The 2015 Grace Vaughan Memorial Lecture by Professor Carmen Lawrence, Director, Centre for the Study of Social Change, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia
Twenty years ago Carmen Lawrence took part in the UN Conference on the Status of Women in Beijing. The event seemed like a watershed and the good will was palpable; participants were determined to develop a practical plan which committed governments to specific actions rather than collating lofty aspirations which would never be realised in practice. The result of years of preparation and the week-long meeting was a statement of agreed principles and a public register of government commitments which became the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to reduce inequality.
The meeting reaffirmed the UN commitment to the “full implementation of the human rights” of women and girls “as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”; and explicitly recognised “the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility” as basic to their empowerment.
The meeting also asserted optimistically that “peace is attainable and is inextricably linked with the advancement of women, who are a fundamental force for leadership, conflict resolution and the promotion of lasting peace at all levels”.
In this lecture, Professor Lawrence argued that while some progress has been made on these and other fronts, it has to be acknowledged that we are still a long way from realising the ambitions set at the 1995 Conference.
Carmen Lawrence trained as a research psychologist at UWA and lectured in a number of Australian universities. She entered politics in 1986, serving at both State and Federal levels for 21 years. She was at various times WA Minister for Education and Aboriginal affairs and was the first woman Premier and Treasurer of a State government. She shifted to Federal politics in 1994 when she was elected as the Member for Fremantle and was appointed Minister for Health and Human Services and Minister assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. She was elected national President of the Labor Party in 2004. She retired from politics in 2007. She is now Director of the UWA Centre for the Study of Social Change.
19 March 2015
This annual lecture commemorates the life and achievements of Grace Vaughan, a social worker, social activist and parliamentarian, who was dedicated to the improvement of life at all levels and had a deep commitment to Australia’s participation in the Asian region and to ensuring women’s full participation in society. The lecture is presented by the Australian Association of Social Workers, the Institute of Advanced Studies at The University of Western Australia and Department of Local Government and Communities Western Australia.