YWCA Canberra sets a clear agenda to achieve gender equality in the ACT

17 May 2018

Today YWCA Canberra released a report setting a clear agenda to achieve gender equality in the ACT. The makes a series of recommendations across four areas that YWCA Canberra believes would have the biggest impact on gender equality for ACT girls and women. This includes gender responsive government, equality in the workplace, a life free from violence and housing security. 

The report builds on the momentum from the launch of our Gender Equality Report Card, released on International Women’s Day earlier this year.

While the ACT has a proud history of advancing gender equality, there are still critical areas that must be addressed, including women’s housing security and the prevention of domestic and sexual violence. YWCA Canberra aims to continue to play a strong and constructive role in the public conversation to advance gender equality in the ACT.

We know that gender equality is achievable and the ACT Government has all the necessary tools to make this a reality in our nation’s capital.

Gender Responsive Governance

The report highlights the importance of gender-based analysis to clearly assess the impact of government policy on the lives of girls and women and emphasises the need to reinstate women’s budget analysis in the ACT (ceased in 2008). One of our key recommendations for the ACT government to streamline strategic oversight of gender equality in the ACT through positioning the Office for Women in the Chief Minister’s directorate. This follows international best practice recommendations, including those agreed in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995.

Equality in the Workplace

The stagnation of the gender pay gap over the last twenty years (which currently sits at 15.3 per cent), and the myriad barriers faced by women, including issues such as disproportionate unpaid caring responsibilities, time out of the workplace and the over-representation of women in casual and part-time employment, contribute to the perpetuation of gender inequality in the workplace. However, these barriers are preventable — requiring a shift in community attitudes, a legislated commitment to gender equality and the development of progressive workplace practices.

A Life Free from Violence

Rates of violence against women in Australia have reached crisis point, with family, domestic and sexual violence at crisis levels. As at 2018, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened since age 15. However, the situation is worse for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, who are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than a non-Indigenous woman.

Research and practice has demonstrated that violence against women can be prevented through cultural and behavioural change initiatives systemically embedded in all areas of public life. A key aspect of long-term and sustainable change is education, especially the education of children and young people on issues such as consent, gender and power. For this reason, a key recommendation of the Report is the mandatory implementation of Respectful Relationships education for children and young people in ACT schools from kindergarten to year 12.

Housing Security

The critical state of housing for women across Australia is the final priority addressed in the report. A key driver of the overrepresentation of women who seek homelessness and housing support services is domestic and family violence. In 2016-17, women were the largest group of people who sought homelessness services because of family and/or domestic violence. The intersection between gender and violence is central to housing and homelessness, and requires gender-responsive policy to appropriately address the diverse and multiple needs of women.

The report proposes that effective housing policy must address the diverse needs of women, considering the additional disadvantage particular groups of at-risk women face in accessing housing and homelessness services. In addition to this, dedicated policy and funding is needed to support women escaping family and domestic violence.

Gender equality is an achievable goal and YWCA Canberra is looking forward to collaborating with the ACT government to take the necessary steps forward to ensure all girls and women thrive.

Read the report here: Leading the Change: the Pathway to Gender Equality Report

To find out more information about our advocacy work and policy priority areas, check out the Advocacy page on our website.

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