It's Time We Stop Giving Women Nowhere To Go

Today in Parliament Abigail confronted the Government, advocating for women in male-dominated trades industries who are constantly left with nowhere to go when needing to use a toilet while working. 

Abigail moved the following motion:

(1) That this House commends the Electrical Trades Union's report titled Nowhere To Go published in August 2021 which found that:

(a) women make up approximately 2 per cent of the Australian electrical industry;

(b) there is evident under-representation of women in male dominated trade-based occupations; and

(c) access to adequate workplace toilet facilities and amenities is a recurring problem in male dominated trade-based occupations, and results in negative impact on productivity, safety, and the health and wellbeing of women workers.

(2) That this House calls on the New South Wales Government to support calls for better regulations and prescribed codes of practice within occupational industries which:

(a) acknowledge and work to overcome barriers to women's participation in employment; and

(b) enforce mandatory women's amenities on all worksites across New South Wales which are accessible, available, suitable and sanitary.

 

After delivering the motion, Abigail spoke at length on this important issue: 

Over the past few decades, our society has achieved extraordinary feats in breaking down barriers to women's participation in the workforce, owing largely to the tireless work of the trade union movement. But in 2021 it is clear that we have dropped far behind on this front, with working women still facing enormous challenges that impact on their health, wellbeing and safety. In 2021 there are thousands of women across Australia who are still left with nowhere to go.

In August of this year the Electrical Trades Union of Australia released a report titledNowhere To Go, highlighting the immense regulatory and legislative gaps that continue to fail women working in male-dominated occupations, trades and industries. Women make up approximately 2 per cent of the electrical industry in Australia and approximately 13 per cent of all trade apprentices and trainees in New South Wales. These women are frequently left with nowhere to go when needing to access vital amenities while working, with many worksites failing to provide them with safe, hygienic, regularly serviced, accessible and suitable toilets.

One ETU member, Marie, said:

"The single biggest issue in four years that I have ever faced on a construction site is that every single construction site caters only to men, women never get a toilet. The first thing I would do when arriving on site is try and find a toilet, and make sure it is not down a dark alley or in a position where we would not be safe."

That finding a toilet at their place of employment is still a hurdle for so many women is shocking and unacceptable. Safe, hygienic and accessible toilets should be mandatory for all people everywhere, regardless of their gender or profession. The Electrical Trades Union's report makes 10 recommendations which call on governments to mandate adequate workplace amenities for all people, with an emphasis on closing the gaps that prevent women from being able to safely and with dignity go to the toilet while working. It also highlights the enormous under‑representation of women in male-dominated occupations, which can be attributed to the significant barriers to participation and inclusion impacting women in these areas. Most disproportionately impacted by these barriers are First Nations women, LGBTIQ+ women, women with disabilities and migrant women.

Not only do women deserve the same fundamental right to a toilet that their male counterparts almost always have, but they often require additional sanitary needs. Individuals who are breastfeeding need a safe, sanitary and accessible place to pump their breast milk. Individuals who are pregnant need space to comfortably and safely use the toilet. With no toilet facility on site, or one which is unsanitary and unsafe, where are these people expected to go? People who menstruate—a significant portion of our populationwill undoubtedly require regular access to menstrual products and a sanitary way to dispose of them while working. For those who work in trades-based industries, many of these people often work in remote areas where the nearest store to purchase period products is far away. Lack of toilet amenities in workplaces, highlighted by theNowhere to Go report, is just one of the many barriers to inclusion and participation in employment that women face on a daily basis in a wide range of industries.

There is a clear and often brazen patriarchal workplace culture across Australia and an entrenched boys club mentality, perpetuated by gender stereotypes and poorly addressed by our governments. So the fight continues for truly equal pay, for domestic violence leave, for affordable child care, for an end to the superannuation gap, for real action against workplace sexual harassment, and for accommodation of and compensation for caring responsibilities. The proverbial glass ceiling is still clearly intact within the Australian workforce, and it is well past time that we look after all women in our community by taking bold action to address these systemic barriers. We need fewer feel-good initiatives by this Government, which are simply awareness focused, passive and underfunded, and instead the implementation of robust legislation that mandates minimum standards for accessible workplace amenities for all as well as comprehensive regulations that directly target toxic workplace culture, harassment and bullying, and sexual assault. Women and their sanitary needs have for too long been treated as an inconvenience—an afterthought—or simply ignored. It is now more important than ever that we make the change and support the voices of Australian women, to make sure that they are no longer left with nowhere to go.

 

The LNP Government opposed Abigail's motion, saying: 

The Hon. SCOTT FARLOW (22:54): "The Government opposes the motion because the motion fails to account for existing work health and safety regulations and a prescribed code of practice that this Government has already introduced to address these matters."

 

Despite the Government's opposition, Abigail's motion was successfully passed in the Chamber! 

 

The full debate can be found in Hansard here. 

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