Revisiting Affirmative Action: National Labor Women’s Conference 2014

Three MUA Women attended the ALP Women's Conference held in Canberra in August. Linda Morich, WA OHS Officer, Mary Prout, Stevedore and Ashleigh Telford, MUA National Communications Officer joined 300 women to debate the issues important to women in the Labor Party.

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Although discussion over the three days was varied, the key focus of the conference was on affirmative action: On whether it was working and how it could be improved.

There was some frustration expressed about how it was difficult to change the ingrained male-dominated culture within sections of the party, however neither the delegates, nor the speakers were defeatist about this issue and all seemed optimistic about change.

The three MUA women split up for the parallel sessions which had a range of topics including ones on communications, domestic violence, climate change and refugees to name but a few.

Guest speakers ranged from ACTU president Ged Kearney, to Deputy Opposition Leader Tania Plibersek who spoke about some of the women’s issues she’d faced in her time in politics.

Plibersek delivered an anecdote about a single woman from her electorate who was able to educate herself and raise her children under tough circumstances. She explained that those already tough circumstances would become impossible circumstances should the Abbott Government succeed in passing the bulk of its Budget measures.

Delegate Mary Prout said she had an amazing time seeing many familiar faces.

“It was wonderful to have so much representation from the MUA as it played a key role in many resolutions being passed at the Plenary on the Sunday,” Prout said.

“It was wonderful to see so many politicians attending as it was a big morale booster for the women.” 

Delegate Ashleigh Telford said it was heartening to hear that every last woman in the room was prepared to fight for not only gender equality but equality in a broader sense.

“The ALP has a long way to go to reach true equality, after all women make up 50 per cent of the population and should therefore make up 50 per cent of the party room,” Telford said.

“One way this can be achieved is by revisiting affirmative action and exploring options into how party nominees are chosen.