In this opening speech to the ICFTU Womens Conference ACTU President Sharan Burrow says in a socially just world womens aspirations and life choices and achievements would not be threatened by the question of gender.

Welcome Sisters, Welcome. Welcome to our nation and to our home. We are honoured to have so many powerful women in our midst.

A big hand for Rachel Mazza our talented narrator and a powerful young Aboriginal sister.

Thank you again to Joy Murphy for that warm and moving welcome to country. We pay tribute to the Elders of the Kulin Nation and thank them for their custodianship of the land on which we meet.

You will have noticed that the traditional tourist images of Australia did not feature no kangaroos or koalas, no sheep, no shearers and definitely no waltzing matildas. Rather we wanted to tell you a somewhat different story; the story of annexation of the lands of our first nations people, a story about diversity, of immigration and settlement in a strange land, of the strength of our mothers and grandmothers in the face of physical and economic adversity, paternalism and sexism: indeed of unfinished business for Australian women. There is more. The story of Australian women and unions continues after the break and we hope you enjoy both the serious and the humourous portrayal of historic and contemporary challenge for union women.

This is indeed an historic week for Australias Union Women. We take great comfort from your presence at a time when we know our world faces the very real threat of war; a ware driven by men who are not interested in solutions for peace. We are outraged that one of those men is our own Prime Minister, a man who has no mandate to do so from the Australian public: A man who has shamed us with the dreadful treatment of asylum seekers who see a better life in our nation.

We invite you all to wear a ribbon for peace as a gesture of solidarity amongst union women who know all too well that the collateral damage referred to by our leaders is the injury and death of working men and women and their families who will bear the cost of war. We say to the Security Council of the United Nations talk of peace not war. We have our own mini united nations here this week. We urge our leaders to listen to the sanity of the voice of women we want a world where people, peace and prosperity for all nations are the first, second third and final priorities of global governance.

2/3 of the worlds work yet only 5% of the income. That is the impact of globalisation on women. Of the paid work globally women contribute about 40% yet our share of the wealth is not even half of that. 70% of womens work is of course unpaid an issue we must never be quiet about. With more than 56% of women in the workforce there are dual quests for us the ongoing demand for recognition of womens domestic labour and family friendly workplaces for the 21% century workplaces. The organisation of work has been designed for a world where men went out to work and women took charge of the home. Lets shape our workplaces of this century in a manner that allows us to balance work and family.

The ICFTU Global womens survey rated the top 5 priorities as :

  • Higher Pay: 52%
  • Job Security: 37.1%
  • Respect at Work: 26.3%
  • Retirement Security: 25.4%, and
  • Control over hours: 23.8%
  • It will not surprise you to see that our recent survey of working Australians rated these issues just as highly.

  • Higher Pay: 58%
  • Job Security: 62%
  • Respect at Work: 65%
  • Retirement Security: 62% and
  • Control over hours: 61%
  • The key findings of the Australian survey from women respondents tell a rich story of discontent with the nature of their workplaces.

    Family friendly provisions is a major campaign for Australian unions this year beginning with the quest for a universal system of paid maternity leave something most of you already enjoy. We hope you will join us is a really to support Australian women in this quest on Thursday.

    Another highlight of the week is to have a special visitor Eve Ensler, a famous author and playwright, with us. Eve is the founder of the V-Day campaign a global campaign to eliminate violence against women. She had a grand vision and will be with us later today. I hope many of you will attend her reading of the Vagina Monologues on Wednesday night. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and tickets are available as the Emilys List table.

    Sisters Gender Equity is a fundamental human right. In a socially just world womens aspirations, life choices and achievements would not be constrained by the question of gender. We have our very own mini-united nations here with week. Even better we are a global team of union women. We know how to dream a better world and we know how to struggle against injustice. Lets do it lets plan for a world that embraces the best and constrains the worst of globalisation. Lets lay the foundation for the 21st century where people, peace and prosperity for all are out first priorities.

    Lets begin with a gesture of solidarity to Iraqi men and women with whom we have no fight and say no to war!

    Lets begin with building strong unions for women for unions need women and we need unions if we are to make the 21st century the century of women. We owe it to our daughters.

    Thank you all for coming such a long way to our home lets make a womens war on injustice. We need to take away the old war weapons of the men and put just and fair global governance structures in their place.

    Solidarity sisters.