Iris Apfel Aged 100 on Harper’s Bazaar Cover

We women over 50 have to be like Iris Apfel.
Refuse to be invisible.
Refuse to accept the crippling stereotypes society imposes on us.
Affirm our value and proclaim our stories.
This is who we are.
This is what we have done and will continue to do.
Just watch!

WomanGoingPlaces interviews Professor Kim Rubenstein

Professor Kim Rubenstein has become a popular guest on programs such as Q&A because she clearly articulates how the Australian Constitution impacts on the most important issues we face as a nation and as individuals.

So when she announced in August the she had formed Kim For Canberra, her own independent political party, and would run for the Senate in the coming federal election, many welcomed her candidacy.

Professor Rubenstein currently holds the position of Co-Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra, having formerly been Director of the Centre for International and Public Law at the ANU from 2006-15. She is recognised as a constitutional and citizenship expert. Professor Rubenstein wrote the leading book on citizenship, Australian Citizenship Law in Context, and was involved in drafting the Australian Citizenship Act and reviewing the Citizenship Test. Her support for gender equality led to her becoming the Inaugural Convenor of the ANU Gender Institute.  

WomanGoingPlaces has a special interest in spotlighting the stories of Australian women aged 50+ and so we interviewed Professor Rubenstein recently on her candidacy, goals and vision.



Q: Professor Rubenstein, why are you standing for Parliament?

I have spent the last 25 plus years teaching the next generation about law, citizenship, rights, gender equality and the Constitution. Throughout my professional life I have been keen to make sure that what I have been doing in academia reaches into the public policy field.

In the last 18 months with Covid-19, there has been an amplification of the issues central to what I do on citizenship and gender. But no matter how convincing and evidence-based your arguments, if the people in Parliament don’t want it or care, then it just doesn’t go anywhere.

So that made me think that if that is the case, let’s see if I can have a go doing this stuff inside Parliament rather than outside.


Q: What is your purpose?

To use my skills set as part of the Senate’s role of reviewing legislation and contributing to public policy discussion. It’s rare for a Government to have a majority in the Senate, so I could have real influence over the areas that I’m really keen to progress. These fall into 3 categories:

1. Being a Senator for Canberra.

Canberra has always had a Labour and a Liberal representative and both are caught in the framework of their party’s policies in terms of progressing anything specific to Canberra. They have been deliberately stymied in some respects.

Unlike the rest of country, Canberra is a Territory. The Commonwealth has the capacity to override the legislation in Canberra and this has happened on a couple of occasions. That is not good for Canberrans in terms of their democratic rights being curtailed. So I would be a direct voice that is not bound or prevented from pushing as hard as it can and standing up for Canberra.

2. Making Parliament a more representative body.

There has been a politicisation of really important issues such as climate change, gender equality and refugee policy. The parties have come to the point where they are the blockages on these issues. There are groups within parties that are committed to good policies, but are being stymied by the party system which is so set on making sure they win rather than staying committed to the policies they represent. As an independent I could bring out the best in the parties, and not as we are seeing, the worst. I would contribute to improving the quality of policy discussion in Parliament.

We are waiting on Kate Jenkins’ Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces as safe and equal workplaces. I really want to push for those recommendations to be seriously engaged with. As an independent voice I want to ensure Parliament really scrutinises those recommendations and endorses where appropriate. Having an independent voice is crucial to making Parliament work for the people and not parties.

3. Changing the Constitution.

I have a life-long passion around Constitutional change and bringing Australia into the 21st Century. It’s about recognising that our Constitutional structure was written in the1890s, and realising that Australia of the 21st Century is a very different and much more mature entity.

Three things need changing in this order:

The first is regarding the Uluru Statement from the Heart and Australia becoming reconciled with its Indigenous people. The First Nations people went through a process of getting to the Uluru Statement by meeting with people around the whole country and inspiring active citizenship. This is what all Australians should be doing in engaging with their Constitution.

In Parliament I would really push for a referendum on a Voice to Parliament and I feel really positive that the work First Nations people have been doing as a community around this will lead to successful referendum change. Once that happens it will remind people that we can actually change the Constitution.  

The second change is regarding our multi-cultural society. Section 44 of the Constitution prevents dual citizens from being members of Parliament. This has been a real hurdle for our multicultural society being properly represented in Parliament because you presently have to renounce the other citizenship in order to nominate, whether you win or not. So it’s a real negative block on dual citizens from being MPs. If you think about it, if our Parliament had had more dual citizens, it would have been much more proactive about setting up quarantine stations to enable people who have family overseas to connect with family, without undermining our health security. The fact that they dragged their heels over it is because they weren’t responsive enough to this. Almost 49% of Australians have a parent born overseas or were born overseas, so changing that in our Constitution would lead to a more representative democracy.

