The Abbott government has appointed the former leader of the Australian Democrats, Natasha Stott Despoja, as the next Ambassador for Women and Girls.
In announcing the appointment, the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said “gender empowerment is a priority for the Australian Government’s overseas development program”. She said it was the government’s wish “to be at the forefront of efforts to promote the empowerment of women and girls, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Stott Despoja, now 44, was 26 when she was appointed to fill a casual Senate vacancy from South Australia in 1995. She was the youngest women ever to sit in the Senate and was re-elected in her own right in 1996 and 2001. She became Deputy Leader to Senator Meg Lees in 1997, following Cheryl Kernot’s defection to the ALP. In April 2001, she replaced Lees as leader but was unable to resolve the divisions arising in part from the party’s split over the GST legislation. She resigned as leader 16 months later in August 2002 and did not contest the 2007 elections when the Democrats lost all their Senators and were supplanted by the Australian Greens.
Stott Despoja is the first non-Coalition politician to be appointed to a position under the Abbott government. One of Bishop’s first acts as Foreign Minister was to revoke the Gillard government’s appointment of former Victorian ALP Premier Steve Bracks as Consul-General in New York.
The new Ambassador was interviewed by Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7.30 tonight.
- Listen to Bishop and Stott Despoja – in progress (12m)
- Listen to Stott Despoja on 7.30
Text of media release from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash.
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women Michaelia Cash are delighted to announce the appointment of Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls.
Gender empowerment is a priority for the Australian Government’s overseas development program. Ms Stott Despoja’s appointment reflects the Government’s wish to be at the forefront of efforts to promote the empowerment of women and girls, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
Women make up the majority of the world’s poor and comprise two-thirds of the world’s illiterate. Fewer than one in five parliamentarians globally are women and one third of women will experience physical violence in their lifetimes.
As the former leader of a political party and a Senator for 13 years, Ms Stott Despoja is well qualified to lead Australia’s international efforts to increase representation of women in leadership roles. Her focus will be to promote women’s economic empowerment as well as participate in conflict prevention and peacebuilding; end violence against women and girls; and improve access to health and education services.
Underscoring the Pacific region as a focus of the Ambassador’s role, Ms Stott Despoja will depart today with Ms Bishop, who is leading a bipartisan delegation to the Pacific to promote women’s leadership and economic empowerment.
Ms Stott Despoja was Senator for South Australia (1995-2008) and Leader and Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats. She was the youngest woman elected to the Australian Parliament. As a legislator, Ms Stott Despoja introduced Private Members’ Bills on paid maternity leave and was a spokesperson on women and family issues.
Ms Stott Despoja is the founding Chair of the newly established Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children. She is an Ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Australia; Deputy Chair of beyondblue; a board member of the South Australian Museum; and the Museum of Australian Democracy.
In 2011, Ms Stott Despoja was made Member of the Order of Australia for her service to the Australian Parliament, education and as role model for women.
Ms Stott Despoja will succeed Ms Penny Williams, who was appointed Australia’s inaugural Ambassador in September 2011.