Former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja has vowed to push for more women in leadership roles in her newly appointed role as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls.
The diplomatic post, created by Julia Gillard in 2011, will see Stott Despoja join the federal government to promote Australia’s position on gender equality overseas. She will visit and work with developing countries to promote economic development and growth opportunities for women and girls across the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
She described Monday’s appointment as her “dream job”, saying she had been a lifelong advocate for gender equality.
“I am excited by the fact that this Government has made clear that gender empowerment and gender equality are priorities for Australia’s foreign policy,” she said during a press conference on Monday.
“As Ambassador for Women and Girls, I look forward to contributing to the Australian Government’s efforts to continue this change, to further in progress.
“I want to see more women in our region, but specifically, in the Pacific, elected to Parliament and taking on leadership roles, be it in government or local government, in business, in the community.
“I want women to have the knowledge and the support that they need to start successful businesses and to increase their families’ incomes.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the appointment was reflective of the government’s desire to lead the way in the empowerment of women and girls.
“Gender empowerment is a priority for the Australian Government’s overseas development program. I am particularly pleased that someone of Natasha’s stature and credibility has agreed to take on the role to be our voice in international forums including at the United Nations.”
Stott Despoja is the founding chair of the recently established Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children. She was also the youngest woman to enter federal politics as the former leader of the Democrats, and has been openly critical of Australia’s offshore processing and detention of women and children seeking asylum.
She promised that she would be “frank and fearless” in her advice to the government but said she would not pass judgement until she learns more about the situation in Nauru.
Her first trip in her new role will be travelling with Bishop and Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek to Solomon Islands, Nauru and Vanuatu this week, with a focus on how Australia can help encourage women in the region to take up paid work.