The third change is regarding the move towards a republic. I have been involved since 1998, when the Constitutional Convention was held, in advising and supporting Constitutional change to reflect the reality of our 21st Century.  With an Australian as a Head of State, and secure in our own independence, we could still be part of the Commonwealth. But we don’t need to have the Queen of England acting as the Queen of Australia.   

Q: How do you think the sentiment is on that now?

If you have really positive leadership which shows the community what the vision is and the capacity we have of doing this to bolster our own identity, people will respond positively. People are looking for leadership. We haven’t had a vision for Australia. We’ve had marketing for Australia.  Which is not doing much for social cohesion or a sense of optimism for the future.



Q: Why stand as an independent? And if elected, how will you deal with what you described as a toxic boys’ club and party machines?

It was a very clear decision to run as an independent primarily because none of the parties fully reflect my views. I would prefer to do that directly in Parliament. I have been approached by parties before but I chose not to. 

I would be putting all my energies into changing the Party rather than the nation.

Secondly, parties are structures that are outdated and I would actually have more power from the outside rather than from within. Parties have good people in them, but they haven’t been able to shift those structures. Having independents in Parliament who reflect the will of the people, will help parties to change.

This is the contribution that the independents have been able to make outside the party system. Kerryn Phelps and her Medevac bill, Zali Steggall’s bill on climate change, and Helen Haine’s bill to establish the Australian Federal Integrity Commission.  All of these things are so fundamental to the health of our democracy but none of the parties have made moves on them. And yet each of these independent women is able to pull the parties along. Independents have a greater positive influence on our system and can improve the parties.



Q: Women aged over 50 find themselves becoming invisible or are encouraged to become invisible. And yet you are going in the other direction. Why?

My capacity has been enhanced rather than reduced by being a woman over 50.  

It is interesting to reflect on the capacity of women to enter political life.

All the public policy work that I did over the last 25 years I was able to do in a way to balance work and family. Academia and public commentary was consistent with an equal role with my husband in raising a family. It would have been a real strain on that capacity to have done it earlier. 

I’m now at an age when my kids are adults and are keen to be involved in my standing for Parliament so this will be a combined family and professional exercise. In my 50s I’m liberated to do it.

I want to change things in Parliament to enable younger people with younger children to be involved without being compromised. That includes thinking through opportunities that Covid19 has provided. With Zoom, parliamentarians are not necessarily having to come to Canberra for every sitting. Also, changes in parental leave so it is seen by more men as the norm for them to be involved with their partners. So the balance of work and family can be done in a way that enables both to contribute more in the political sphere if they want.

I would be advocating for policy transparency, so that there is gender responsive budgeting and broader policy frameworks that Governments can incorporate into their thinking.

Q: But actually for most women over 50 in Australia, opportunities are not enhanced. Older women have been forgotten by the Government. Ageism is more prevalent that racism or sexism in Australia. What do you plan on doing about women over 50 and what issues do you see as needing to be addressed? 

First of all, all strength to you in bringing attention to this issue. I think that it is really fundamental.

There is a range of issues about older people and the specific impact on older women compared to men that need to be looked at. If I am in Parliament I would be very attentive and responsive about policies that could be developed to focus on that.

It speaks to the lived experience that is needed in Parliament to better reflect the needs of the community. Parliament is not diverse enough.

So if I get into Parliament as a woman whose first entry into Parliament is as a women over 50, that will be a really positive role modelling for the nation. That we should not be ignored. 

Then there is the bias that people hold broadly that we need to make more transparent  and unpack. I think a lot of it is about calling out people’s often unconscious assumptions and then working with people against those assumptions. For example, job applications for women over 50.  Whether we can require private business sector and gender equality agencies to use gender blind and age blind CVs. I am certainly keen to support your work in this. These are things that I’m passionate about in terms of supporting equity in our society.



Q: Your ancestor, a Jewish convict by the name of Henry Cohen, came to Australia in 1833. And now 6 generations later you are Australia’s  foremost expert on citizenship and a Constitutional law authority. History is having a bit of a giggle. But also what does it say about Australian citizenship? 

It does show the potential for Jewish Australians to feel confident about wanting to even run as Parliamentarians. We have several at the moment, and Kerryn Phelps was there briefly. I think it’s exciting for the community generally that a descendant of a convict who throughout the family history has maintained our Jewish identity. It is really a testament to Australia  multiculturalism and the experience of settlement.

