Your round-up of IWD events around Canberra and some insight into what the departments are up to

By Melissa Coade

March 6, 2022

parliament house-canberra
The NWA says it will work with the new government to achieve its campaign promises. (r-o-x-o-r/Adobe)

International Women’s Day (March 8) falls on Tuesday this year and there’s a long list of events in Canberra and further afield for members of the APS.

‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ is the 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD) theme, and another group have set a ‘Break the Bias’ challenge with the prompt to encourage people to consider how bias – explicit and unconscious – is holding women back.

The Mandarin will be hosting a special Mandarin Talks to mark the day of observance this week with guest panelists Wendy McCarthy, Virginia Haussegger and Viv Nguyen. Please join us on Thursday at 1pm (register to attend here). 

A number of departments and agencies will also be hosting their own internal events for staff – many delivered virtually – during the week of IWD.

UN Women Australia’s flagship events across Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth took place on Friday, with an address from minister for women Marise Payne. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was the principal government partner for the event. 

The minister spoke of the particular threat to women and girls in crises, including those living through the atrocities in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Tonga

Payne also addressed the work of Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, to reform the culture of the commonwealth parliament in a review triggered by a public allegation from former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins that she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office. The saga led to the establishment of a new joint standing committee on parliamentary standards, and a formal apology in February, made to survivors of workplace sexual assault, harassment and bullying in the parliament.

“I want to acknowledge Brittany Higgins for her courage and bravery in speaking publicly.

“These matters have affected and impacted our national parliament like many other workplaces in this country for far too long,” the minister said. 

“We have also passed the required legislation to confirm that the Fair Work Act, the Age Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act apply to members of parliament employees, and the Work Health and Safety Act applies to members and senators as employers.”

A review of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (also known as the MOP(S) Act) will deliver a report in September, Payne added.

“These actions demonstrate the government’s and the parliament’s commitment to ensuring real change across the national parliament. 

“It doesn’t mean that all of the issues exposed in the review are resolved but it does mean that important steps are being taken to prevent others enduring the experiences that were described by Brittany Higgins and many others that were described to Kate Jenkins and her team,” Payne said. 

Dr Jane Goodall, UN Women executive director Sami Bahous, the president of Australia’s UN Women board Georgina Williams, and UN Women Australia CEO Simone Clarke also spoke during the hybrid online and in-person events.

What’s on the APS calendar for International Women’s Day?

  • The Australian Public Service Commission supported staff attending the UN Women’s lunch event on Friday. A commission spokesperson told The Mandarin that its gender equity network (employee network) would also ‘send messages to all staff raising awareness of International Women’s Day issues in Australia and around the world’.
  • The Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet has organised two internal events for staff. 
    On Tuesday the department will host a virtual Women, Leadership and Sport: How Women’s sport is championing gender equality panel. The event will feature prominent sporting greats former Australian cricket captain and founder of the Leadership Playground Belinda Clark and AFLW general manager Nicole Livingstone. 
    On Friday DPM&C staff can hear from panelists participating in another virtual forum, Empowering women through changing economic climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. The panel members for this online event will be CEO Global Impact Initiative Giles Gunesekera and 2016 ACT Young Australian of the Year Nipuni Wijewickrema.  
  • Treasury’s networks on gender equality and progressing women’s initiative have partnered to coordinate a number of virtual IWD events. 
    “The IWD festival includes a main keynote address which all Treasury staff are encouraged to attend,” a spokesperson said.
    “The festival’s events run for the whole week with progressing women’s initiative networks organising events targeted to their specific Treasury group or state office,” she said. 
  • The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) have invited all employees to a panel event jointly organised by their gender and environment networks. ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard will participate in the panel alongside women from environmental and sustainability sectors. A spokesperson said both agencies were committed to creating a diverse and inclusive culture which drives performance, innovation and productivity, and where staff felt supported and valued.
    “The ACCC will also run an internal article by our SES Gender Champions reflecting on the day and sharing more information about the speakers of our International Women’s Day event,” a spokesperson said.
    “The AER which sits with the ACCC is also holding a Women in Energy Forum on Monday. This event is open to all AER and ACCC employees to meet and network with women who work in the energy sector,” she added.
    A diversity and inclusion strategy applies to both agencies and the leadership team is continuing a program of work in relation to gender diversity and equity, the spokesperson told The Mandarin. 
  • On Tuesday the Department of Health will hold a gender equality network (GEN) panel webinar from 1-2pm discussing the theme of breaking the bias. A department spokesman said the panel discussion would include speakers from a range of fields talking about their own experiences in challenging stereotypes and preconceived notions of gender roles. 
  • The folks at the Department of Social Services will get to enjoy a live-streamed online IWD event on Tuesday (2-3pm) hosted by Families and Communities Stream deputy secretary Liz Hefren-Webb.
  • Headlining the IWD initiatives at the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources will be an online address by Georgie Cornish, the first woman appointed deputy chief officer of the South Australian Country Fire Service. Cornish will discuss her experience of bias and workplace barriers and later join a panel discussion on the theme ‘breaking the bias’ with senior department executives. Secretary David Fredericks will be closing the event with his personal reflections. 
  • Within the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) there is an active women’s network coordinating a program of IWD workplace initiatives. A March 18 event, planned in collaboration with the Indigenous employees network and the department’s ‘Talking Heads’ team who facilitate guest speakers, will bring a virtual panel event of Indigenous women in the legal sector to discuss how they have had to #BreaktheBias throughout their careers.
    “The AGD women’s network is also sending staff of all levels from the department to attend the UN Women Australia’s lunch, both in person and virtually, on Friday 4 March,” a spokesperson told The Mandarin.

