THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
LABOR WILL MODERNISE HONOURS TO BETTER RECOGNISE THE CONTRIBUTION OF AUSTRALIAN WOMEN
A Shorten Labor Government will modernise the nation’s honours system to better recognise the contribution of Australian women and other underrepresented groups.
The honours system is an important way of celebrating the outstanding contributions of Australians, but it does not currently represent the diversity of our society.
Since 1975, women have only received about 30 per cent of all awards in the Order of Australia’s General Division.
Labor will set a target to increase that to 40 per cent by 2020, with the ultimate aim of having half of all awards going to women.
Women contribute as much as men, and our honours and awards should properly reflect that.
The award categories recognise traditionally male dominated professions while overlooking female dominated industries. That has seen the contributions of many Australian women go unacknowledged.
For example, there are stand-alone categories for building and construction, engineering, mining, and primary industry. Meanwhile, the female dominated profession of nursing belongs to a broader category of medicine.
In last June’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, male recipients outnumbered female recipients in almost 90 per cent of categories. No women received awards in the categories of dentistry, IT, architecture, industrial relations, surveying and mapping, transport, or veterinary science.
Labor will make the award categories more representative to broaden the types of contributions that are recognised, including in traditionally female dominated industries.
The lower proportion of women receiving awards is also linked to the lower proportion of women nominees. Women are consistently underrepresented, making up only around 30 per cent of all nominees.
So Labor will work with states and territories, the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General, and women’s and community organisations such as Honour a Woman, to increase the number of women nominated for awards.
We will also ensure the committee that decides who gets honours (the Council for the Order of Australia) has a strong female membership. The Council recently reached over 50 per cent women members for the first time. Labor will extend our government board target of 50 per cent female representation to the Council for the Order of Australia to prevent it from slipping backwards.
The existing nomination process does not capture data on whether award recipients are First Nations people, culturally diverse, or Australians living with a disability. It seems they are underrepresented too. Labor will update the honours system to better recognise the contribution of these groups.
To better monitor progress, we will change the award nomination form to meet government accessibility and inclusivity guidelines, including by asking whether the nominee is:
- from a First Nations background;
- from a culturally and linguistically diverse background; or
- has a disability.
THURSDAY, 24 JANUARY 2019