SENATOR HENDERSON: My question is to the Minister for Women, Senator Payne. Today is International Day of Rural Women. Can the Minister outline the Government’s initiatives to recognise the contribution of rural women to Australia, and to empower their aspirations?
SENATOR PAYNE: Thank you very much Mr President. Thank you Senator Henderson for that question because this morning I had the opportunity to join the National Rural Women’s Coalition for their annual rural, regional and remote women’s muster here in Canberra. A very opportune time to acknowledge the crucial role of rural women in Australian communities on this International Day of Rural Women.
In the 2019 muster there are 12 indomitable women. They cover literally the length and breadth of this country –from Richmond in Tasmania and Mantung in South Australia, Geraldton and Margaret River in Western Australia, from Yulara in the Northern Territory, and even from Norfolk Island. They bring diversity to their engagement with us in Canberra and they are bringing forward the views and the voices of rural women.
We had a great conversation, Mr President. It was particularly moving in parts, including about the challenges of drought for them and for their families, on mental health, on isolation, and a range of other factors.
I want to also especially acknowledge today Mr President the representatives of rural women’s organisations who have been joining me at women’s stakeholder roundtables in NSW, in Queensland and Tasmania in recent months. Because they bring a distinct perspective to women’s safety, economic empowerment and leadership issues.
We are very committed to supporting rural women and girls in succeeding. Our Women’s Economic Security Statement, which is backed by $151.4 million in funding over four years, includes a number of measures that support rural, regional and remote women and girls.
And I particularly love the Future Female Entrepreneurs Program, which will engage around 55,000 girls in around 50 face-to-face workshops as well as young women nationwide, via a digital platform. And it’s the digital platform that so helps to enable girls in rural, regional and remote areas to also engage in the program and tap into the more than 100 pieces of original content, including videos and articles.
SENATOR HENDERSON: Can the Minister advise the Senate of the Government’s initiatives for rural, regional and remote women under the Women’s Economic Security Statement and Women’s Leadership and Development Program?
SENATOR PAYNE: Thank you Mr President. I can, and I also want to acknowledge Senator Henderson’s leadership as a women from regional Australia, who has joined us here in the Senate following the experience of the House of Representatives, come to the other place, and note her great leadership in her own community, particularly around Geelong.
The Women’s Economic Security Statement, Mr President, includes measures that support rural, regional and remote women’s workforce participation.
They’re measures like Career Revive, an initiative that gives tailored business improvement assistance for regional employers to recruit and retain women who are seeking to return to work after a career break. And the first intake of those ten businesses was selected just in August this year.
Through the Women’s Leadership and Development Program, we are funding small-scale and one-off grants to specifically support regional, rural and remote women.
There are two great examples I want to mention today. The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Women’s Leadership Forum – an annual one-day Women’s Leadership Forum in Kalgoorlie where high-profile speakers discuss women’s leadership.
And most recently our commitment to CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes.
SENATOR HENDERSON: Can the Minister advise the Senate of what support the Government provides for rural women experiencing family and domestic violence?
SENATOR PAYNE: Thank you very much Mr President. This is one of the most challenging areas for Government but most importantly for the families and communities that experience violence in relation to women and their children particularly.
We are proud to have made the single largest Commonwealth investment of $340 million to support the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
And the Plan has a deliberate focus on responding to diverse perspectives, including rural women, through national priority three, in particular: respect, listen and respond to the diverse lived experience and knowledge of women and their children affected by violence.
Through the Fourth Action Plan, we’ve also invested $64 million in 1800RESPECT, and it’s nationally available to women across Australia, through telephone counselling and online support.
And that includes projects to improve accessibility for people from vulnerable and diverse cohorts, including, of course, coverage of rural, regional and remote locations. There is more to do Mr President, but these are important steps.