I say that conscious of the Indigenous Australian experience. Even though I wasn’t personally touched by the Holocaust, I know of the power of the state to exercise its brute force over communities, as Nazi Germany did against the Jewish community. The desire to assist indigenous Australians in terms of the Uluru Statement is motivated both by my strong sense of citizenship in Australia as a legal concept, and by their always having been formally members of the community but constitutionally seen as the other.


Q: You were saying that we are not ready of the 21st century and one of the most outstanding examples of that is climate change.

Having an independent voice in Parliament will help with the deadlock that the big parties are in.

Part of the reason we are in this terrible scenario is because our political system is not really open to engaging with policy rather than with the politics. But secondly, I want to model a commitment to good climate change action. I’m going to be running a carbon neutral campaign and I have some experts helping me how to do that.

We all have a role to play and I want to model that we all should be thinking about this. And then it’s really about the science showing us what we need to do. We can be buoyed by renewable energies and investing in renewable energies, but ultimately the specifics will depend on the advice I get from experts. But I am totally committed to coming up with policies to ensure that as a country we are doing what we can to respond to the really urgent scenario that we are in and working towards a future where our children can survive and can develop in a healthy environment



Q: What’s your vision of where we should be and what we should be doing?

That vision links in that 21st Century vision of a nation reconciled with its Indigenous population, that affirms and enhances its multicultural identity, that is secure in its own independence as a republic, and that is an inclusive society that errs on the side of inclusion over exclusion, that is enabling of all its citizenry and all its residents, that they have a place and that they can all contribute as active citizens.

WGP Collage - Women Change Australian Media v2(1)

Women Journalists Change Australian Media

In 1972 when Caroline Jones became the first female head of 4 Corners, the headlines screamed:                                              ‘Girl will take over 4 Corners’, and ‘Brains now, beauty next’.

It has taken half a century to develop a critical mass of women journalists to fundamentally change the media in Australia.

There is now an outstanding coterie of experienced, veteran, senior female journalists in mainstream media who have not only distinguished themselves but also changed the national debate.

First: youth, body shape and stereotypical doll-like appearance are no longer the essential job requirements for female journalists on most TV channels. Older female journalists are now much more visible. In fact, many of the best journalists in the country are women over 40.

Second: female journalists have brought women’s issues to the front and centre of national news. Without the vital role of female journalists, courageous women who were no longer prepared to remain silent about sexual abuse, would not have had their voices amplified. Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame and others would  not have achieved the impact they had. The March4Justice would not have had the exposure and numbers they did. The serious allegations about Christian Porter would have faded away. The Prime Minister would not have had to scramble to prove to the media how women-friendly his Government is. Christine Holgate would not have had the coverage she had. And equal pay and representation would not receive the attention they do.

Oh, and female journalists are now called women and not girls.


Caroline Jones



Please add the names you want to this alphabetical list:

Jenny Brockie
Julia Baird
Anne Connolly
Annabel Crabb
Geraldine Doogue
Ellen Fanning
Adele Ferguson
Sarah Ferguson
Tracy Grimshaw
Virginia Haussegger
Patricia Karvelas
Samantha Maiden
Karen Middleton
Louise Milligan
Katharine Murphy
Nikki Savva
Leigh Sales
Lenore Taylor
Laura Tingle
Virginia Trioli
Lisa Wilkinson



We know that Batman cloaked in his cape and mask, was instantly recognisable when saving the world. But when older women are literally saving the world during this pandemic, they are cloaked in invisibility and masked by anonymity.

Remarkably, all around the world there is a predominance of women aged over 50 involved in the invention and in the development of most Covid19 vaccines. This applies to AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharma and CanSino, Covaxin, and Sputnik V.

Nevertheless, most people are totally unaware of this.

“Who invented Covid19 vaccines? Who developed the various coronavirus vaccines and why don’t we know their names?” someone asked on Twitter. In reply I tweeted: 

“ Because most of them are women aged over 50.”

Therefore, as a social enterprise advocating for women aged 50+, WomanGoingPlaces chooses to give due recognition to some of the leading women who individually and collectively, are in the frontline against a disease that has already killed over 4.1 million people and infected over 195 million.

Sarah Gilbert – Oxford AstraZeneca- UK

During this year’s tennis at Wimbledon, the international sports coverage showed the heir to the British throne, various members of royalty, the top tennis players in the world and all the people in the stands, on their feet applauding an auburn-haired woman sitting stunned, with tears running down her cheeks. But outside Britain, most people did not know who she was.

