Month: January 2018

by Ruth McGowan Ruth McGowan No Comments

Lets recognise Her Story too

It was one of those ‘ah ha’ moments you can get as a teenage girl when I realized the power of language. A poster for an exhibition of women’s stories was called “Her Story’. As I wandered through the inspiring displays of stories and photos of amazing women, I had the then-stunning realization that most of history is the recording of His Story, that’s why it was called history. Doh!  What a realisation for a budding feminist.

Why does Her Story matter?

Recognising and validating women’s stories as worthy additions to the public record is an important way of validating women’s worth. In fact, it is a pre-requisite to gender equality.

As a gender equality activist, last year I co-founded the Honour a Woman movement to further recognize women on the public record by working towards equality in our national awards system, with Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and Carol Kiernan.

Honour a Woman have a bold goal. We want 5050 recognition of women in our national awards by the year 2020.

Whats wrong with our Gongs?

Receiving an Order of Australia, or The Gongs as they are affectionally known, generally relies on a citizen being confidentially nominated by a member of the community. Men are nominated at a higher rate than women – by both men and women. And, ever since Prime Minister Gough Whitlam introduced the awards in 1975, men have consistently received the lions share of the awards.

After 43 years, it’s surely time for Her Story to be recognized equally on our national public record.

While most Australians are enjoying a long weekend this Australia Day, our movement has been busy today counting up the numbers of women recognized in our national Australian Honours. It’s frustrating to note that yet again only one-third of the honours have gone to women. Having been awarded an OAM myself in 2014, I know this recognition is a great honour and I congratulate all who have been recognised today. However

In a country that prides itself on equality and fairness, how can men continue to receive the majority of our honours while many worthy women remain unacknowledged? The system does not reflect the rich diversity of our society.

The system is broken

Why are women consistently missing out? It’s like the many excuses around why there are low numbers of female CEOs in corporate Australia. We hear ‘women don’t put themselves forward’ or ‘there are not enough suitably qualified women’. *Yawn*

We’re tired of hearing the Canberra public servants who manage the award system saying that the problem lies with us, the citizens for not nominating enough women. Along with my co-founders, we’re getting impatient about inaction on the perennial gender imbalance which always favours male recipients of the Order of Australia. While the men are deserving, so are so many (absent) women.

I want more women to join me by being recognised with an Australian Honour. I want to see her achievements, her record, her story – all given the same prominence as men’s history.

It’s time for action

We’re now stepping up our advocacy to the Federal Government and are calling for gender targets to be immediately introduced into the Australian Honours to ensure women are equally acknowledged by the year 2020. As a passionate advocate for women’s leadership Carol Schwartz AM said today on ABC News, if the UK can do it and get equality and diversity as priorities in their UK New Year’s honours list, so can we!

In 2018 we will be lobbying the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer to introduce targets in our national awards so that we can fairly celebrate diversity while recognising outstanding service of all Australian citizens.

We’re saying that the Government must stop blaming the community for the low nominations of women.

The system doesn’t deliver equality or fairness. It’s time to change both the way people are nominated for Orders of Australia and the whole selection process. That’s why we believe that bringing in targets will drive fairness as well as better resourcing of States and Territories to put their own nominations forward.

What we really want is structural reform that commits to fairly recognising women and their outstanding contribution to the Australian community.

There is hope things will get better. After a year of effort as a volunteer, grass-roots movement Honour a Woman believes we are making a significant difference. Our advocacy and encouragement to thousands of Australians to nominate outstanding women is bearing fruit.

Today, the Victorian Government has announced the appointment of a dedicated awards officer who will focus on organising an additional 200 nominations of Victorian women each year to ensure a gender balance. It’s great to see State leadership on real action to address this inequality.

Also, today the public servants that manage the selection process announced a 40% increase in the past year of nominations for women. This is a result of the fantastic work by everyone who has nominated a woman recently.

Will you help us reach our goal of equality in the honours? Nominate an outstanding woman from your community or profession and get her story on the public record. Download the form here.

For more information on our movement see this week’s article on our Push for Gender Targets in the Order of Australia in the Australian Financial Review

Ruth McGowan OAM is a consultant in local government and gender equity advocate. In 2014 she was recognised for her outstanding leadership in her community with an Order of Australia medal.

by Ruth McGowan Ruth McGowan No Comments

Ever considered it?


Have I lost your interest right there with that one word? Are you like the ever-increasing numbers of voters disillusioned by politicians? Sick of the fighting, the inaction, the bullshit? Frustrated by the inability of those in power – be it at a Federal level, State or Local Council – to get anything done?

Have you, like many citizens, turned off politics? Or… are you still interested enough in the way the world works to care about how the system can be improved?

 If you still believe in democracy and think you could do a better job than those currently in power, why not consider standing for public office?

Now more than ever, the timing is right for passionate citizens wanting to change the system, to step up and stand for election. This coincides with a voter hunger for a new type of politician; an ordinary person ‘just like us’.

Could politics be your next career move?

We need a new type of representation

It’s no secret that Australians are disenchanted with politics. Last year a university poll of 2600 Australians found that three out of four Australians are disillusioned with politics in this country.

Increasingly Australians see politicians as being out of touch with their life experiences not reflecting the ‘average’ voter. Research on Federal politicians, reported last year found that “nearly half of all Liberal MPs were former political staffers, party officials or government advisers while inside the Labor caucus, 55% of MPs had previously worked as staffers, electorate officers or advisers before being elected, while 40% have previously worked in roles within the trade union movement”. (Fairfax media)

Without disrespecting people working in political offices or trade unions, that experience doesn’t really represent the working lives of the rest of the nation. Perhaps that’s why voters are increasingly looking outside the main political parties for people to represent their views; not only in Australia but around the world in western democracies.

The ‘political class’ is on the nose.

We need diverse representation 

At the last Federal election, a quarter of Australians gave their preference to parties other than Labor and the Coalition, a trend that has been rising for the past 10 years. Voters want to support more and more ‘ordinary people’ to put their hand up and prioritise a career in politics.  People with a vision. People who believe in what they are doing. People who know that power is worth pursuing because when you are ‘in the tent’ you can make and influence decisions that will benefit communities, businesses and our planet for the better.

It’s like shopping at Aldi or FoodWorks, instead of just Woolworths and Coles. Increasingly voters are turning away from the two major parties, Labor and the Coalition, towards independents and minor parties to channel their angst about the current political system. They’re voting for people who don’t come from a political background; independents such as  Jacqui, Nick, Andrew and Cathy and others from micro parties such as Ricky, Pauline, Derryn, Clive,  Rebecca and Bob.

What are you waiting for?

The rigid 2-party system is under threat. Australians are hungry for political representation from independents, populists and ordinary people. That leaves scope for potential candidates to stand as independents or even for a micro-party.

If you’re intelligent, interested in politics, community-minded and skilled at communicating your passion, politics could be a terrific way of making a real difference in your community.

If not you then who? If not now, then when?

So, could politics be your next career move? Why not have a crack at standing for Local Council, a shot at State Government or maybe even fancy yourself as a Federal politician? Need some inspiration? Check out some of the speeches from those independents (or watch a few old episodes of West Wing).

You never know, politics could be your calling and just what your part of the world needs right now.

Ruth McGowan OAM is an experienced political campaigner at a local and federal level. As a past Mayor, she mentors political candidates and was previously Campaign Coordinator for her sister Cathy McGowan’s successful political campaigns as an independent candidate for the Federal electorate of Indi. Ruth is currently writing a book to assist candidates to get elected to public office.