Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (21:08): Yesterday Girl Guides came to parliament. While there were significant numbers of Girl Guide biscuits, there were neither woggles nor campfires present. What we did have were strong women of all ages who came to talk about what guiding meant to them and what they hoped Girl Guides would provide for many young women in our country and across the world. For the last two years, Australian Girl Guides have been doing a national review of what guiding means to our community and also how they hope guiding will continue into the 21st and further centuries. Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet with women who were proud of being Girl Guides. Representatives from across Australia came, including Chief Commissioner Robinette Emonson and CEO Kit McMahon. They wanted to talk about the achievements of girl guides, and about how they were working with young women to look at their needs and challenge them into the future.

As we know, the history of Girl Guides goes back to 1909, when it is said that at the first Boy Scout rally Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, was surprised when several girls turned up and insisted that they wanted to be girl scouts. He agreed, which is good, and in 1910 the World Association of Girl Guides was officially formed. From as early as 1909 here in Australia girls were forming their own groups and by 1920 Girl Guide associations had been formed in six states. In 1926 the state associations federated and formed a national organisation-Australian Girl Guides. Since that time, over a million Australian women have been or are still Girl Guides. And once a Girl Guide, always a Girl Guide. Girl Guides Australia is a founding member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts-WAGGS. They are part of a worldwide movement of some 10 million members in 146 countries. This is indeed an international movement for women.

Girl Guides Australia see the role of non-formal education and lifelong learning as critical for the empowerment of girls and as a way of contributing to meeting our national and international development goals. They are working with colleagues in Australia and across the world to roll out nonformal education programs, including three programs I want to talk about this evening-Guide Your Money, Free Being Me and Voices Against Violence. At the core of these programs is the real empowerment of girls so that they have the knowledge that they can achieve in our community. Dedicated Girl Guides Australia volunteers are instrumental in developing programs and inspiring girls and young women to be their best.

The Guide Your Money-Girl Guides Australia Financial Literacy Strategy was developed with international help so that we have the same kinds of skills available, and it was based on a concern about economic disadvantage that women face. We know in Australia, as we talked about last week, that the current gender pay gap sits at 17.9 per cent. We believe, along with the Girl Guides, that we should be working towards achieving the economic empowerment of women and girls through the Guide Your Money program, which aims to equip members with financial literacy skills and build real financial capability. It aims to empower girls and young women with practical learning on personal finance so that they can make better decisions for themselves for an independent secure financial future. The Girl Guides movement partners with lead organisational expertise in financial literacy, and this translates key content to the Girl Guide method for sustainable outcomes. The program is designed to support transformational change in the lives of girls and young women and to provide access to understanding the value of positive personal money management, and to develop a financial literacy program that covers key life stages of girls and young women and through that to provide guide leaders access to financial literacy development.

The Girl Guides structure aims to work at young women across many ages, so the target audience for this program is structured into two groups-girls from 7 to 12 are given positive role models on saving and using money, and they are introduced to the basics of budgeting and making better money decisions; young women, the older guides aged 18 to 30, are empowered to take control of their financial future. Skills will be developed via face-to-face learning, online content and practical application. The strategy will also develop capacity among adults who lead the young girls and peer educators-you are never too old to learn about effective money management.

This program is planned to work through the non-formal learning program, creating life skills in girls and young women by raising awareness of informed financial decisions and the importance of making informed financial decisions. It empowers girls and young women to know where they can seek information and to be mindful about the role of money and finance in their lives, with the intent of making women independent. The idea is to develop positive mindsets, knowledge and understanding of how financial literacy can empower their future and, importantly, to create what is called a 'pause point' in a girl or young woman's life when financial decisions are made so that they can consider how a decision on their own personal finances can contribute to that necessary financial independence. Importantly, this program aims to provide opportunities for girls and young women to take a moment to envision their own financial future and to understand what actions they can take to realise that future.

Another program which I really, really like is called Free Being Me. This program was developed by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and the company Dove to improve the self-esteem of girls across the world, again making sure that young women in Australia are learning and sharing their knowledge with young women across the world. Girl Guides Australia is concerned that 70 per cent of girls in Australia have said that they have body dissatisfaction and 20 per cent of females in Australia have identified an undiagnosed eating disorder. Free Being Me is a program designed to show young people that body confidence and self-esteem come from valuing our bodies, standing up to social pressure and supporting others to become more confident.

