CEO speech at the launch of Our lives: Women in the ACT

31 October 2019

On 29 October 2019, YWCA Canberra launched Our lives: Women in the ACT. This report, based on a survey we conducted of over 1000 Canberra women, provides insights into the daily lives of women in the Territory. At our launch event, our Chief Executive Officer Frances Crimmins gave her reflections on why this report is needed.

Below is a transcript of Frances’ speech.

Good morning and welcome everyone. I’m Frances Crimmins, and I’m proud to be the Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Canberra.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we gather today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and future.

YWCA Canberra has had the privilege of working and serving the community on your land for 90 years, and we are immensely grateful for this.

I also extend my respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who for thousands of years have preserved the culture and practices of their communities on country.

This land was never surrendered, and we acknowledge that it always was and will continue to always be Aboriginal land.

I would also like to acknowledge MLAs in the audience, Candice Burch, Caroline Le Coutuer and Deepak-Raj Gupta.

I am proud to be here today to launch Our lives: Women in the ACT.

This report started as an ambitious project for YWCA Canberra. It draws on existing research and our survey of more than 1000 women aged 18 and over to provide insights into the daily lives and lived experience of women in the ACT.

There is a real story to be told by surveying the lives of Canberra women and capturing trends in their lives over time so that we can fully understand and address their concerns. While those common statistical resources that policy makers frequently draw upon – the Census or the Personal Safety Survey for example – go a long way to telling us what a community looks like – they often fall short in telling us what a community feels; what they hope for and how they perceive of their circumstance. This report endeavours to play a role in painting that nuanced picture and shining a light on the daily realities of over half of Canberra’s population.

Improving the design, collection and representation of data is imperative for the design of future public policy and spaces and to build positive change for all Canberra women.

As a large service provider, employer of more than 350 staff and a feminist organisation with 90 years of helping women and girls in the ACT, YWCA Canberra is well placed to investigate the lived experiences and perceptions of Canberra women. Over this time, we have built a relationship of trust and reputation for compassion with the Canberra community and this means we are in a strong position to survey women in our community and I’m pleased to be able to share some of the findings with you today.

Our report shows that while there is much to be celebrated about women’s quality of life and wellbeing in Canberra there is still work to be done to achieve true gender equality in the ACT.

Women are contributing enormously to our labour market and community, but they are still performing an unequal share of the unpaid labour in their households and these obligations are leaving many women stressed or burnt out.

Many also fear not having enough money as they approach retirement and are concerned about their independence and self-determination as they age.

Alarmingly, the report shows that discrimination against women is common and the workplace in particular remains a site of overwhelming rates of discrimination.

Domestic and interpersonal violence continues to affect an unacceptable number of women with 24 per cent of young women aged 18 to 24 reported experiences of abuse in a domestic or interpersonal relationship in the past twelve months. It saddens me that this statistic remains so high despite decades of feminist advocacy, publicity campaigns and public discussion on domestic and family violence. And we still need to do more work to move the conversation about abuse from the purely physical to include intimidation, coercion and stalking via technology, which many reports show is on the rise.

Further we restate our earlier calls for better collection of gender disaggregated data relating to the public perception of personal safety.

We call on leaders in our community to consider the findings and perspectives shared in this report to inform the design of public policy and spaces and to build real and lasting positive change for all Canberra women.

I would like to thank the women who added their voices to this research. The responses to our survey were candid, insightful and sometimes deeply moving. We heard from women who were successful, looking forward to the next part of their lives and enjoying everything life had to offer and we also heard from those who wanted little more than a meaningful relationship with their family, a holiday or to be offered a home from the public waiting list.

YWCA Canberra will continue to provide a platform for diverse women’s voices to be heard, and to advocate for change so that all women and girls can thrive.

I’m pleased to present Our Lives: Women in the ACT as a gift to Canberra women in celebration of our 90th anniversary and a valuable policy document for all sector leaders to consider and act upon.

Read Our lives: Women in the ACT.

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