Ladies and gentlemen.
It is my great pleasure to speak with you today at the International Women’s Forum for The One International Women’s Film Festival.
The One is a unique platform to discuss the substantial contributions made by women in the film industry globally.
We are proud in Australia to have had many prominent female directors, producers, actors, writers and countless others over the decades who have dedicated their careers to Australian film culture.
Many of you will have heard of Gillian Armstrong, director of My Brilliant Career, the classic Miles Franklin novel about a woman in 19th century Australia who chooses to pursue her writing career over marriage.
My Brilliant Career will be shown this coming Friday as part of the festival, and we are very lucky to have Margaret Fink, the film’s producer - and another prominent female Australian film identity in her own right - attend as a special guest.
You will have also heard of many other prominent Australian females who work in film globally, such as Cate Blanchette, Jocelyn Moorhouse and Cate Shortland, to name a few.
However, despite the superb achievements of these and many other Australian women in the film industry, there remains much more work to be done to ensure they receive equal treatment with their male counterparts, and to ensure their voices are truly heard.
According to Screen Australia, the Australian Government's key funding body for the Australian screen industry, from 1970 to 2014 women were only credited for directing 16 per cent of the total Australian films made during that period.
And they fared only slightly better as writers and producers, at 21 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
As Australia’s Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell said, “if we believe that men and women are equally able in a company or a country, then we should be expecting a 50:50 outcome. If we don’t get that, then there is either bias or constraints to natural merit”.
So why is it important to ensure women have an equally prominent role to men in film?
Put simply, works of art and culture should reflect the diversity of experiences and perspectives of the society in which they are made.
If women are underrepresented in film, then we lose the opportunity to fully appreciate the views and stories of a crucial group that make up half of our society.
That is why in 2015 Screen Australia announced its Gender Matters initiative, a $5 million dollars suite of measures designed to promote female participation in the Australian screen industry.
The Australian Government more broadly remains strongly committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment both at home and abroad.
We have a Sex Discrimination Commissioner, established in 1984 to oversee the implementation of the Sex Discrimination Act, passed the same year.
We also have a dedicated Ambassador for Women and Girls, established in 2011, whose role is to ensure the needs of women and girls are properly represented in Australia's overseas development program and in our foreign policy more broadly.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released its Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy in 2016, to provide an overarching framework for how Australia would pursue gender equality outcomes across our international agenda.
The strategy has three pillars: women’s leadership, women’s economic empowerment and ending violence and discrimination against women.
To implement this strategy, we have established a Gender Equality Fund, which delivers around $55 million dollars annually to support numerous regional initiatives.
Within the Department, we have a robust Women in Leadership Strategy, designed to address the barriers that prevent women from reaching senior positions.
The strategy acknowledged that despite over 57 per cent of the department’s staff being women, they made up fewer than 34 per cent of our Senior Executive and only 27 per cent of our Ambassadors and Consuls-General.
Within the Australian Consulate-General in Chengdu, we have our own programs to mentor and support women both in our workplace and in the wider community. I myself am a mentor and champion.
Chairman Mao famously said, “women hold up half the sky”.
It was an affirmation that women can do just as much as men, and that they should be given the opportunity to do so.
But in order to achieve this vision, we must as a society recognise where there are issues and work towards solving them.
Because if women truly hold up half the sky, then it would be a very bright world indeed.