Women of the university gathered in a classic picnic on Monday September 23rd, in pointed protest against gender inequality under new Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Polka-dot frocks and pinnies alighted upon the lawns nearby Booloominbah in an event that UNE Women's Society (UNEWS) President Milly Roberts said aimed to draw attention to the "slow progress of democratic equality."
New conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled his Cabinet on September 16th, and for the first time since 1949 (when the first woman was appointed to Cabinet), only one woman in government, Julie Bishop, holds a position in the Australian Cabinet. This accompanies Tony Abbott appointing himself the Minister of Women's Affairs. In a bout of comical misguidedness, a new plaque on the door to Abbott's assistant in the ministry, Michaelia Cash, read 'the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Woman'.
"I think that there are a number of complex factors influencing the levels of women and minorities in all levels of politics. But failing to achieve real progress isn't something which you shrug your shoulders at, it's vitally important and it's not window-dressing," says Milly Roberts.
The 1949-style picnic, complete with egg sandwiches and other delicacies carefully prepared in the women's kitchens in honour of Mr Abbott, ignited lively conversation covering politics, history and women's rights. "I think it starts with how we educate our children and young people; what personality traits they associate with power and what they think power looks like," Ms Roberts said.
In an ironic twist, only one man was present at the picnic.