‘Australia risks never achieving anything close to gender equality’: Penny Wong delivers 17yo’s speech to parliament

‘Australia risks never achieving anything close to gender equality’: Penny Wong delivers 17yo’s speech to parliament

Penny Wong

This week is Youth Voice in Parliament Week, with politicians from across the political spectrum reading 90 second speeches written by young people from their electorate or state.

The initiative, run by Raise Our Voice Australia, has seen numerous politicians put forward the views of their young constituents. On Tuesday, Senator Penny Wong delivered a speech written by 17-year-old Winter Birkett from South Australia, who wants to see more women in Australia’s parliaments. Without challenging the current narrative, “Australia risks never achieving anything close to gender equality”, the speech said.

“I am speaking today on behalf of a young Australian, a young South Australian as part of Youth Voice in Parliament week. Ms Winter Birkett is 17 years old and she lives in my duty electorate of Boothby,” Penny Wong delivered to the senate on Tuesday.

“These are her words…

“As of August, Australia ranks 50th globally for the representation of women in national parliaments. It’s 2021 and this statistic is not good enough. It is not just that we can do better, in terms of addressing the representation of women in Australian politics, we must do better.

“As such, in 20 years, I want to live in an Australia where young girls of diverse backgrounds and from all around the country aspire to one day becomes politicians. I want to live in an Australia where instead of girls like me being actively discouraged from pursuing politics because it is something for men and ‘a dirty game’, girls are uplifted and empowered to do so.

“I hope that in 20 years Australia will come to place significant value on young girls and women being politically ambitious. However, to achieve this the status quo must change. Currently, Australia’s political culture sends a clear message to politically interested girls that politics is not for us and this message permeates through all levels of society stemming from parliament itself.

“This narrative must be challenged now so that in 20 years things change, because if not, Australia risks never achieving anything close to gender equality.”

Watch Penny Wong deliver the speech below:

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