Thursday, June 18, 2009

how far have we come?

Today Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, took her 2 year old daughter into the Senate chamber with her for an unexpected division. I was appauled to see that Senate President, John Hogg, ordered her daughter to be removed from the chamber.

In what was a very distressing scene, Senator Hanson-Young's daughter was taken from her arms and became very upset, a very understandable reaction from a babe.

Today's actions in the senate were atrocious. Do we want women with young children participating in politics? I think we do and we should be doing all we can to ensure that barriers to participation are removed, not children! This photo of Senator Hanson-Young was taken earlier this year at rally in Melbourne.

Yes there may be rules in the Senate, but really what impact would this 2 year old have on the debate or the vote? The answer is absolutely none. If we are serious about encouraging women into politics, particularly women with young children, we have to be far more flexible and far more family friendly.

All parents understand that sometimes we have our children with us, it just happens that way. Only last week, there was a curriculum day across Victoria on the same day as the Yarra Ranges Council had a breakfast meeting with our local state and federal politicians. I have a 7 year old who had to come with me to that breakfast. There was no issue from my councillor colleagues, state or federal politicians about my child being present.

Politics is different to most careers, it's not 9 to 5 and there is no knock off time. Your families become involved whether they want to or not, you are stopped in the street, at school, people approach you in cafe's and out and about, the hours are long and irregular. It's a challenging role and sometimes circumstances dictate that your child needs to be with you.

What happened today in the Senate challenges all of us to really think about how we feel about women with young children actively participating in politics. To have a truly representative democracy we need to ensure people of all walks of life are encouraged to participate and part of that means that we have to be flexible and family friendly.

This was a dark day, let us hope that the Senate President's actions do not represent the views of the broader community. Let's hope that we can see some changes to ensure that it never happens again.

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At 8:48 PM, Blogger Samantha Dunn said...

I have been really saddened by many of the responses in today's media, particularly those of women, who for some reason are completely outraged by Senator Hanson-Young's actions.

I have been in the situation where I have had a sick child and have had to take him to work because it was pay day and I was the only staff member able to process the payroll. Sometimes our choices are not ideal but as parents we need to have the flexibility to deal with the many situations we may face as carers.

It is quite possible for parents to work to the best of our ability, even with a child in tow.

I hope that we can move forward, start to have some respect for families and see some real family friendly changes in the parliament.


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