It was Dame Professor Sarah Catherine Gilbert, 59, the woman who led the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. She is a Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and the co-founder of Vaccitech. Together with her Oxford colleague Professor Catherine Green, they delivered the vaccine in record time within one year, when the previous record for a new vaccine was 4 years. 

In 2014, Professor Gilbert  led the first trial of an Ebola vaccine. And later, her research to develop a vaccine for Mers – Middle East respiratory syndrome – a type of corona virus, enabled her to pivot and rapidly apply her findings to Covid19 as it was bursting on the scene.

Professor Gilbert is a mother to triplets.

Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green have written a book Vaxxers: The Inside Story of the Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine and the Race Against the Virus.

Katalin Karikó – mRNA – U.S.A

It is the pioneering research of Dr. Katalin Karikó, 66, that lies at the core of the highly innovative and experimental technology of the mRNA vaccine. Traditional vaccines consist of weakened or inactivated forms of a virus that stimulate the body’s immune response to create antibodies, however a vaccine using mRNA sends a set of instructions into cells to teach them to make a protein. This triggers an immune response inside our bodies to fight off the disease.

Dr.Kariko a Hungarian-born biochemist, had her ‘Eureka’ realisation when she was still a college student in Hungary in the 1970s. She was convinced that mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.This would create a new category of therapeutic medicine. But after she moved to the U.S. she spent 16 years in the laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was demoted and told that she was not “faculty quality” after university officials grew frustrated by her lack of progress. Her applications for grants were repeatedly rejected.

It was only in 2005 that she, together with a colleague, immunologist Drew Weissman, discovered how to make the new technology viable. This laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. In 2013 Dr. Kariko joined  BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals, where she is now Senior Vice President.


Özlem Türeci & Kathrin Jansen – Pfizer – Germany – U.S.A

Özlem Türeci, 54, is the chief medical officer of BioNTech, a German start-up biotech company that she co-founded with her husband Dr. Ugur Sahin in 2008. Dr. Tureci who was born in Germany, is the daughter of a Turkish surgeon who immigrated from Istanbul. She is a physician, immunologist and cancer researcher.

At the outset of the pandemic, she took charge of LightSpeed, the clinical trials that resulted in the first approved RNA-based vaccine against COVID-19 in 2020, with an effectiveness rate of over 90%.

US pharmaceutical company Pfizer had previously worked together with BioNTech on a flu vaccine. In 2020, they quickly agreed to collaborate again to help win the race to rapidly test, gain approval, produce and distribute their coronavirus vaccine.



The person at Pfizer who was  in charge of this operation was Dr. Kathrin Jansen, 63, the Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine R&D. Dr. Jansen led an unprecedented effort involving a team of more than 700 researchers to successfully deliver the Pfizer vaccine in months — instead of the more common 10 to 15 years.






Dolly Parton – Moderna – USA

The American company Moderna was right up there amongst the frontrunners to first develop a Covid19 vaccine. And the reason they were in that position was because of iconic performer  Dolly Parton, 74.

It was actually two young women who led the development of Moderna’s Covid19 vaccine in the U.S. One was Kizzmekia Corbett, a young black 35 year-old immunologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). She collaborated with 35 year-old Hamilton Bennett, the senior director at Moderna in designing and engineering the mRNA vaccine. 

However, when these two women began their research, Moderna was a small, relatively unknown biotech company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But less than a month after Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic, Dolly Parton  donated $1 million to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University and encouraged others to donate. 

Her seed money helped fund the breakthrough by Moderna to develop the second coronavirus vaccine with a stunningly high protection rate of 90+%. Dr. Naji Abumrad of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center acknowledged: “Without a doubt in my mind, Dolly Parton’s funding made the research toward the vaccine go 10 times faster than it would be without it.”


Nita Patel – Novavax – USA

Dr. Nita Patel 56, is the Executive Director leading global Covid19 Vaccine Development at Novavax, a Maryland biotech company. At the outbreak of the pandemic, Novavax was a small firm competing against Big Pharma in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Patel led her all female team of scientists to develop state-of-the-art Recombinant Nanoparticle Technology to make a vaccine. The Novavax vaccine was found to have more that 90% efficacy.

Dr. Patel was born in Sojitra, a farming village in India’s Gujarat state. Her family was plunged into poverty when her father contracted tuberculosis. She had to borrow money for the bus fare to school and went there in ragged clothes and barefoot. Her brilliance later enabled her to win scholarships that led to two master’s degrees in applied microbiology and biotechnology in India and the United States.


