Pennie Scott, Independent candidate for Riverina, Media Release, 3 March 2022.
Australian Rural & Regional News asked Pennie some further questions, answered below the release.
The Year of Reckoning is how the past 12 months have been dubbed by many Australian women as a result of two 26-year-old womens’ courage, revealing the sexual abuse they were subjected to.
Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins are now household names having blown open previously hushed and shamed issues of sexual predation and assaults. For too long the focus has been on women blamed for ‘asking for it’, ‘sluttish behaviour’ or ‘easy pickings’ in pub and club discussions. The lack of focus on men’s behaviour has been kept quiet behind a wall of ‘The Boys Club’ which has hidden unacceptable and violent behaviour; the Brotherhood.
Well, the Sisterhood is alive and well with International Women’s Day the ideal opportunity to freely talk about how equity and fairness between the sexes and genders will beneﬁt all Australians through compassion, collaboration and shared visions.
However, there are still many fundamental issues to be corrected until Australia reaches representation parity.
Women are underrepresented in key decision-making roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce. While women make up half of the employees, women comprise only 32.5% of key management positions, 28.1% of directors, 18.3% of CEOs and only 14.6% of board chairs.
Although women are now progressing into management roles at a faster rate than men, it will take 20 years for women to reach equal representation in full-time management positions. In spite of research demonstrating that more women in key decision-making positions deliver better company performance, greater productivity and proﬁtability, the cultural change is painstakingly slow, limiting overall potential for Australia. (WGEA.gov.au)
Women’s legal and health service funding has been either cut or kept at 1980 levels by successive federal governments. These essential services for women and children experiencing domestic trauma are a speciﬁc focus in my policies of Issues Aﬀecting Women as, when elected, I will advocate for realistic funding based on need, with automatic CPI increases.
The fastest-growing group of homeless people are women 55 years and older which is truly shameful. In addition to understanding why this is so, the desperate need for aﬀordable, social housing is critical. When elected, I will initiate a National Housing Strategy which has been requested for years by the Australian Council of Social Services. I will enable Local Government Areas in Riverina to design and create localised solutions based on design eﬃciencies and opportunities for recipients to contribute to the building of their own dwellings.
Aﬀordable childcare is virtually non-existent for single women which prevents them from fully participating in the workforce. Revitalising Family Day-Care services is a speedy and eﬀective decision to provide much-needed childcare placements, and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for women as providers.
Enabling 130,000 people into the national workforce could be done with political imagination, and will. Thousands of Age Pensioners are keen to resume part-time work however, the ﬁnancial threshold is ridiculously low with penalties incurred at only half a day’s work.
Imagine how advantageous having people with skills and training, who already have their own accommodation and a strong work ethic re-entering teaching, child-care and nursing. The extra ﬁnancial contributions would help revitalise local economies which have been very damaged over the past two years.
To Regenerate the Riverina, new and innovative ideas are desperately needed and I have them!
Women represent 51% of the population and while only half are able to contribute fully economically, socially and culturally due to domestic trauma, inequitable wages, lack of housing and now, food shortages, I am the only candidate genuinely representing women in the electorate of Riverina.
Australian Rural & Regional News asked some further questions of Pennie on these issues
ARR.News: Representation parity. Is this really the whole story? Instead of focusing on pure numbers, why not focus on equal opportunity and appointment on merit? Otherwise, there is the risk that people will be appointed, or not, because of their sex? Especially now, we need the best people for the jobs, whatever their sex.
Pennie Scott: Yes… this is tricky. Meritocracy is the ideal, however, fewer women have opportunity as their commitments have largely been to raising children, with less time for any other activities and / or pursuits.
I think of the entries into the volumes of “Who’s Who”. Ninety-five per cent of the entries are men. Their fathers are mentioned but rarely their mothers. The men’s achievements are lauded and applauded and usually include how many children they sired. Who are the people who enabled them to have a public life at all? Their wives, the mothers of their children who are well behind the scenes yet never mentioned.
In the rural areas, this is finally changing and I am thrilled to see more women entering public life. They are brilliant organisers and are the usual arrangers of all things domestic so they can engage outside the household.
There are still some very parochial attitudes towards women and the old ‘division of labour’ is the applied rationale.
ARR.News: Affordable childcare. This isn’t just an issue affecting women. Why make women the stereotypical default parent by labelling it as such? Isn’t this an issue that affects parents? Why shouldn’t it be called that?
Pennie Scott: Some of the answers are provided above and by no means, do I wish to ignore the roles of stay-at-home and single fathers.
On occasions I’ve advocated for single fathers when their wives have been awarded full custody of children + the family home + payments of private school fees + alimony + a car while the poor old husband is relegated to a shabby bed-sit. This is unfair and highlights the inequities of the Family Court system.
There are more single mothers than fathers – simply a statistic. Of course fathers are entitled to affordable and high-quality childcare – it ought to be universal access for this who want it and need it.
ARR.News: Likewise helping aged pensioners do some useful work and share their experience and knowledge. Again doesn’t this apply for women and men? Why shouldn’t this be classed as an issue that affects all older people?
Pennie Scott: My apologies if this reads as though it was skewed towards women – not my intent! The gifts of Elders are from men and women and enrich our society and communities and their wisdom is so needed for all generations.
The benefits of greater participation by all who WANT and are ABLE to is what could add value to many aspects of our rural communities.
We know volunteering is the backbone of keeping the country going however, paid work and contributions a keep local economies flourishing – the more dollars, the more vibrant the local economies as the money stays within the town for up to seven cycles.
ARR.News: What do you see as the particular challenges or disadvantages facing women in the Riverina compared to men in 2022?
Pennie Scott: The fastest growing group of homelessness is women 55 years and over and is rife in all the towns within the Riverina.
Domestic trauma is widespread and, according to the respective agencies, has increased as pressures from lockdowns and social restrictions have spiked during the past two years.
Children affected by domestic trauma are falling behind at school yet, due to the chronic shortage of teachers, there is no capability to support them.
Mothers are the most commonly affected by domestic violence and, shamefully, Wagga has one of the highest rates in NSW.
Further policy statements from Pennie Scott are at: https://penniescott.com.au/