This International Women’s Day, across Australia, morning teas and events will be held.
Words will be spoken, and pledges made.
Women will be rightly recognised, and achievements lauded.
We will congratulate and commend.
Progress will be and should be praised.
Yet that experience will not be equally felt by women across Australia. Because today far too many women are falling behind and being forgotten.
A woman wakes in her hospital bed in Alice Springs unable to stand because of her injuries. Her daughter hides on the street, too afraid to go home.
Another woman wakes and cracks the window of the car. Condensation fogs the glass. She has slept another night in her car unable to afford the rent, trapped by a tide of ever rising costs.
“Another rate rise hits households hard” the TV newsreader says as a mother looks up from her children as they tear into their weet-bix. She is wracked by the silent terror of knowing her family won’t make it through another increase in the mortgage, another hit to the family budget.
A woman knocks on the door. The same door she fled through last night. She knows she is going back into danger, but there is no other choice.
A young girl looks in the mirror and says she doesn’t deserve to eat today. Her heart filled with despair.
Another walks off to school. Giving into the jibes she tells herself she wouldn’t cut it as an electrician and makes a different choice, she takes a different path.
So today as we gather to recognise the journey we have traversed to lift women up, we should not allow these stories to simply be the stories of the forgotten women of Australia.
As corporates and international NGOs duke it out over who should set the theme of International Women’s Day the sun is rising on Australia and too many women are being forgotten, too many women are being left behind.
As inflation and interest rates bite in households, businesses, and communities we know it will only get worse.
We know it will be women who first face their hours being cut and we know it will be women who will have to pick up second jobs just to make ends meet.
As unemployment rises, we know it will be women who will bear the brunt as substance abuse and domestic violence spikes.
As things get harder in Australia, we know it will be women who will hurt the hardest.
As a mother and as a woman I know what it feels like to feel alone in the face of the relentless challenges thrown at us as women.
I remember what the inside of the cupboard looked like as I sat in there so my colleagues would not see me crying as I tried to make a start in aviation.
I remember what it was like when our family budget was under strain and what it felt like to be torn between being there as a mother of daughters and working to pay the bills.
I remember being suffocated by self-doubt as I arrived at the lecture theatre. I was the matured aged student with a baby in a capsule knowing I didn’t really fit in.
But I also remember the feeling when, as I was about to leave, my lecturer, Dr Julie Jackson, picked up that capsule and said “do you need help with that, come on in”.
And I remember what it was like when people backed my voice to represent them in the Parliament.
Today it is important that we recognise the hard-won progress we have made in lifting women up across Australia. But it is equally important that we do not forget the women who are being left behind.
We can all make grand speeches and pledges but what matters is what we do and the decisions we make.
So today on International Women’s Day I am pledging that I will not forget the women being left behind, I will not let their stories go untold.
Because today as the sun rises in Australia too many women are being forgotten and we all know it is going to get worse.
We can stand back and debate the urgency of the problem, or we can step forward and do something about it.
We can be like Dr Julie Jackson and open the door to help women through. We can put in place protections for women in communities ravaged by alcohol fuelled violence. We can help protect women terrified by rising costs and we keep help save their jobs. We can help women get into their own homes with their own money. We can prevent the damage that will be done to children when it all falls apart.
But that all starts with us making a choice.
A choice to not forget those women.
A choice to do what is right, not to do what is popular.
Because time is running out for too many women