THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
Australian Women Lawyers 2022 National Conference
5 August 2022
I start by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
Today I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra area, the land from which I speak today.
It is with pleasure that I welcome you all to the Australian Women Lawyers 2022 National Conference.
I acknowledge Chief Justice Kiefel, Chief Justice Bowskill and your President, Leah Marrone.
I am sorry I could not be there with you on this occasion.
I note this year’s theme is ‘Securing a Safe, Just and Equitable Future for Women’.
Paid Domestic Violence Leave
The Albanese Government is wasting no time delivering commitments to make women’s lives safer and more equitable.
In the first sitting of the 47th Parliament last week we introduced a bill for universal paid leave for family and domestic violence.
This will provide more than 11 million workers – overwhelmingly women – the means to escape violent situations without risking their jobs or their financial security.
Legal Assistance Funding
You understand better than anyone the extent of unmet need for legal services.
Women’s legal services in particular are under enormous pressure across the country.
I know many of you volunteer your valuable expertise regularly to those services and you may be staggered to realise, as I recently discovered on becoming Attorney-General, that only a fraction of the $129 million announced by the previous Government last year as funding for Women’s Legal Services has in fact gone to Women’s Legal Services.
Women’s Legal Services badly need all of this funding but figures I have been provided indicates that, in Tasmania for example, just one quarter of the funding actually flowed to Women’s Legal Service Tasmania.
It is a similar story in most of the states and territories though I am pleased to say that in Queensland almost all of the funding actually went to the Women’s Legal Service Queensland.
I’m determined to ensure that this does not happen again and I will do what I can to ensure that funding goes to where it is intended and women in crisis get the support that they need.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins’ ground-breaking report highlighted the seriousness and pervasiveness of workplace sexual harassment.
No industry or profession is unaffected – we all must take responsibility for tackling this, and ensure we are part of the solution.
Our systems should protect and support victim-survivors and ensure they can access the protections of our legal system.
I am proud to be part of a Government that is committed to protecting women from sexual harassment and gender-based violence – and I am proud to be part of a Government that will implement the recommendations of the [email protected] report in full.
A key part of our Government’s vision for a better future was returning to the principles of transparency and integrity.
We are already acting to restore integrity in the judicial appointments process.
As many of you know, I am also a longstanding supporter of a federal judicial commission to deal with complaints against serving judges.
And we will be legislating a powerful, independent and transparent National Anti-Corruption Commission this year.
I am honoured to be again able to serve as Attorney-General.
As you can tell from my remarks, there is much work to be done.
I thank you for inviting me to speak and I wish you well for what is sure to be an inspiring and productive conference.