, and the third woman to have the privilege of serving in this role, I am committed to fostering and strengthening gender equality in our state at all levels and in all areas.

It was a motivating factor during my years as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as I sought to implement the Women in Leadership Strategy I had inherited from my predecessor, Peter Varghese, and broaden it to a diversity and inclusion strategy.

I had learned over the years that a diverse workforce is a more capable workforce and that a room – real or virtual - of diverse decision makers makes for better decisions.

But an organisation or a community, even a state, where everyone feels they belong?  That is better still.

I commend the National Council for Women, and in particular the South Australian branch, for working to ensure that women’s rights are recognised as human rights, that women are safe, and that they are represented at all levels of decision making.

I thank you for your tireless efforts in advocacy, and for focusing on the key concerns of your members.

Your recent Advocacy Survey identified a range of issues in relation to women and girls which you will be focusing on, such as the

impact of climate change and natural disasters, indigenous affairs, affordable housing, and equal representation in leadership.

I also praise the Council for its initiatives such as the Lighting of Icons which, last year, saw prominent city buildings lit in orange to raise awareness of gender-based violence.

I look forward to seeing these icons illuminated again this year.

Congratulations to you all on the 120th anniversary. I look forward to supporting the Council in the years ahead, including by bringing women together and encouraging you to continue to make a difference.