On Tuesday we reported that a number of community organisations representing women, children and Indigenous Australians, that have routinely attended the annual Federal budget lock up, had been excluded.
We can now report that Treasury has since relented and offered two chairs to women’s groups.
Initially we reported that just one chair had been made available to the Equality Rights Alliance (ERA). The ERA has appointed the National Foundation of Australian Women’s (NFAW) Professor Helen Hodgson as the representative who will attend.
Earlier today the Women’s Electoral Lobby were notified an additional spot was being made available to them. WEL’s Emma Davidson will join Professor Helen Hodgson in the lock up.
Since being advised they weren’t able to attend the lock up many parties, including the ERA, the Women’s Electoral Lobby, NFAW, the Harmony Alliance and the Office of Women, had been working to secure spots for the National Women’s Alliances.
Those efforts resulted in the Office of Women making representations to Treasury. As result of these representations one position was made available for the National Women’s Alliances’ and this was allocated to ERA. A second spot became available to WEL on Wednesday.
For over a decade, @welaust have attended the federal budget lockup to consider the ways in which the government has prioritised women's issues. This year, along with other organisations including @NFAWomen, they've been locked out. https://t.co/jETYdeZeJj #auspol
— Women's Agenda (@WomensAgenda) March 18, 2019
The NFAW and the ERA acknowledged the support of the Office of Women in securing the invitation in a statement late on Tuesday.
Helen Dalley-Fisher of the Equality Rights Alliance also thanked the Office of Women.
“Australia is currently appearing at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York, making the argument that a diversity of women’s voices is essential to achieving progress towards gender equality,” she said. “We thank the Office for Women for their intervention and look forward to working with Treasury to ensure women are not excluded from the budget in the future.”
In an email to its member on Tuesday the ERA said while securing one position was a good result, it wasn’t adequate.
“[We] acknowledge that too many community organisations across the board, among them many women’s groups, will be excluded from this lock up. The reasons given have been logistical (not enough room in the changed location as a result of the changed date of Budget), however it is obvious that failures of event planning should not be preventing democracy. Lock up is just one part of the Budget process but a potent symbol for how the Government engages with community organisations and a key element of transparency. We’ll be working with Treasury following this lock up to enhance the process into the future.”
Kate Gunn, the Chair of NFAW, said a single seat is the least women are entitled to.
“Each year NFAW produces The Gender Lens on the Budget, evaluating the effects of budget measures on Australian women. This is vital work and builds on NFAW’s extensive policy analysis. Women must have a seat at the budget table. At least one.”
On today’s development WEL National Convenor, Jozefa Sobski AM, said the exclusion of national women’s groups was unfathomable.
“This has been a ridiculous and farcical situation for all concerned. The exclusion should have never occurred in the first place,” Sobski said. “We thank the Office for Women for its intervention and look forward to working with Treasury and all government portfolios to ensure women are not excluded from the budget lock-up in the future.”
“We would also welcome the inclusion of organisations representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, those with disabilities, multicultural communities, LGBTIQ+ groups, and other organisations representing the diversity of Australian women. We hope that we will see women from those organisations in the lockup.”