Participants in Free Being Me will learn leadership skills and will feel empowered-that word again-to make a difference in their own lives, their local communities and in global communities. The vision of this partnership is a world where girls have sense and confidence about knowing how they can respond to the anxiety caused by appearance-related fear and loathing. The mission is to empower girls to reach their full potential by strengthening their body confidence and esteem.

Again, responding to girls of all ages, the research team has developed two versions of the program: one for seven- to 10-year-olds and the other aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds. This program aims to impact 23,000 girls by March 2016, rolling out the curriculum to approximately 7,500 guides in Australia. Internationally, the plan is that the partnership will see 3.5 million girls taking part in this program. The program is based on a sequence of activities that sets up cognitive dissonance. Research into body confidence programs tells us that it is only through setting up a stage of cognitive dissonance that behaviour towards body confidence and image can be and will be sustainably changed. In this way we build resilient girls with high self-esteem.

The sequence of learning is: discover the image myth and understand how media and society broadly set girls and women up with unrealistic expectations of what beauty really is; understand where the image myth is found and how it affects us; define the cost of the image myth in personal, social and community terms; and understand body talk-the fact that a key part of perpetuating the myth is in the words and phrases that are used to reinforce our sense of self and our wellbeing; and take action from this learning and growing awareness. The young women and girls participating in the program are asked to spread the word and take action in their communities. The confidence that they learn can then be shared and we can break down this fear and anxiety which we know is all too prevalent in our community.

The third program that I want to talk about this evening is Voices against Violence. This Girl Guides program for children and young people is to stop violence against girls and women. It seems to me that no group could be more aware of the need to work effectively with young women than the Girl Guides. Girl Guides Australia is deeply concerned about the fact that-and we know this awful fact-one Australian woman dies every week from domestic violence and internationally six out of 10 women will be subject to some form of domestic violence or abuse in their lifetimes. They realise that a priority area for action is addressing violence against women systematically as a way of engaging with women and young girls locally and also having a sense of the international problem.

Voices against Violence is a non-formal education curriculum developed in partnership with UN Women, again having that sense that this is not just something that impacts in Australia-it is an international issue, and we can make change here locally. Through delivery of a non-formal education curriculum, the program supports children and young people to understand their right to live without violence and discrimination, to identify different forms of violence and to gain the skills and confidence to speak out and take action in preventing violence in their own lives and in their communities. Again, there is shared strength and shared action.

The target audience is divided into different age groups so that the response can be immediate and skills are built up over a period of time. The age groups are young, middle and older years, with age-appropriate activities on different forms of violence for each group. In delivering the Voices against Violence program, Girl Guides Australia again is part of a global community committed to reaching out to 30 million people in over 100 countries. Groups of all ages look at the topics, which include gender stereotyping and gender discrimination, domestic violence, child abuse and sexual bullying. Older groups look at all topics, such as informed consent, sexual harassment, relationship abuse, sexualisation, female genital mutilation and forced and early marriage. Again, there is sharing of knowledge. As you would know, Madam Acting Deputy President Peris, these are the core issues that are discussed internationally through the UN movement. There is such a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be learnt and discussed with the young women and girls. The idea is that people will have the confidence to learn and then be able to self-identify and to say quite confidently, 'No, this is not right.' They will be part of an ongoing campaign to stop violence. The curriculum has been developed, naturally, for worldwide use. It can be adapted to different cultural, social and legal contexts and has already been successfully piloted in 20 countries. After developing the ability to identify and understand gender violence, participants are encouraged to speak out and take action to stop violence. This they can do so through their own local campaigns, events or activities with the support of Girl Guides Australia.

The Girl Guides are alive and well and active in our community. While they do have a long history, they are not necessarily just part of history. The two-year program that has reviewed Girl Guides in Australia will be used to activate future programs, to ensure that generations to come will have the challenge of being involved in the movement and to share the knowledge so that women will be able to be part of the million Australian women who have been part of Girl Guides up till now. The plan for Girl Guides Australia is that this number will increase not just here but across the world.