ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: No room for complacency on status of women

8 March 2014

Speaking on International Women’s Day, Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, said “Four priorities for action are identified by women where-ever, and in what-ever circumstances, they live: stop violence against women and their children, sustain and build resources for the services that provide safety and support recovery for women and children affected by violence, build economic independence and security for women and increase the role of women in decision-making.”

“Whilst we can access protections and sanctions through the justice system one in three women will still experience violence.  In Canberra, too many of these women (and their children) will not be able to find a safe, affordable place to live or access support for their recovery from their injuries and the longer term effects of trauma.  Reduced funding for homelessness services in Canberra have made these service gaps worse.  Our community faces further federal government cuts if the National Partnership Agreement on Housing is not funded in the Federal Budget this year.

“Discrimination has been made illegal, but we have not closed the gap between women and men when it comes to security of employment, rates of pay or retirement incomes.  Research by Professor Helen Berry at the University of Canberra in 2013 showed women are twice as likely to be living on the fringes of society because of limited access to the resources and opportunities needed to fully participate in society and to live a decent life.  And women get stuck in these circumstances for longer.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women who have been refugees or are newly arrived migrants, young women and older women all face even higher risks to their safety and wellbeing, less access to services and greater barriers to financial independence and security.

“Even when women rise to positions of privilege and power, they often find themselves in a minority, and face different expectations than their male counterparts.

“I’m concerned that despite the clear evidence of ongoing inequality, that once International Women’s Day has been celebrated, the needs of women and girls will fall off the public agenda.

“It is significant that ACT Minister for Women, Joy Burch, made a commitment this week to clearly outline what the ACT Government is investing in services for women.   The community want to see sustained and  improved resourcing of services for women and girls. 

“But real change in the status of women needs a focus beyond service delivery issues.  That is why ACTCOSS is so pleased that Minister Burch also committed to refreshing the ACT Women’s Plan.    

Ms Helyar concluded, “ACTCOSS looks forward to working with the Ministerial Advisory Council on Women and with Minister Burch to build shared responsibility through the Women’s Plan across government, community organisations and the private sector for delivering widespread, genuine and lasting improvements in women’s safety, wellbeing, economic independence and security, and taking their place as decision-makers in every part of our community.”

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.