YOUNG WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP PROGRAM
Ms VERITY FIRTH
(Balmain—Minister for Women, Minister for Science and Medical Research, Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer), Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water (Environment)) [3.21 p.m.]: The New South Wales Government is committed to developing and supporting our young women leaders. A key project in this regard is the Young Women's Leadership Project. In 2005 the Office for Women provided funding for a strategic partnership with the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils to deliver the Young Women's Leadership Project, which has since been extended to include further partnerships with the Western Sydney and South Western Sydney institutes of TAFE and the Richmond Club.
The Young Women's Leadership Project is an innovative program that aims to increase the involvement of young women in leadership and decision-making roles in their communities. To do this it takes a holistic approach, which includes participants attending a TAFE-accredited leadership course and personal development workshops; mentoring by established women leaders from Western Sydney; networking opportunities with other women, community leaders, businesses and organisations; providing opportunities for young women to gain practical work experience; and providing ongoing personal and professional development activities.
The project identifies young women aged between 16 and 24 years, mainly from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, living in Western Sydney, who are emerging leaders or who show leadership potential. These young women come from Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils member council areas of Auburn, Bankstown, Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, the Blue Mountains, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Holroyd, Liverpool, Parramatta and Penrith. Since September 2005, 92 young women from all 11 council areas have graduated from the project.
Earlier this year I was delighted to have the pleasure of attending the most recent graduation ceremony at Penrith City Council. It was wonderful to meet some of the young women participating in the project and their mentors. Without exception they all had fantastic things to say about their participation in the project, and about the fun they had had and the things they had learnt. Evaluation of the pilot revealed that 94 per cent of respondents believed that the project had aided in the development of their leadership paths and 66 per cent of respondents also felt that the project had provided them with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by women leaders in the workforce, including strategies to overcome those challenges.
I make special mention of a number of participants in the program who are in the public gallery for this afternoon's question time, and I welcome them on behalf of the New South Wales Parliament. I acknowledge Alyce, Shona, and Fadia, who are here with Kellie Darley, the Manager of the Young Women's Leadership Program. I am sure all members will join me in congratulating these young women on the commitment they have shown by participating in the program, and in welcoming them to the New South Wales Parliament. I especially congratulate Kellie on he fantastic work in managing the program and in supporting the many young women who have participated in it over the last three years. All the young women with whom I spoke at the recent graduation were extremely appreciative of the help and support these young women give them.
I also pay tribute to the mentors of the young women who are here today—the member for Penrith, Karyn Paluzzano, who is in the Chamber, Councillor Alison McLaren, and Cecilia Anthony. I know that all members will also join with me in thanking these mentors, and all the others who participate in the program, for their efforts on behalf of these inspiring young women. I know that, like me, they consider their work as mentors an investment in the future leadership of Western Sydney and beyond. The success of programs such as the Young Women's Leadership Project will go a long way towards ensuring that the young women of today will become the decision makers of tomorrow.
Ms PRU GOWARD
(Goulburn) [3.26 p.m.]: On behalf of the Opposition I congratulate all the young women who have joined the Young Women's Leadership Program, including those who are in the gallery today. By joining the program, I understand, they have already demonstrated leadership abilities and, more importantly, put their hands up to do so. A leadership course is really just the beginning. A leadership course can inspire; it can give confidence. It is very important that when people put their hands up for leadership—which can be such a tough and lonely place—they have that confidence.
Women are often reluctant to put their hands up for leadership positions. They are often likely to think it is selfish or egotistical, and they might even consider it to be threatening. That is not so, but in any event they should put their hands up for leadership for our sakes, if not theirs. We are a nation of 21 million people competing with the rest of the world, and we need the best leadership to do so. This leadership program should be just a beginning. Of course, people need skills, but they also need opportunities. They also need chances to demonstrate their leadership skills—not through quotas but through being recognised on their merits as young people capable of taking up leadership positions.
Members may be interested to know that New South Wales has just been announced as the next host of the Women's Cricket World Cup. Congratulations go to the New South Wales Cricket Association and the Women's Cricket Association on a wonderful achievement, an achievement that should further enhance the leadership credentials of women in sport and in the community generally. It is unfortunate that a leadership course is only the beginning; the hard work is to come. The individual must not just be someone who has confidence. It is not just about an Andy Warhol moment, or red carpets, or any of those glamorous aspects; is it is primarily about hard work. We would like the New South Wales Government to invest not only in more programs such as this but to extend them to ensure that young women who join such programs then have the opportunity to put what they have learned into practice—as I said, not through being part of a quota, where they would never be absolutely confident that they were there on their merits, but through being recognised as being the best. That is what this side of the House encourages. Again, congratulations to the young women on their achievements.