NEWS

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The Defunding of the NT Working Women’s Centre Does Damage to Us All and Must Be Reversed

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COVID-19 has brought with it many new challenges over the past year. But one thing that has gotten significantly worse during the pandemic is depressingly not new at all: the disadvantages faced by Australian women.

There is already a 14 per cent pay gap in this country. 

Only 64 per cent of women with kids work, compared to 95 per cent of men. 

In our universities, women make up almost 60 per cent of students and outnumber men in completion rates, but ultimately more men get jobs, and get paid more to do those jobs.

In the early months of the pandemic, women were 50 per cent more likely than men to have stopped looking for work, and they lost hours of work faster than men did. 

At the peak of coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, more than 1 million Australian women had no work at all.

When women retire, it’s with a superannuation balance on average 47 per cent lower than men.

There is a clear imbalance here, and we need to set it right.

The NT Working Women’s Centre has been supporting Territory women for almost 30 years, especially Indigenous women; culturally and linguistically diverse women who might be migrants, visa holders or international students; women living with a disability; those in regional or remote areas; women experiencing violence; those with a mental illness; or women who are very young, or mature-age.

The Centre helps these vulnerable members of our community with issues like pay, working conditions, superannuation, discrimination, harassment, unfair dismissal, bullying, and workplace health and safety.

The NTWWC says that in April last year, COVID-related issues, employment and pay were the top concerns for their clients, with workplace bullying and harassment continuing to be major problems for Territory women throughout the year.  

It’s clear that women, especially vulnerable women, need the support of the centre, which is locally based with staff who understand the nuances and complications of working in a place like the NT. 

And it’s clear support is needed now more than ever.

But instead, in December, the Federal Government advised the Centre it had failed to secure new funding, and that current funding would run out on New Year’s Eve. 

Telling a group of dedicated Territory workers – with very short notice – that they would be entering 2021 unemployed, at a time when unemployment rates are already so high, is very rough. 

And giving the funding for their jobs to an interstate body with no NT presence is very rough.

Labor knows how important women are to our society and our economy. When women are taken care of and do well, the flow-on effects are felt at every level. 

Gender equality is good for Australia’s bottom line.

But the last Federal Coalition Budget contained nothing to address significant job losses in industries dominated by women. 

There was no new funding for frontline domestic and family violence service providers. 

There was nothing new to address the gender pay gap. There was nothing on childcare or on social housing. 

There was not one single measure that directly addressed women’s long-term and structural economic disadvantage.

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, but its economic impacts certainly do.

So let’s say enough is enough. 

Let’s call on the Federal Government to reinstate the funding for the NTWWC before March so that they can keep supporting women, so we can reduce the gender gaps that stubbornly persist in our community. 

Let’s ensure our community is one that we can be proud of, and that begins with equality and equity at home and at work.

Luke Gosling is the Federal Member for Solomon and a former Army Officer.

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