SHE Votes: focussing on women’s issues this federal election

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The Young Women’s Council of Australia hosted ‘SHE Votes’, an election forum focussing on women’s issues, in Adelaide on May 8.

Forty women gathered in the function room of Sparkke at the Whitmore to hear from three senate candidates, before being given the opportunity to ‘speed date’ other South Australian candidates.

New South Wales’ Senator Jenny McAllistor from the Labor Party, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Australian Greens (South Australia) and Centre Alliance Senate Candidate Skye Kakoschke-Moore (South Australia) sat on the Q&A panel, discussing questions posed by a YWCA representative.

There were no Liberal-National Party candidates present.

The agenda of the panel discussion was policies impacting women at this federal election, including female safety, housing, violence prevention programs, employment and leadership.

Family and domestic violence was a hot topic, with Senator Hanson-Young reminding the room of the statistic that one in three women will experience family and domestic violence in their lifetime.

Labor has committed $660 million to primary prevention work and acute interventions when it comes to domestic violence, double what the Coalition has currently put forward.

Senator McAllistor said she felt a momentum swing, not just in Australia but around the world, in demand for a change in the way we deal with women.  

“The bystander effect can be elevated … if given the tools, they’re motivated to act. They just need the tools,” she said. 

Labor plans to spend part of its $660 million funding on school-based and community programs, to prevent violence against women in its early stages.

Senator Hanson-Young made it clear that within the whopping $5.3 billion the Australian Greens have committed to ending violence against women, a portion would be dedicated first to frontline services.

“Not one woman or her children should be turned away at a service … how can that not be a bench mark?” she said.

The panel members were also questioned on their parties’ proposals for the support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who are identified as a more at-risk group in the case of family violence.

Labor has committed $62 million into community-based prevention and frontline services, which Senator McAllistor said “there will be a dedicated component within that for First Nation’s people”.

“With an additional $20 million for First Nation’s refuges and safe houses,” she said.

Kakoschke-Moore spoke of the importance of consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when making decisions regarding First Nations people.  

“When it comes to programs where we are actually trying to provide the funding, it is so, so important that these programs are designed with Indigenous communities in mind,” she said.

“The community development program that exists at the moment is terrible, it really is. It is very clear it wasn’t designed with Indigenous people in mind, it was designed to save money.”

Senator Hanson-Young supported these comments, drawing on a specific example of the cashless welfare card, “which has had a disastrous effect on Indigenous women”.

The panel was followed by a ‘speed-dating’ session, where forum attendees were invited to meet and question candidates.

Senate candidates for South Australia, Larissa Harrison and Emily Gore of the Australian Labor Party, and Louise Pfeiffer from the Animal Justice Party were available for small-group discussions.

Local candidates Barbara Pocock (Adelaide) and Stef Rozitis (Boothby) were present for the Australian Greens, joining Senator Sarah Hanson-Young for the speed-dating component.

If elected, these female candidates will have a responsibility to ensure election promises are followed through.

“Respect for women should be shown, not just talked about (by federal politicians),” said Senator Hanson-Young during the panel discussion.

The SHE Votes event was held at Sparkke @ the Whitmore on May 8 by the YWCA, it was the YWCA’s premier pre-election forum.

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