Hanneke Schuitmaker – Johnson & Johnson – Netherlands

Dr. Hanneke Schuitemaker 57, received $1 billion in funding from Johnson & Johnson to lead vaccine development trials in her lab in Leiden in the Netherlands. Dr. Schuitemaker is a Dutch virologist and a Professor of Virology at the Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam. She is also the Global Head of Viral Vaccine Discovery and Translational Medicine at Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Vaccines & Prevention. 

She has been intensively involved in the development of vaccines for HIV and Ebola. Her work on infectious diseases in West Africa enabled her to apply the underlying technologies of these vaccines in the search for a coronavirus vaccine.

Dr. Schuitemaker also recognised through her work on Ebola in West Africa, the importance of communities adopting health and safety practices in tandem with vaccination to help control the pandemic. 


China, India, Russia

There are three other female senior scientists who reportedly led their nation’s development of a vaccine, but it is difficult to get independently verifiable information about the vaccines and about them. If confirmed then these scientists have created vaccines for nations that are the most populous on the globe. They are: Major-General Chen Wei, from the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences, who was awarded the People’s Hero title for her leadership roles in the development of Sinopharma and CanSino vaccines; Dr. Sumanthy K who led the development of Covaxin in India; Elena Smolyarchuk, Director of the Centre of Clinical Research of Medicines at Sechenov University in Moscow who was the study chair for the Russian vaccine Sputnik V.


Acknowledging Women Scientists

“You know, I’m a woman and that’s encouraging to see that women brought the vaccine to the market,” said Dr Nita Patel of Novavax. 

The creation of the Covid19 vaccines represents not only a scientific breakthrough. It is also a breakthrough in the position of women in science. And in particular, women over 50 in science. Let’s acknowledge that. And when the Nobel Prize and other prestigious awards are made, let’s ensure that women scientists do not remain invisible.


Woman Going Places

WomanGoingPlaces – a Social Enterprise Advocating for Australian Women Aged 50+

Why have we established WomanGoingPlaces as a social enterprise advocating for the economic security and social inclusion of Australian women aged 50+?

In Australia, the US, England and indeed globally, older women are facing significant economic insecurity and social exclusion, particularly since the pandemic. Over a million Australian women 50+ are already below the poverty line and more than 400,000 are homeless. They are the demographic becoming homeless in greatest numbers at the fastest rate.

WomanGoingPlaces is dedicated to spotlighting this crisis and to advocating for action. Our journalism identifies the broader issues of the position of women 50+ in our society. We campaign against the barriers, discrimination and general invisibility we face. This is our social purpose.

Society is entering new territory and older women are its pioneers. Women aged 50 can expect to have almost another half a century of life. Millions of women around the world are living into their 90s and this is unprecedented in human history. Unlike previous generations, many older women have had access to education, the professions and skilled employment, in addition to unpaid and manual labour.

But governments and societies around the world have no idea what to do with an ageing population of women. By 2030, 28.7% of Australians will be aged 55 and over. *  The majority will be women.  Women over 50 already represent 35% out of the total Australian female population of 12.9 million.*

There are no policies and no roadmaps for such a radical change in the composition of society and the impact it will have on the economy.

Instead, this whole issue is overlooked, ignored and cloaked with a mantle of invisibility by governments, business, the media, and sometimes even some women’s organisations.

Examples of Invisibility

Some recent examples:

When the Australian Federal Government promoted Budget 2021 as a Women’s Budget, funds were allocated for women with children in childcare and for women in aged care. But nothing for women in between those age groups, and no social housing to address their homelessness.

Quite the opposite. The Federal Government has cut funding to unemployed older women who constitute the majority on Jobseeker thereby accelerating their impoverishment.

When Tim Reed, the president of the Business Council of Australia stated that “participation of women in the workforce is the biggest lever Australia has to expand the economy,”  he must realise that the pink recession cannot be overcome as long as half of the business leaders surveyed in a report by the Human Rights Commission and Australian HR Institute said they would not employ anyone over 50. Ageism is depriving Australia of this massive resource of highly experienced professionals and skilled workers.

When an important recent study by an authoritative women’s group extolled flexibility to enable greater participation, advancement and equality of women in the workforce, it principally looked at women with children. The study did not  reference the needs of older women who no longer have children at home or who have no children. Flexibility would also encourage these older women into the workforce in greater numbers albeit for a different set of reasons.

When a national conference was recently held by leading Australian women to promote gender equality and to comprehensively examine the barriers faced by different groups of women, women 50+ did not even make it on to the conference program.

