News and Stories - Advocacy - 24 May 2022

Represent Us

Represent Us

Parliament should be a space young people can aspire to be part of, and a place that brings pride to all Australians. But right now, our nation’s Parliament does not represent the diversity of communities across Australia and 72% of young Australian women do not feel politics is an equal or inclusive space for them.

These are the findings of Represent Us, Plan International Australia’s research report (PDF 500KB) launched in May 2022. Conducted by YouGov, the survey questioned more than 1,000 young women on their views, values and aspirations when it comes to Australian politics.

The report found:

  • more than 90% of young women believe Parliament should reflect the diversity of Australia.
  • 60% of young women said they would be more likely to pursue a career in politics if it was more diverse and 82% said there should be diversity targets to ensure that women and people across all ethnicities are being represented.
  • almost half of those surveyed would not want to pursue a career in politics because they think they would be discriminated against for being female.

Following the past year’s spate of reports of sexual misconduct, alleged rape, and women being victim-blamed, talked over and side-lined in our national parliament, girls and young women are being sent a clear message – that they will not be safe in parliament and that little is being done about it.

This is a systemic issue, and regardless of party or preference, many women and gender-diverse people are being forced to abandon their leadership aspirations because of it.

Ensuring girls have the same opportunities as boys, in every sphere of society and in every part of the world is central to the work of Plan International Australia, and advocating for these rights is how we can achieve long-term systemic change.

For the past couple of months, we’ve been asking supporters to stand with young people, and amplify their recommendations. More than 400 people have joined them, emailing decision makers, urging them to set targets to ensure our Parliament reflects the diversity of the country we live in and to adopt the full, transformative suite of recommendations outlined in the Set the Standard report.

Young women and gender diverse people should grow up believing anything is possible – that they have opportunities in their lives to shape the world they live in. Over the coming months our Youth Activists will be meeting with decisionmakers to further discuss their recommendations for a safer and more inclusive Parliament, where everyone has a seat at the table.

Bringing our seats to the table

Young people deserve a place in our nation’s Parliament, and on 9 May 2022 in Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens, they brought their literal seats to the literal table.

On 15 chairs representing the 151 seats in the House of Representatives, our 2022 Youth Activists painted images, symbols and words about what better representation in Parliament would mean for our communities. They were joined by local artists and our ambassadors Jamila Rizvi and Yasmin Poole, as they called on leaders across the political spectrum to transform Parliament into an inclusive and safe arena for all.

One of Plan's YAS paints a chair
Plan International Youth Activist, Iremide, painting a chair at our May 2022 media event
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Represent Us

In the 2022 federal election, we called on political parties to urgently set targets to ensure our Parliament reflects the diversity of the country we live in, because young women and gender-diverse people deserve a place in our democracy.

Thank you to everyone who joined our call for action. Thanks to your support, the new Parliament has greater representation of both women and people of different ethnicities.

Why representation matters

Young women and gender-diverse people should grow up believing anything is possible – that they have opportunities in their lives to shape the world they live in.

Sadly, our national Parliament has not represented the diversity of communities across Australia. Without this representation, valuable perspectives are not being included in decision-making and as we have seen over 2022, a dangerous culture was allowed to run rampant.

Our campaign

We entered the 2022 federal election with a simple ask from all parties: transform parliament into an inclusive and safe arena that young people can aspire to be a part of, and that all Australians can be proud of. At the election, communities used their votes to send a strong message that representation matters.

Thanks to you, the Parliament is now more representative. But it doesn’t end here. We’re going to continue to hold our government to their commitments and ensure they set targets for the representation of people of different ethnicities on top of their existing targets for the representation of women.

Alongside targets, it is critical the government urgently implements the holistic, tangible recommendations in the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s Set the Standard report to ensure we tackle discrimination and misogyny in Parliament.

We are proudly non-partisan. We work with all governments and political parties to advocate for a more equal world for children and girls.

Together, with increasingly representative parliamentarians, we will continue to work for equality for girls across the world.

Represent Us

Represent Us

Women… are not adequately represented in Parliament. And for those that have worked so hard to get there, to take that seat – it’s not even safe.

We surveyed more than 1000 young women aged 18-24 – most of them voting for the first time – and asked them about the key barriers to entering politics. We asked our youth activists why diversity and safety was important to them, and drew on their insights on improving the culture of politics throughout this report.

90% of young women surveyed feel it’s easier for men to succeed in politics than women. 82% supported introducing diversity targets as an intervention to ensure the representation of women and people of different ethnicities. You can review the full findings and insights from young people in the report below.

Read the Report (PDF 1MB)

It’s time to see a Parliament as diverse as its people.

Our asks

All parties commit to implementing all of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s ‘Set the Standard’ report recommendations in 6-18 months. The report makes clear through its recommendations that driving change in Parliament will require leadership, accountability and a focus on safety and wellbeing, including proactive policies to prevent abuse before it starts.
All political parties set targets for the representation of women, if they do not already have them, and targets for people of different ethnicities to ensure that Federal Parliament reflects the diversity of Australia. All parties commit to achieving population parity across gender, ethnicities and backgrounds by 2030.
All parties commit to introducing mechanisms to report back to survivors on the implementation of the ‘Set the Standard’ recommendations, and that this is reflected as part of the implementation plan.

Plan International Australia’s ‘Represent Us! How diverse role models can transform girls’ lives’ report highlights the importance of leadership and representation, and points to the ways women can be more visible and supportive role models.

We surveyed 525 Australian girls and young women aged 16 – 25 and found that the emergence of online spaces has been a game-changer for girls to find and connect with role models who reflect their own identities –particularly in the wake of Covid-19.

However, 60% of the girls and young woman we surveyed reported that it was hard to find role models that reflected their diversities growing up and this lack of diverse representation has a profound ripple effect.

We found that role models of diverse cultural backgrounds, gender identities, or disabilities have had an impact on young women’s self-confidence (66%), career choices (56%), and education (52%). This was especially the case for LGBTIQ+ young women, with 82% saying more diversity in female role models would have had an impact on their self-confidence growing up – and 65% say this would have impacted on their career aspirations.

In our formative years, one of the ways we all get more confident and comfortable with our differences is through seeing those differences in our mentors, idols and heroes – the people who get our attention and take up media space. While workplaces are becoming more diverse, when it comes to diversity amongst the people in power and those with influence, we still have a long way to go.

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