The Age

Thursday 18 May 2000

Women win greater say in state affairs

The Age (Melbourne)

Monica Gould, Sheryl Garbutt, Denise Allen, Christine Campbell and Candy Broad at the summit.
The Victorian Government will not consider any proposals unless their impact on women has been analysed - and more women will be appointed to prominent positions, the Bracks Government's inaugural women's summit was told yesterday.

Government departments will be ordered to meet targets for the appointment of women to boards and committees, and all government plans will be audited by the Office of Women's Policy and their impact on women assessed before they are considered by Cabinet.

Women's Affairs Minister Sherryl Garbutt said the government was also trying to prevent the exploitation of women in the media and advertising, and ensure women's products were not more expensive than those for men, unless they cost more to produce.

Premier Steve Bracks said the summit, attended by more than 200 women from the "broadest possible range of interests", was designed to give women a chance to talk about issues and possible solutions, while giving them direct access to the government.

Half the government's ministers attended yesterday's summit, which focused on issues for rural and regional women.

Held in Sebastapol, near Ballarat, yesterday's discussions centred on health, education, community safety, leadership, agriculture, society, economics and employment.

Among the participants were education union boss Mary Bluett, Alana Johnson from the Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women, the chief executive of Women's Health Victoria, Marilyn Beaumont, former senator Janet Powell, now working with the Young Women's Christian Association, and Country Women's Association president Jean Tom.

Women's meetings will be held every two months to discuss issues that affect women, and there will be an annual women's summit attended by the Premier.

Mr Bracks said the women's summit would have benefits for policy making.

"I think we'll get a better examination of our policies and plans and assistance and support for our policies in the future (as a result of the summit).

"We want to make sure we bring women along with us and the policies we have in the future - not just simply taking decisions but bringing people with us."

The summit was about consultation, Mr Bracks said, and that would ensure strong democracy.

Copyright The Age Company Ltd 2000.