Good afternoon ladies and gentleman and thank you very much for the invitation and the opportunity to be here today.
I particularly want to thank Tricia for her very warm welcome and for her indefatigable commitment and effort in getting here today.
The story you tell about the plane is one with which I am somewhat familiar, so I really appreciate that.
Can I also thank the Australian Human Rights Commission for hosting this event today and for hosting me here, also.
To the President, Ros Croucher, to the Commissioners, Ben Gauntlett and Kate Jenkins, who are here in the room with us this afternoon, thank you very much.
I want to acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land on which we're meeting today and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
I also want to thank Aunty Ann Weldon for her very well-spoken welcome to country.
One of the things that struck me about the invitation to be here today - and so close to International Women's Day - was the chance that it would give me to acknowledge the leadership and the membership of Women With Disabilities Australia, an organisation that I have followed for 20 years with great interest and great admiration for the work that you do.
And that makes it an enormous honour for me to be here today in the lead-up to International Women's Day, in particular.
So, Tricia, to you, and to all of the women and girls who belong to this organisation, thank you.
If you would be so kind as to send my very best wishes to Carolyn, who I am disappointed not to be seeing today, I would be very grateful.
Ladies and gentleman, for so many of you in this room, you know better than most that women with disabilities face barriers and prejudice.
Tricia has outlined some of those to us. But, that makes the work of Women With Disabilities Australia even more necessary.
You raise the voices of people who might not otherwise be heard. And that's exactly what I think this new website, ‘Our Place’ is also going to be.
As Tricia has told us, it has been designed by and for women and girls with disabilities - a virtual place where they can, and will, be seen and most certainly heard.
This website is designed to help women and their carers understand their rights. ‘Our Place’ supports them to realise their potential, informing and empowering them on critical issues - safety, sexual and reproductive health, of rights and hopefully of opportunities.
These are the key priorities for all Australian women. Indeed, we all want to live in a country that encourages women in leadership, that protects women's rights and health, and prioritises women's safety and freedom from violence.
Of course, today, here at this event, we're celebrating the importance of the achievements of women with disability.
We also should acknowledge - and Tricia did remind us of this - women with disabilities can be some of the most vulnerable people in our community, a fact that I'm sure does not escape many in this room.
There are a number of familiar faces here today who I know are leaders and advocates and committed campaigners for all of the rights and opportunities that we are talking about.
We have, in Australia, at the moment, a Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of women with disability; of people with disability.
It's uncovering some highly disturbing stories. At the very heart of the Royal Commission's work are the personal testimony, the experiences, of those people who have bravely chosen to share them.
And that is how we, as a community, can understand what has been happening, and perhaps is happening, behind closed doors. How we can move to heal, how we can move to change systems that have allowed this to happen.
I'm holding a series of women's roundtables nationally, in capital cities and regional areas. On some occasions, what I'm hearing at those is both encouraging and troubling.
I particularly want to thank Carol for her cont ribution at our Hobart roundtable recently. It was an absolute pleasure to have her speak to us and to share with us her experience and part of her leadership role of this organisation.
I'm also aware, from those discussions, there have been matters raised about the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Some people have asked for a breakdown of data to understand better how men and women are accessing the scheme differently. I want to assure you that I take those questions very seriously.
I have directly raised them with my colleague, Stuart Robert, the Minister for the NDIS and I've asked my Office for Women in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to pursue answers to the questions that have been raised with me.
Some of the imbalance in numbers in the data, I'm advised, can be explained by a higher prevalence of autism among boys and men.
But, if there are other reasons, I want to assure you that we will pursue this and get to the bottom of it.
The Office for Women is also working on guidance material for policymakers to help them fully consider the impacts on women early in the process that will be available this year.
I also promise to keep doing those roundtables, to keep listening to, and meeting with, people.
Recently with the Prime Minister, I was at Oran Park, in my own community of western Sydney - no longer a racetrack, but in fact, a vast suburban development. We were there to open a new set of specialist disability accommodation homes called, by the business who has built them, Casa Capace. My Italian is not fabulous, but I'm told that loosely translated, it means, “a home where people are able to achieve”. They’re beautiful. They are really, really cleverly designed homes for people with disabilities.
I met two people that day - Ricky and Vicky. They were moving into homes of their own for the first time. I have to say to you that the light in Vicky's eyes that day – a woman probably around my age - told me absolutely everything. Anticipation, happiness, safety, independence, pride. All feelings that we are all entitled to enjoy but for which a home, such as that, was going to make such a difference. It was an amazing experience to see her and to see Ricky go into their own separate homes and to watch that change in their faces.
I think that the late poet Maya Angelou said it best, “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
That's what ‘Our Place’ will be, albeit virtual. It's an online place where women are supported, enabled, encouraged and can express themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, I can't stay for as long as I would like to this afternoon, and I apologise in advance for that Tricia - I'm very sorry. It is a function of my life.
This afternoon I am chairing a meeting of Australia's women safety ministers to address some of the key issues in domestic and family violence that we have seen come even more to the fore in the last fortnight.
I want to acknowledge all of those women with disability, the victims and the survivors who have faced, at the hands of perpet rators, unspeakable horror, as I go to that meeting today.
But, what I want to say before I leave, ladies and gentlemen, is welcome to ‘Our Place’. May it be a place of safety, of freedom, of knowledge and belonging.
I also want to take the opportunity, because it is the 6th of March, to wish every single one of you who are here this afternoon a wonderful International Women's Day on Sunday the 8th of March.
Together, International Women's Day reminds us that we can work together to ensure that women around the world - and particularly in the context of this afternoon - Australian women with disabilities feel safe, valued and empowered to be everything that they aspire to be.
Congratulations on this fabulous work. I look forward to seeing it grow. I look forward to seeing it develop into exactly what the women who have designed it want it to be, and what its users want it to be.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. I do hope you will excuse me in just a few moments. Please do not think I’m rude. My absolute preference would be to be able to do everything simultaneously, and to stay here. But, in the absence of that skill, I will wish you all the very best for a wonderful afternoon. Thank you.