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Quentin Bryce: The Most Important Tool We Have In Fighting For Equality Is Our Voice

Across more than a century now, women have gathered in sisterhood and solidarity to mark International Women’s Day in every place where they are found in our world – everywhere.

It’s a day I love for its celebration, gratitude, joy, feminism, friendship, music, poetry, rainforest. The bread and the roses. As I get older, I find myself reflecting more deeply on its meaning. What does it signify in 2020 for our neighbourhood, our nation, our global community?

As I do the IWD stocktake, I ask how far have we come in our long struggle for equality and what are barriers that we continue to face? Sombre thoughts of concern, disappointment, frustration, come to heart and mind. I turn to the United Nations 2020 theme -- ‘I Am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights’ -- for a source of optimism and hope. I ask myself, what is it saying to us?

First, I am struck by the bold principle it embodies that goes right to the heart of the human rights doctrine of ‘recognising the dignity and worth of every human being’; the realisation that women who have equal status and equality of opportunity are enabled to fulfil their potential, their dreams and aspirations.

Dame Quentin Bryce sitting for 'Agenda 2020', edited by Sandra Sully. (Image: Danielle Harte)

Next, I am encouraged by the call to action to each one of us to make our own individual contributions to changing the world for women whose lives are characterised by injustice, at risk, unsafe, insecure, who live in disadvantage, deprivation and poverty.

#EachForEqual -- an empowering and uplifting message, it urges us to ask, what can I, me, myself do? We will answer in our own way, all determined to make a difference, setting our own priorities.

My friends, let me share mine. When I went home to Brisbane after my Canberra years, I chaired the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland. As I handed in the report, Not Now, Not Ever, I made a promise to myself that I would use my voice whenever I could to speak out about the shocking statistics relating to Indigenous women and family violence. In Australia, Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised and 10 times more likely to be murdered by violent assault.  Breathtaking and heartbreaking, we must never back away from our ambition of zero tolerance.

'Agenda 2020' seeks to find out what Australian women want, what they believe needs to change and how we can make progress. (Image: Danielle Harte)

On International Women’s Day, we recharge our batteries, we clarify our thoughts and ideas, our commitment to the achievement of gender equality; it’s tough work. We look to examples of courage, wisdom and experience.

In 2020, may I conclude by urging you to do all you can to see that our fellow Australians from every age and every place in our country read the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to think deeply about its intent, its inspiration, power and beauty of its language. To reflect on the meaning and spirit of the invitation to walk in a movement of Australian people for a better future. The statement sets our three priorities: Voice to Parliament (including in the Constitution a new Indigenous body advising the Australian Parliament), Treaty and Truth-telling.

Ladies and gentlemen, 2020 is a time to remember that the most important tool we have is our voice.

This is a forward to the book Agenda 2020. Edited by Sandra Sully, it celebrates International Women's Day and provides insights into how we can achieve the change we need from a variety of extraordinary women.

'Agenda 2020', edited by Sandra Sully. (Image: Danielle Harte)

You can buy the book here. One hundred percent of book sales go to Women's Legal Services.