Unions have been, and continue to be, a bridge between the worlds of work, community and family argues Victorian Minister for Women’s Affairs, Mary Delahunty.


  • Welcome tonight to this magnificent Hall. It was named after a Queen but it
    took nearly 55 years for the first woman to pass through this chamber as an
    elected member of parliament!
  • Next week 40 women will gather here as members of the 55th
    Parliament – a record number of women for Victoria!
  • This achievement not only reflects the advances women have made as active
    partners in our democratic process. It is a tribute to the leadership shown by
    thousands of women and the Trade Union Movement.
  • Union movements have historically been at the frontline in the pursuit of
    women’s rights.
  • Unions have been, and continue to be, a bridge between the sometimes
    disparate worlds of work, community and family.
  • And unions are often the ones to come up with innovative solutions to
    providing balance and harmony between work and family life.
  • It’s a great honour for the Victorian Government to host the
    International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) 8th World
    Women’s Congress here in Melbourne.
  • The ICFTU has already made a very real difference to the lives of
  • in unions,
  • in workplaces,
  • in government and communities, and
  • in the fundamental issues of equality, justice and peace.
  • This Congress enables us all to celebrate the great history of women’s
    achievements in public and community life and move the agenda

    As many of you would be aware, Australia still has a way to go in improving the rights of women.

  • Australia is one of only two OECD countries to not have a national paid
    maternity leave scheme.
  • 54.9% of Victorian women participate in the labour force. What matters to
    them, matters to the economic and social well being of our whole
  • In a recent study of Australian employees, 80% of employees strongly
    favoured more family friendly workplace laws and a cap on long working
  • The ACTU’s National Survey of Workplace Issues, covering more
    than 8,000 employees nationwide, documented high levels of workplace stress,
    insecurity, financial difficulty, understaffing, excessive workloads, and unpaid
  • Victorian women were granted the right to vote in the Federal elections of
    1901 and the State elections of 1908. Yet, up until 1949, women’s wages were
    only 54% of male wages. In 2003 Victorian women still receive only 67% of an
    average male’s earnings.
  • The systemic discrimination and disadvantage that women suffer
  • Vigilance, perseverance and political will – at every level and in
    every sphere – are crucial to combating institutionalised

  • The “Working for Women” Policy of the Victorian Government is a
    response to the voices of women in our community.
  • This policy commits to:
  • Promoting balance work and family life in the community through a $1000
    RETURN TO WORK grant. In addition, projects that genuinely assist families in
    achieving a balance between work and family life will be supported in the
    workplace. (This policy commits to)
  • Continuing to lobby the Federal Government to establish a national paid
    maternity leave scheme.
  • Supporting paid maternity leave through funded payroll deductions for
    employers providing paid maternity or adoption leave. That Bill will pass
    through the Victorian Parliament in the next session.
  • Improving women’s safety, in the home, in public places and in the
  • Improving women’s health by rebuilding the Royal Women’s
    Hospital, implementing the first comprehensive women’s health strategy and
    extending Indigenous maternity services.
  • Increasing the representation of women
  • on government boards and committees,
  • across government and its agencies, such as the police force. Our Chief
    Commissioner of Police, Christine Nixon, is the highest ranking female officer
    in Australia.
  • Providing a focal point for engaging with all women – wherever they
    live, whatever their cultural background, whatever their life choices. The Queen
    Victoria Women’s Centre will be up and running and delivering on these
    promises in the immediate future.
  • Gender discrimination is deeply rooted, sometimes flagrant, but more often
  • The language of power may change but the reality of discrimination does
  • WE – governments, unions, individual women – must combine our
    efforts to:
  • Create more and better jobs for women
  • Include issues of gender in collective bargaining
  • Demand equal pay for work of equal value
  • Combat violence against women.
  • The ICFTU 8th World Women’s Congress will build on those
    all-important networks both inside and outside the trade union movement, and,
    across the world.
  • Enjoy this evening’s opportunity to reinvigorate the debate and
    continue the exchange of ideas.
  • I wonder how those who built this Grand Hall would have reacted to the sight
    so many women union leaders from 148 countries gathered here, dedicated to
    reshaping the work and family experiences of men and women?
  • This is a momentous occasion in the history of this Queen’s Hall and
    you are a vital part of the future of all women.
  • Sisters, I wish you a very successful and productive