Q&A with Dame Quentin Bryce in Launceston: Part 2

Reporter CARLY DOLAN sat down with Dame QUENTIN BRYCE during her visit to Launceston for the Clifford Craig Foundation’s Christmas conversations luncheon.

CARLY DOLAN:What was it like being one of the first women in a number of roles throughout your life, including governor-general?

QUENTIN BRYCE: There are always particular challenges being the first. It’s obvious, really, because you have to create your own pathway. There’s no template there telling you, ‘this is how it’s done’, and I think it’s also challenging for some of the people around you as well. Adjusting to the different ways that many women do things, and there’s a lot of interest in the first - I guess that’s an upside to it.

CD:Looking at the media coverage around Harvey Weinstein, do you think this is leading to some sort of change in gender equality?

QB: I certainly hope it is. I think that it’s a very significant opportunity for us to ensure that we keep this serious issue of sexual harassment on our agenda. It’s not something that’s a newly identified phenomenon. We’ve been talking about this as a serious employment issue, an issue in education and the arts and the media, as we see.

But, I look back on my term as being federal sex discrimination commissioner - I took on that role in 1988, and it was one of the major reforms of the sex discrimination act that was passed in 1984 - sexual harassment. And there have been many complaints that have been handled since then - education, awareness programs, and it’s a very serious thing to see that so many decades later, it’s still such a grave issue.

It’s a very debilitating, horrible experience for women to go through. So, I hope that what this will do, this current focus on sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour, I hope that it will give women who are victims of sexual harassment a greater confidence to bring complaints and to call it out, and for employers and supervisors and leaders, in whatever aspect of our society they’re in, that they are aware of their responsibilities under the sex discrimination act. It’s a very serious human rights issue and I observed it have dreadful long-lasting effects on individual women.

Certainly, we’ve made some progress, but this is an opportunity for all of us who have a commitment to equality of opportunity and equal status for women and to the dignity and worth of every human being, to see that we’re not going to have any more, these horrific stories that have been on our front pages.

CD:What would your message be to women in rural and regional Australia?

QB: I always like to express my admiration and respect for them - they’re always on the top of my list when I think about friendship and the fine values of a community service of caring for others. I come from central Queensland and there’s the most wonderful sense of community in our rural and remote centres, our regional cities, and, of course, in the indigenous communities that I know very well and love to visit.

I have such admiration for their courage, their kindness, the contributions they make to their communities, because people depend on each other so much at every stage of their lives.