Written by Kali Goldstone, Senior Advisor, WFEA

Political participation is a necessary aspect of achieving gender equality. Ensuring governments reflect the diversity of the societies they represent guarantees a balanced perspective which enables an inclusive approach to policy making.

In Australia, women make up just

  • 37% 37%

State and Territory Parliaments

  • 35% 35%

Council Chambers

  • 37% 37%

Federal Parliament

That is why Women for Election Australia has created a Parliamentary Friendship Group, a non-partisan initiative, to redress the gender imbalance in political representation across all of Australia’s parliamentary chambers; from Canberra to our local council chambers.

The Parliamentary Friendship Group will bring together female and male champions from across party lines and states to show support for the work WFEA is doing out in the community.

We envisage this group will acknowledge and address the barriers women face when they run for public office, including the barriers they still face once they’re elected. It will provide a forum that supports current female MPs, senators and their staff, demonstrating to the Australian public that multi-partisan support exists within our legislative chambers which, in turn, encouragesincreased participation.

Dr Anne Aly MP, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Senator Claire Chandler will be the co-chairs.

Kristy McBain MPSenator Lidia Thorpe, Senator Deborah O’NeillCelia Hammond MPSenator Susan McDonald, Zali Steggall MP and Katie Allen MP have eagerly agreed to be the founding members of the group.

WFEA envisages that our first event will take place in June this year.

The March4Justice rallies across Australia were sparked by overwhelming evidence of how misogynist culture and daily sexism can lead to sexual harassment and assault being ignored or downplayed, even in our Parliaments.

This is why, more than ever, political education and participation are key aspects of achieving cultural change, as well as gender equality, in our legislative chambers.

According to research, female politicians are more likely to substantively advance women rights in areas such as pay equity, violence against women, health care and family policy.

Also, research has shown that women in government tend to work in more collaborative and bipartisan ways and employ a more democratic leadership style.

Put simply, a broader representation of women in all of our parliaments will have an enormous impact on the conduct in those chambers, what issues are raised and how policies are shaped.

It does not benefit our society, including men, to have women disengaged or lacking representation in government. A fair and functional society is less divisive and less polarised than one where half the population are left behind or shut out of opportunities that should be available to them.

By building a cross-party Parliamentary Friendship Group, WFEA can harness the support of our Federal MPs and Senators who want to see barriers reduced for women who want to run; whilst also providing a supportive forum for those who are already elected.