When the media covers domestic violence, it does not report that almost a third of women killed by men are over the age of 50. Nor does the media sufficiently report that sexual assault and rape is committed against women of all ages. It took the Royal Commission to reveal that there are over 50 cases  of sexual assault per week in residential aged care. 

Nor is there sufficient coverage in the media of women defying the stereotypes of older women. Older women are in fact forging remarkable careers and making a difference. It is actually women over 50 who make up the majority of start-up and small business entrepreneurs. Ironically, many have been forced to do this because they couldn’t find employment due to age discrimination.

Women 50+ are society’s unlikely innovators, re-inventing ourselves, and re-defining how women age.     WomanGoingPlaces will continue to tell the stories of women doing exactly that.

In order to be sustainable and grow our social impact, we are asking for your support. Please subscribe or donate to WomanGoingPlaces. You can choose HERE the amount you wish to pay for your subscription or donation. Subscribers or those making donations will receive quality original articles, interviews and analysis delivered direct to your Inbox.

Thank you for your support

Augustine Zycher

Founder & Editor  WomanGoingPlaces

  • Source, ABS Population Projections Australia  
  • Source ABS Population as at June 2020, Australia

Intergenerational Report

The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, in presenting the Intergenerational Report recognised that Australia has an ageing population and a shrinking workforce. The Report finds that one of the best ways of boosting the workforce and national productivity is through the employment of older women, including women over 65.
Surprise! Surprise!
Had the Treasurer subscribed to WomanGoingPlaces he would have seen that we have been advocating for this for some time now. Women over 50 are a massive national resource. They possess vast experience and knowledge as professionals and skilled workers. But the Morrison Government has treated them as a burden on the public purse.
It has slashed funding for older women on Jobseeker to $44 p.d. The pension has been held below the poverty line. As a result, increasing numbers of older women have become impoverished and homeless. At the same time, the Government has also discriminated against older women in recent Budgets by excluding them from funding and programs for workforce training and re-skilling, and reserved these just for young people.
The number of Australian women aged 50+ is 4,567,882. Of these, 1,776,400 are employed as at April 2021. The number currently looking for work is 80,900. But actually it is much higher because so many have given up as a result of rampant ageism amongst employers. Obviously not all women 50+ want to work, but tens of thousands who either have to work to survive or who prefer to work are being kept out of the workforce by both Government policy and ageist employment practices.
Perhaps this Intergenerational Report will make us all realise what a waste of potential this is not only for the women, but also for the Australian economy.
And for those who question what contribution women 50+ can make, remember Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert 58, Dr. Katalin Karikó 66 and Dr. Kathrin Jansen 63, the scientists behind AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

Australia’s Ominous Social Crisis

Australia has never before witnessed the sort of ominous social crisis that is unfolding now.
Australia has never before had a demographic defined by age and gender, plunged into poverty and homelessness on a mass scale.
There are already more than 400,000 women over the age of 50 for whom this is a reality. It is a outcome of government policies, gender inequality and social prejudice. There are more women aged 50+ on Jobseeker than any other group. They suffered disproportionate job losses during Covid but are excluded from national recovery plans. There is talk of childcare plans in Budget 2021, but what plans are there to avoid economic disaster facing older women?
Over half of Australian businesses will not hire them according to a recent report by the AHRC. Nevertheless they will lose their Centrelink payment if they don’t apply for 20 jobs per month. On $44 per day they probably cannot afford to both eat and pay rent, let alone pay for the internet to look for jobs. The latest analysis shows a person on Jobseeker can afford just    3 out of 74,000 rentals across the whole country. It is estimated that 28 per cent of women aged 55-64 in private rental accommodation are likely to be at risk. For part-time or non-full time employees this figure rises to 34 percent.
It’s almost winter and you can already see them sleeping in their cars and in parks around Australia. Even last year they were crowding emergency wards at hospitals suffering from hypothermia.

The social crisis directly impacting women over 50 is going to get a whole lot worse. ABS figures show that the number of Australian women living alone is expected to increase by 27-58 per cent by 2041. Most have little or no superannuation.

Poverty is essentially a choice made by the Government. We saw this during Covid when people were raised from below the poverty line & the homeless were housed. If Budget 2021 fails to address the economic, social and housing disaster faced by older women then the Government bears direct responsibility for this escalating social crisis.

Older Female Workers

A perfect storm is facing hundreds of thousands of unemployed, underemployed and underpaid older female workers.

First, the Federal Budget 2021-2022 completely overlooked them. 