  • On Wednesday (March 9) award-winning environmental campaigner, science journalist and author Tanya Ha will be the guest speaker for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications’ IWD event. The department sent some staff members to the UN Women event on Friday 4, and invited others to participate virtually.
    It has also planned an internal communications campaign running from 7-11 March. The campaign will be led by the gender equality staff network and highlight the importance of gender equality.
  • The Australian Tax Office (ATO) will live-stream a talk by leadership expert Sonia McDonald on March 8. McDonald’s message is also about how to lead with kindness and courage and she will also talk about how to promote gender equality and address barriers to inclusion. 
    The ATO recently set up its own gender equality community and is encouraging staff to get involved by sharing their experiences related to the IWD theme #BreakTheBias via internal social platforms.
    “We have supported the event with a series of communication activities over the last few weeks aimed at increasing staff’s understanding of gender equality issues,” an ATO spokesperson told The Mandarin.
    “We also shared stories from senior leaders and had a specific focus on women who have a career in science, engineering, information technology and mathematics (STEM),” she said. 
  • The Department of Veterans’ Affairs will host a live virtual event for all staff with former Army psychologist Dr Stephanie Hodson, CSC PSM. Hodson is a former national manager of Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, and is currently on secondment to the Department of Health. 
  • One of the government’s largest departments, Home Affairs, has a list of IWD initiatives planned. A spokesperson told The Mandarin that on Tuesday the department will celebrate the themes of ‘gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ and #BreakTheBias by holding virtual trivia event open to all staff and led by its SAGE (staff advancing gender equality) network.
    “Our Diversity Champions will host an inaugural gender equality ‘Five plus Five’ forum. This virtual forum is a powerful initiative where five staff will meet with five SES officers to discuss their experiences working in the department,” a spokesperson said.
    Local activities that support IWD and align with the two themes will also be held across the department’s offices nationwide.
  • Over at the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, a virtual panel will be broadcast on Tuesday (2.30-3.30pm) followed by a live Q&A. Panel members will include Australian Women in STEM ambassador Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, the CSIRO’s Professor Sally Cripps, and ATO data science director Dr Nandita Sharma. 
    DESE will also run an online communications campaign with messaging from SES Gender Champions and the Secretary. Department offices outside of Canberra have also organised local events in support of IWD.
    “IWD is a signature event for the department’s gender equity network, a staff-led community that promotes gender equity initiatives across the department,” a spokesperson said.
    “Staff have been encouraged to submit a photo with their arms crossed, to show their commitment to calling out bias, smashing stereotypes, breaking inequality, and rejecting discrimination, in line the #BreakTheBias theme,” he added.
  • Personnel form the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment have been invited to a live event hosted via Microsoft Teams on Tuesday 8 March (1-2pm). A spokesperson said the department’s gender equity network planned the event and will feature guest speakers workplace consultant Dr Skye Saunders, consultant on workplace support for transgender  people Jenni Atkinson and Paralympian Lindy Hou. 
    “The event will be hosted by the gender equity network champion, deputy secretary Cindy Briscoe, and Mumbi Kamau from the department’s Climate Adaptation Resilience Division,” a spokesperson said.

  • The National Indigenous Australians Agency is planning an internal event featuring a panel with its CEO Jody Broun and other female executives discussing inclusive language and the IWD theme, #BreakTheBias. 
  • IP Australia will not be hosting any internal IWD events this year but the agency has encouraged staff to attend virtual events (like the one hosted by Liquid Learning) and is sharing IWD content via internal channels. This includes a special edition IWD newsletter with stories from inspiring female leaders in the field of intellectual property (IP).
  • A spokesperson from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said the organisation, as like most other agencies, has opted for virtual assets that promote IWD theme year. 
    A video has been produced featuring Australian Statistician, Dr David Gruen, as the executive sponsor and champion of change (STEM) together with ABS gender equity champion Leanne Harmon explaining what #BreaktheBias means to them.
    The agency also plans to post content on social media featuring deputy statistician Helen Wilson reflecting on what the ‘break the bias’ theme means to her.
    Gender equity champion and ABS senior executive David Zago is also the subject of a blog article outlining the importance of IWD.
    “Our gender equity members were invited to participate in the AHRI IWD virtual event on 8 March 2022,” the spokesperson added.

For those wanting more IWD events in Canberra, here’s list of other local offerings during the week:

Monday March 7ANU Gender Institute morning tea (10-11am), National Film and Sound Archive of Australia courtyard

Tuesday March 8Soroptimist International Canberra chapter breakfast – scholarship fundraising event (7am), Deakin Croatian Club

Tuesday March 8ANU Mathematical Sciences Institute, special address by applied mathematician and physical chemist Associate Professor Rowena Ball (11am), Hanna Neumann Building 145, Acton

Tuesday March 8 — Women in Information & Communication (WIC) annual dinner and debate (5.30-10.30pm), Old Parliament House

Thursday March 10 — Canberra Labor Club annual IWD charity dinner (6-10pm), Canberra Labor Club

Saturday March 12Fundraising music gig for UN Women (featuring performances by Aya Yves, Lahi & The Randoms, Liv Li, Transista Groove, Matriarch Inclusive, Vespertine Lounge, Miss M, Lady Denman, Nonbinarycode (6-11.55pm), Harmonie German Club of Canberra

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