Female Legal Practitioners

June 8 2011

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon S.G. Wade:

That this council notes the centenary of the passage of the Female Practitioners Act 1911, the contribution of female practitioners in the 100 years since and the ongoing contribution of women to the state through the legal profession.

which the Hon. C. Zollo has moved to amend by leaving out all words after 'centenary' and inserting the following:

of International Women's Day and the passage of the Female Practitioners Act 1911. This council also notes the contribution of female practitioners in the 100 years since and the ongoing contribution of women to the state through the legal profession.

(Continued from 18 May 2011.)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:17): I rise to support the motion moved by the Hon. Stephen Wade regarding the centenary of the passage of the Female Practitioners Act and also the amendment to acknowledge that we have seen 100 years of International Women's Day. I rise as a feminist and as somebody who, over 100 years ago, would not necessarily have been able to partake equally in our society. I am pleased to say that we are making steps towards equality but, as a report under Senator Rosemary Crowley noted, when she was Minister for the Status of Women federally, we are halfway to equal as we stand while women are still not paid at an equal rate.

I commend the government and congratulate it on its announcements today on the steps of Parliament House that it will, in fact, fund the pay equity case that is being run by the ASU for our community sector workers. That is a wonderful announcement and I am very pleased to congratulate the new Treasurer for taking that initiative to ensure that this state government steps up to the plate in terms of equal pay for women in that very feminised sector. I congratulate them for their work there.

However, as we know, women still are not necessarily paid at the same level as men in terms of feminised industries and, in some cases, even when they are in the same job. We know that graduate first-year lawyers, if they are female, will be offered a lesser starting salary than a male as a typical cultural practice within some particular firms. However, I am very pleased that we are making those steps towards equality. They have been some long time in coming; although in South Australia, of course, we have a proud history of working to women's equality and of women taking the lead. As we know, women such as Catherine Helen Spence and organisations such as the YWCA, which I am pleased to say I have worked with the past, have been an integral part of these moves forward.

With the union movement and the involvement of what you would term the 'broad left', we have seen events such as International Women's Day take off around the world and fight for a range of different areas of quality. I have touched on equal pay and the right to hold particular professions, such as the legal profession, and the right as a teacher not to have to resign from your job if you got married. These are things that we take for granted to this day.

What I would also like to talk about is the new wave of rights that young women today are fighting for. Young women today are facing a world where they are told that they have equality, that it has been fought and won, and that they have inherited a planet where they have every chance of succeeding or failing, as their brothers—their male peers—do. Yet, they come out into a world where greater expectations are placed upon them to look a certain way and to behave in a certain way.

There are two areas in particular that I would like to point to; one is body image and self-esteem, which, of course, we know affect young women and girls in terms of a tendency to disordered eating on the anorexia or bulimia scale of things at a greater level than their male peers, whereas males, if they do suffer from disordered eating, are often likely to be bulking up than slimming down.

That is a scourge that I think we have to realise is part of the next battle to be fought and won by the women's movement. I find it interesting that people do not necessarily see body image and self-esteem as feminist issues; I certainly think they are. I certainly think they are the next steps towards equality. In the words of Gloria Steinem, 'Self-esteem isn't everything, but without it we have nothing.'

The final area I would like to touch on just briefly today is that of women's sexuality. We have seen around the world the International Women's Day movement take the form of marches on the street. Certainly, in the 1970s and 1980s we saw the Reclaim the Night marches take on some of the mantle that International Women's Day had started. They were marches for women's safety, the right—wherever I go, whatever I wear—to be safe on the street and free of physical abuse and also rape and violence against women.

I have certainly been on a few of those Reclaim the Night marches; I have certainly organised a few in my time. They were part of a time and place that I think the SlutWalk movement has now taken on. Before anybody thinks that that term is unparliamentary, I think there could be no finer organisation (for want of a better word in terms of organisation) than the SlutWalk movement. It started most recently because in Canada a police officer advised young women that if they did not want to be raped they should avoid 'dressing like sluts' in order not to be victimised.

The SlutWalk movement has taken off online and across the world. It is a women's movement, particularly a young women's movement, and it is inclusive of all ages and all genders. It condemns victim blaming, slut shaming and judgements that are based purely on attire. The event preaches respect for sexuality and safety for women everywhere, regardless of how they choose to dress. It also calls for understanding for victims of sexual abuse.

I would like to commend the local Adelaide chapter of the SlutWalk movement, who has a march to Parliament House this weekend. While there are many organisers, two particularly who have put their name to this are Kirsty Hughes and Mandy Threlfo. They have worked to rally a new wave of feminists to take on a new part of the battle for equality. They are making a unified statement about sexual assaults and victims' rights and the right to respect for all.

As I said, we have come a long way with the ability of women to take on particular professions. The ability of women to have equal pay draws ever closer, and the ability for women to take on roles, whether that is to stay home and care for their children or for their family, or whether it is to participate in the workforce at a part-time or a full-time level. It is all about choice, and those choices do, in fact, extend to the way in which a girl or a woman looks. So, I commend the recognition of the history of the women's movement presented by this motion, but I also celebrate the future of the women's movement and wish those walking on the SlutWalk this weekend all the best.

Amendment carried; motion as amended carried.


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