LATE 2020 AND early 2021 in Australian politics has seen a remarkable roiling around the role and status of women sparked by specific incidents including allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, one right alleged rape right in the heart of the national parliament building itself.
The names, Brittany Higgins, Christian Porter have been in the headlines constantly.
And more recently the ousted CEO of Australia Post, Christine Holgate.
She claims she was bullied out of her position helming this government owned enterprise by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and the male chair of the Australia Post board. She has delivered blistering testimony to a senate inquiry and in the media. Earlier, large “Marches for Justice” were held in capital cities and regional towns across Australia.
The PM under considerable pressure, has formed a “women’s task force” within his administration, ostensibly lead by the minister for women, Marise Paine.
A summit to discuss and debate women’s issues, their status and safety, has been announced for July, 2021.
A long suppressed report from Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, on “Respect at Work” was finally released by the government but with markedly circumscribed agreement to accept and implement its recommendations.
Jenkins is also conducting a review into the workplace culture within the federal parliament house specifically as it affects women.
In this still very vexed context, Margo Kingston and Peter Clarke spoke with Wendy McCarthy, a veteran Australian feminist, leader and thought leader. She reflects on the history of the feminist movement she has been a part of set against current political events.
BIOGRAPHY – Wendy McCarthy AO
Wendy McCarthy is an experienced manager and company director who began her career as a secondary school teacher. She moved out of the classroom into public life in 1968 and since then has worked for change across the public, private and community sectors, in education, family planning, human rights, public health, overseas aid and development, conservation, heritage, media and the Arts. Wendy was a founding member of Women’s Electoral Lobby, Chief Executive Women and The Sydney Community Foundation Women’s Fund and continues to advocate for women in public life. From September 2018 to October 2018 she Chaired the successful by-election campaign to elect Dr Kerryn Phelps AM as the Independent Member for Wentworth. She continued that role in the subsequent Federal election which Dr Phelps lost by a narrow margin. She has a long track record of campaigning and fundraising for women’s issues. Recently, she led the successful NSW Pro Choice Alliance campaign to remove abortion from the criminal code. The new legislation was enacted on October 2, 2019.Wendy has held many significant leadership roles in key national and international bodies including eight years as Deputy Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ten years as Chancellor of the University of Canberra, and 12 years of service to Plan Australia as Chair, with three years as Global Deputy Chair for Plan International. In 2016 she completed eight years as chair of headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation and in 2017 she completed 9 years as Chair of Circus Oz, Australia’s leading circus. She has established several businesses, including the national consulting practice McCarthy Mentoring which is now owned by her daughter Sophie McCarthy. Her career has been publicly recognised in many ways:· In 1989 she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for outstanding contributions to community affairs, women’s affairs and the Bicentennial celebrations.· In 1995 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of South Australia.· In 2003 she received a Centenary of Federation Medal for business leadership.· In 2005 the Sydney Morning Herald nominated her as one of Australia’s Top Public Intellectuals.· In 2011 she was profiled in The Power of One as one of 100 women who have shaped Australia.· In 2013 she was inaugural inductee of the Women’s Agenda Hall of Fame for her contribution to the lives of Australian women.· In 2017 she was made a Life Fellow by the Australian Institute of Company Directors.· Most recently, in a special edition of Who Mattered in 2019, The Sydney Morning Herald named Wendy as one of the people defining Australia right now: “McCarthy’s advocacy and passion for women’s rights has spurred a new generation. We wouldn’t be where we are without her. ”Wendy McCarthy is an experienced speaker and facilitator, and is regularly asked for comment on social and political issues. She enjoys writing and is the author of several books including her memoir Don’t Fence Me In published by Random House in 2000. She is currently writing an updated memoir to be published in 2021.