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Estimates: Women's Branch, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 26 Feb 2013





Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ms Mairi Steele, Branch Manager, Women's

Senator RHIANNON: I have questions about the national action plan for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325. Has it been indicated to the office by the government that the issues of women, peace and security are a priority for Australia on the UN Security Council? If so, has this been announced publicly?
Ms Steele: Our understanding is that it will be given some priority. But this is really a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Senator RHIANNON: So when you say it will be given some priority, can you explain what involvement your office will have with this?
Ms Steele: Our office has responsibility for, I guess, the domestic implementation of the national action plan on UN Security Council resolution 1325. The Office for Women convenes an IDC, or interdepartmental committee, of the relevant agencies. Our responsibility under the plan is to promote the plan, to engage with non-government organisations and involve them in some of the meetings around the plan and to produce the periodicreports that are required under the plan.
Senator RHIANNON: So the United Nations adopted this resolution in 2000 and it has taken Australia another 11 years to issue a draft national action plan for consultation.
Ms Steele: The plan has gone beyond draft and is now a fully-fledged, if you like, national action plan.
Senator RHIANNON: Since the United Nations adopting it in 2000, when did Australia start working on it, please?
Ms Steele: I think the work was started some time ago. It culminated in the plan being released last year on International Women's Day.
Senator RHIANNON: So it was some time ago. Can you give us a date when it commenced?
Ms Carroll: We could take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: There is a perception it only started recently and it was 12 years, actually, before it was released. Now that we do have the plan, can you detail what measures have been taken to involve NGOs in the process, including in the monitoring and evaluation criteria?
Ms Steele: We are still at the early stages of the implementation. We have engaged with the NGO sector and are in the process of trying to work out with them a mechanism whereby there will be representation at at least one meeting a year of the IDC on 1325.
Senator RHIANNON: And which organisations are you engaging with?
Ms Steele: Certainly with WILPF. I am not sure if I have the full list here. The Australian Council for International Development; UN Women Australia; WILPF, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; and the ANU Gender Institute. Through those, if you like, peak type bodies, they are also consulting with either individual members or other organisations.
Senator RHIANNON: So do they receive funding to do that on your behalf, or is that just something they have said they will do?
Ms Steele: I think WILPF received funding early on in the development of the plan to, I think, undertake some consultations throughout the NGO community and prepared, I think, an issues paper and convened roundtables and the like to input into the plan.
Senator RHIANNON: Just to clarify, so as well as all that work that the NGOs are involved in, does it also include development of monitoring and evaluation criteria?
Ms Steele: The IDC and the relevant government departments will be formulating those criteria with input from the NGO sector because they will be involved in the IDC.
Senator RHIANNON: So they give input and then the IDC finalises it?
Ms Steele: That is correct.
Senator RHIANNON: What government agencies have adopted some measures in relationship to 1325?
Ms Steele: The working group consists of obviously us, the Office for Women, the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of
Defence, AusAID and the Australian Civil Military Centre. I understand that every one has to a greater or lesser extent certainly already achieved some objectives under the plan.
Senator RHIANNON: So those agencies that you have read out have gone some way to put in place some measures?
Ms Steele: There were measures in place prior to the plan being finalised. Just because, I think, we did not have a plan, it did not mean that actions were not already being undertaken.
Senator RHIANNON: You need to take it on notice, because it is a bit vague. It would be useful to know what they have done and how far advanced that is.
Ms Steele: We can take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: You have read out that group of agencies. Is that the only group of agencies that will do this, or is it gradually all government agencies?
Ms Steele: These are the key agencies involved certainly in women, peace and security matters, including the AFP, for example, which deploys personnel. So these have been the key agencies involved in the development of the plan. Obviously as we work through the plan and its implementation we would consider any additional departments that had a particular interest.
Senator RHIANNON: I am still trying to get a sense of how important and significant it is for the government-at what level they are pitching this. I did examine a number of government speeches on Australia's priorities for our term on the United Nations Security Council and I have not been able to find any specific mention of this resolution. Has it been set out in any of the documents, or have you advised that it should be?
Ms Steele: I am not aware of any documents. I think that is a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We certainly have been given messages that this will be a priority for the Australian government through its period on the Security Council. I think the detail of what that will involve is a matter for foreign affairs and trade.
Senator RHIANNON: I understand you to say that you have been given feedback-what, from DFAT and the minister's office-that it is a priority?
Ms Steele: We have regular catch-ups, particularly in the run-up to the Commission on the Status for Women meeting, which is coming up, on a whole range of issues. UN Security Council resolution 1325 is obviously one that comes up. There will be activity during CSW on that very resolution.
Senator RHIANNON: Just to finish up, I think I might have asked you to take this on notice. It was adopted in 2000. Can you indicate when activity started in Australia? When I look at all the material, it seems as though it has taken about a decade for it to get going or even more.
Ms Steele: Activity has already started. I am sorry, but I do not actually have the plan with me, which is my fault. I apologise. But with regard to the reporting requirements, the working group passes a report every two years. There has to be a report tabled in parliament. That activity is underway and we are already working on what that will look like.
Senator RHIANNON: Can you take on notice post 2000 when activity started in the Australian government on this resolution.
Ms Carroll: We will see what we can get for you, Senator.


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