Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

D21  - 15 December 2005 

Women Working for Australia Exhibition

To commemorate the 30 th anniversary of the 1975 International Year of Women, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade developed Women Working for Australia, an exhibition which depicts the changing role of women in, and their contribution to, Australia's international diplomacy. The exhibition was first launched by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, during International Women's Week in 2005. Women Working for Australia is now touring nationally and internationally.

The exhibition sets women's achievements against a backdrop of changing attitudes to gender equality. It pays tribute to individuals who, despite the prejudices and constraints of their era, played a role on the international stage and in Australia's diplomatic service.

At the display's launch, DFAT Secretary, Mr Michael L'Estrange, said, "Women in the early days of the department, while modest in number, made an important contribution to Australia's international representation and laid the foundations for more equitable involvement by Australian women in our international life. Their legacy continues - in the productive relations we enjoy with countries around the world, and in the more representative staff profile of today's department".

Women today comprise more than 49 per cent of the department's staff. In 2005, women made up 25.5 per cent of the Senior Executive Service compared with 12.5 per cent a decade ago. Eighteen of Australia's diplomatic posts were headed by women during 2005, compared with six a decade ago. We aim for this trend to continue.

Women Working for Australia includes photos, news clippings and official and personal correspondence depicting Australian women on the international stage (1920s), the department's first female cadets (1940s), female delegates to the UN in the 1940s, clerical staff (1920-1960s), the first high-level female diplomatic appointments (1950-70s), recent and contemporary female Ambassadors, Indigenous employees, women serving in war zones, women promoting peace, women in the department's Senior Executive and recent graduate recruits.

The exhibition highlights the achievements of the many talented women who have served the department and Australia.

Media enquiries: Chelsey Martin, DFAT Media Liaison, (02) 6261 1555