Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Indigenous Women’s International Women’s Day Event

Location: Manuka Oval, Canberra

Good morning.

Thank you Liza [Carroll, MC] for your kind introduction and thank you Aunty Agnes for that Welcome to Country.

Let me begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge Ms Jody Broun, the Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, and my fellow guest speaker here today.

Celebrations of International Women’s Day are into their second week – and it’s a good thing too. There’s plenty to celebrate about the significant contribution women make to our society.

Today I would like to recognise the important role Indigenous women leaders play in their urban, regional and remote communities.

They are critical in driving positive change.

The commitment of these leaders is crucial to the Government’s aim of closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

As you know, this year the Australian theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment’.

As Minister for the Status for Women and the Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development – and as a personal priority – I’m committed to supporting Indigenous women achieve their economic rights.

Indigenous women’s leadership

I am proud to be part of a Government that supports women in leadership roles, including specific programs for Indigenous women.

So far this financial year, the Australian Government has invested $10.3 million to support Indigenous people to take up leadership opportunities.

This has included a significant investment of more than $4.3 million for targeted Indigenous Women’s Grants and the Indigenous Leadership Program in each state and territory.

The leadership opportunities are provided in line with the local needs and priorities identified at a community level.

Local issues need local solutions.

Since the program started in 2004, more than 5,000 Indigenous people have been supported to undertake a leadership program.

People like Deanna Kennedy who, at 24, completed the National Leadership Program.

With a passion for her community and for adventure, she has gained confidence through this program to become a strong leader and youth advocate within her Northern Territory community.

She has gone on to complete her Certificate II in Indigenous Leadership and also took part in the Young Endeavour program.

I would also like to acknowledge Kaylene Rawlings Hunter, who was sponsored through the leadership program to be a member of the delegation at the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) in New York this year.

Kaylene spoke at an International Labour Organisation side event at the Commission this month on ‘the importance of decent work for Indigenous women’.

Indigenous women’s economic participation

There are many more inspiring stories about the leadership roles Indigenous women are taking up around the country.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are taking up volunteer positions in childcare, aged care and in health services.

More needs to be done to recognise these skills and translate them into formal qualifications for full-time or part-time work.

That means providing better access to employment services and career advice and greater support with flexible training and child care.

One good example of where this is already happening is the Cape York Super Sisters project.

This is delivered through our $650 million Indigenous Employment Program and the Parental and Community Engagement program.

This innovative program encourages young Indigenous women back into education, training and employment.

It is already running in six Cape York Indigenous communities including Aurukun, Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Hope Vale, Lockhart River and Napranum.

This project alone aims to engage more than 100 young Indigenous women.


We want to make sure these local achievements are also happening at the national level.

In this regard, the work of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance is ensuring women’s voices are heard.

I also thank you for your work on the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can’t be achieved without Indigenous people – including Indigenous women – leading the way and working together with non-Indigenous Australians in a genuine partnership.

I look forward to working with you, as both Minister for the Status of Women and as Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, in reaching this important goal.

Thank you for welcoming me here today to celebrate your many achievements.