The Treasurer said job creation was a top priority in this Budget. It was also promoted as a Budget for women. In this spirit, funds were allocated to childcare for women with young children. And funds were allocated to people in aged care, the majority of whom are women. But, if you fall between these two age groups, if you are a female worker aged over 50, then the Budget had a clear message – we don’t see you. There are no funds for you and you do not even rate a mention. 

It is a spectacular omission given that one of the defining characteristics of Covid19 has been that older women have been the hardest hit with job losses and the least likely to be re-employed.

There was nothing in the Budget to tackle the economic insecurity of women over 50 to prevent them from joining more than 400,000 women who already face impoverishment and homelessness.

Secondly, ageism is pervasive and growing both in Government and business.

The Budget offers training programs and apprenticeships but only for young people. Why? Women over 50 have had years in the workforce, skills and professional experience. Why freeze them out of opportunities to re-train? Why not mobilise this massive human capital to benefit both the country and these women? With widespread skills shortages it makes good social and economic sense to provide employment for these women, even if Australia were not cut off from foreign labour. But Australian working women over the age 50 are irrelevant to any economic recovery plan.

The latest finding of a survey of more than 600 business leaders by the Human Rights Commission& Australian HR Institute that found that 17% of respondents classified 51- to 55-year-old workers as “older”, compared with just 11 per cent in 2018. This research also found that nearly half of Australian businesses are reluctant to hire older workers. 

Thirdly, Federal Government is reaping plaudits for the big spending Budget, but unemployed older women who constitute the majority on Jobseeker are denied an increase above $44 a day to live on.

Surviving on $44 a day while looking for 20 jobs a month is impossible. And now we learn that a hidden $1.1 billion efficiency drive in the Budget will shift 1.2 million job seekers to an online service. If women already have to choose between eating and paying their rent they are unlikely to be able to afford the internet. As a result they will be forced off Jobseeker.

We are witnessing an escalating social crisis. But it is being largely ignored.








Christine Holgate, Australia Post and the Federal Government

Appearing before a special Senate inquiry, Christine Holgate presented a powerful and meticulously documented expose of the role of the Australia Post Board and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in her removal from her position as CEO of Australia Post. So convincing was her testimony, that she was able to do the unthinkable. She was able to unite Pauline Hanson, Bridget McKenzie, Sarah Hanson-Young and the rest of the committee behind her in exposing the duplicity and bullying that led to her removal.
The key points that emerged from Ms.Holgate’s appearance at the Senate committee hearing are that:
1. Ms.Holgate was humiliated by Prime Minister Morrison and bullied by the Chair of the Australia Post Board, Lucio Di Bartolomeo.
2. Ms.Holgate was an extremely successful and popular CEO, a woman of integrity who did nothing illegal or particularly extravagant. The Australia Post Board approved the watches as a bonus for a remarkably beneficial achievement by staff for Australia Post.
3. Ms. Holgate did not resign but intended to take sick leave. The Chair then initiated her removal through a series of highly questionable acts. So much so, that Pauline Hanson argued that in fact due to this improper process, Ms.Holgate is still legally under contract the CEO of Australia Post.
4. Ms.Holgate said she was “going through hell” and “ suicidal” in desperation over the injustice of her treatment and the lies fabricated by the Chair. As Ms. Holgate pointed out, there are males in the Cabinet facing much more serious charges, but only she was forced to go.
5. The Chair was acting on the directive of PM Morrison who dismissed Ms.Holgate in a speech from the floor of Parliament.
6. Bottom line: The Government wanted Ms. Holgate removed because she opposed the secret report of the Boston Consulting Group that reportedly planned privatisation of Australia Post. One of the key reasons for Ms.Holgate’s opposition was because it would mean the firing of thousands of staff from Australia Post and the closing of branches that are so vital particularly in rural areas.
The members of the Australia Post Board were all required to appear in person before the Senate committee at the end of April. However, they did not do so. Despite the ire of the committee, members of the Board failed to present in person but appeared on Zoom instead.
Ms.Holgate has managed to energise a groundswell of public support for her position, particularly amongst women.
They recognise that despite being remarkably successful in her leadership role, a female CEO is still treated very differently to the way a male leader is treated.

When Women Roar

The March4Justice movement has achieved something remarkable for Australian women. It has transformed decades of private suffering into mass solidarity. 

For the first time, tens of thousands of women ended their silence about sexual abuse and injustice.

The ‘I’ has become the ‘We’.

The March4Justice protests that saw 110,000 people in 42 marches around the nation have not dissipated into silence. 

This is because Australian women have fundamentally changed their way of thinking. 

Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins and Katherine Thornton together ignited this explosion of rage. Their courage set off a spontaneous combustion of deep reserves of trauma, shame and frustration buried beneath silence. Women have had enough.

These events drove home to women that it’s not an individual problem, but a society-wide bias against women seeking justice and equality. The system is rigged against women and girls. 

The misogyny is institutionalised

The biggest shock to most Australians was learning that Federal Parliament is one of the most unsafe workplaces for women in the country. Harassment, abuse and even sex crimes against women have not exacted a toll on anyone but the women who have been abused.

The entire structural framework of Government, law enforcement, the courts and social prejudice collectively have denied women justice. Collectively they have denied women effective recourse to the apparatus of state to protect them from rapists and sexual abusers. Collectively they have denied women the possibility of seeking punishment for perpetrators of sexual crimes. As Senator Eric Abetz confidently assured Tasmanian Liberal MP Sue Hickey:

“ Not to worry. The woman is dead and the law will protect” Attorney-General Christian Porter regarding the alleged rape.

Statistically this is undeniable. Ninety percent of sexual assault cases do not end up in court. The chances of a woman finding justice are minuscule compared to the reality that she will be re-traumatized and left with her reputation shredded. 

The revelations about Katherine Thornton were followed very carefully by women. They understood how the years of grief and and trauma had de-railed her life and potential for a remarkable career. They read that when she went to make a complaint to the police, she was forced to wait months for them to take a sworn statement from her. They never did. She killed herself. All calls for an independent investigative process have been rebuffed by the Government.

The identification of women with Kate, Brittany and Grace springs from shared experience. It’s about women acknowledging that as individual women they are powerless against a system that is built on their silence. It is a system that has left them with no option but silence. They won’t be believed if they speak up and they will most probably be slut shamed. Brittany was called “a lying cow” by one of the highest officers in the land, the Defence Minister of Australia.

The word of women has been discredited in order to protect the status and reputations of men. And that is why rapists are so confident they can successfully silence their victims.

But women are no longer prepared to remain silent and that’s what makes things so different now.

Two key factors have prevented the rage ignited by Grace, Brittany and Kate from being muffled.

Women journalists

First, the number of leading women journalists determined to prevent a cover-up. A team of women journalists across different networks has emerged in the forefront. It is perhaps the most striking proof that when women are present, the conversation changes dramatically. Without these highly experienced women journalists, unquestionably, the whole issue would have been dropped out of public discourse. Louise Milligan and Laura Tingle have continued to speak out despite the ABC having its funding slashed and facing litigation. Lisa Wilkinson, Samantha Maiden, Katherine Murphy, Tracy Grimshaw, Amy Remeikis and others have done exceptional work. 

Social media

The second key factor stopping the rage from being quashed is social media. 

Well may PM Morrison rail against social media. It is contributing to his demise. But it has nothing to do with its  ‘evil influences’ as he calls them.

Social media is a threat because it has removed the near monopoly the media oligarchs and the Government hold over public information and public discourse. This mutually beneficial connection between them is being challenged by a grass roots movement. Inordinate power is being democratised. 

Social media is giving individual, powerless women a voice. For most, it is the first time they have ever mentioned the sexual assault they had endured. As one woman came forward for the first time, another woman and another took courage and spoke up until it became a wildfire.

Women posted how old they were when they were first assaulted and the circumstances. The posts are horrifying.

It has happened to women at all ages, from the time they were toddlers to when they were in aged care.

Often it happened to three generations in the same families. 

It happened in their homes, schools, the street, their workplace – everywhere. It is perpetrated by their closest family members, neighbours, friends, teachers, co-workers, employers – every type of relationship. And it happens across all socio-economic demographics, backgrounds and religions.

It has always been like this. But what has changed now, is that many women have had enough of keeping it secret. They’ve had a lifetime of trauma and stigma, while the perpetrator in most cases walks away with impunity.

Despite their fear it will damage their reputations, they are now speaking out publicly, no longer accepting victim blaming.

And they have easy access to a national and international platform.

Without social media the March4Justice on March 15th could never have happened. On February 25, Janine Hendry was exploring the idea of having women link hands around the perimeter of Parliament House to protest against gendered violence, discrimination and inequality. She tweeted asking: “I need someone to tell me if this is possible. I then also need someone to estimate the distance and how many women we would need?”

And from that it rapidly morphed through Twitter and Facebook, with minimal organization and funding, into simultaneous national-wide marches.

Grace Tame exhorted women to make noise. And that’s exactly what they are doing. The momentum continues to grow. We have not yet seen the full repercussions of this movement.