PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, how good is Aunty Violet, how good was that? Thank you so much for your welcome to country. Can I also acknowledge that Ngunnawal people and elders past and present and indeed emerging, and pay my respects to Indigenous peoples all around Australia. It’s a very important day today for Indigenous Australians, for all Australians in fact, as we gather in the Parliament and we deliver the Closing the Gap report. And I can tell you in terms of a future Aboriginal Prime Minister Jacinta price is running in the seat of Lingiari and she's fantastic. So we wish her all the best.
Well good morning and thank you for being here today. Can I acknowledge the many parliamentary colleagues who are here with us today. Of course Kelly and Bill and Penny and Richard who are here. Can I particularly though, and I'm sure they won't mind, that we have so many people I'm not going to acknowledge each individually but I want to pay tribute to Julie Bishop for the wonderful work she's done all around the world for women.
Starting early gives us some time to reflect on the extraordinary achievements of women all around Australia and all around the world. Because the story of Australia is a story of strong women. Women who have had the courage of their convictions who have lived out their beliefs. They haven't all been famous. But they have all been brave. They've all been courageous. They have all showed a determination, a compassion, and a love that has extended beyond generations.
My late great great Aunt was Dame Mary Gilmore as the Member for Kennedy, as Bob said to the House the other day. And she has been growing up in our family, she was the great icon of our family. She wouldn't have shared the same political views of me today, I suspect. But that said, she was a great Australian woman who championed so many important causes and blazed a trail in this country that left her on the ten dollar note. But on this day of all days, Dame Mary was a woman who understood the disposition of Indigenous peoples probably better than anyone of her time and was speaking out about it at the time when it was neither fashionable nor popular and she blazed a great trail. And I'll be very pleased to stand in this Parliament today and speak of these issues knowing that Dame Mary had gone before me. She was courageous and determined.
It is those qualities that we can draw on to work to ensure equal opportunity and more choice for women in this country, something that I know Kelly O'Dwyer has been a real leader on I want to congratulate you Kelly for the work you've done in this portfolio.
Last year Kelly addressed the National Press Club and she had something to say that I think is timeless. She said, “Gender equality isn't about pitting girls against boys. Or women against men. It's about recognising that girls and women deserve an equal stake in our economy and our society. It's not about conflict.” It's about what the message of the day is about. Which is about doing this together. She said, “Life is not a zero sum game, we’re on a life journey together.” And she's right about that. Kelly said she was speaking as the mother of a son and a daughter. I suspect on occasion, those boys and girls are against each other occasionally but I'm sure Mom and Dad sort it out.
I'm the blessed father of two beautiful young girls and they are of course the joy of my and Jenny's life. And my girls, like all of our children, they allow us as parents to see the world through new eyes, through young eyes, through fresh eyes. And when I see the girls I want them to be able to pursue their passions. I want them to be absolutely confident that they can chase their dreams whatever they are. And receive the same rewards for their hard work and their beliefs and their passions as their male counterparts and indeed I've had the blessing to do over my life. I want them as adults to have real choices so they can decide what works best for them and their families and not be judged for it. I want them to be free from harassment and violence. I want them to be able to walk the streets of Australia. And I want them to be safe in their home, both today and always in the future.
Now our priorities. As the Prime Minister I've laid out three priorities from the very first day. Keeping our economy strong, keeping Australians safe and keeping Australians together. It is very much the theme of today. Economic opportunities, the choices and security that can come with it at the heart of what my Government is seeking to do for a more prosperous, safe and cohesive Australia.
Last year's landmark release of the Women's Economic Security Statement by Kelly delivered for women by helping boost their skills and employability, backing them to start their own businesses importantly, and giving women more options to secure their financial independence when they need it most particularly in their retirement. And that is the agenda we're working to with increased flexibility for paid parental leave and supporting entrepreneurship opportunities for women and the STEM programs for girls, which I know Karen Andrews as a keen and passionate advocate for as Science Minister.
And we've asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to inquire into sexual harassment in the workplace. We're fully engaged in keeping women safe by working together to combat violence against women and this is a shared and equal objective of all members of our Parliament. Too many women dying. Horrifically on average one woman every week. And far too many others suffering in silence. We've all reflected on the horrific death of Aiia Maasarwe which rocked the country and she was a guest to our country, she was a visitor to our country. But it really did shake us. It wasn't the first time this had happened, obviously. But it was an event I think that I think cried out to the country that this must stop, and stop it must.
Since 2015 we have invested more than $350 million in women's safety and on Monday I was proud to announce that the first funding to support the fourth Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. A process started under the previous Government, a process passionately continued under our Government. The $78 million investment in emergency accommodation and in-home safety funding reflects two vital principles. First, we can’t ask women and children to leave dangerous homes if they had no place to go to. And where it is safe, women and children survivors should be helped remain in their homes and in their communities. They are the victims. They should not be the ones paying the price.
We'll be announcing further funding to support the Action Plan in the lead up to the release of that plan later this year. And we're also keeping women safe with the Women at Risk Visa sub-class. This was one of the first things I did when I was Minister for Immigration to lift the intake of women through our Women at Risk Program through our refugee and humanitarian program. And I'm pleased to say that since 2013, 7,046 women and children have found safe refuge in Australia since 2013. And that includes more than 2,100 in 2017-18 year alone.
It's not just about keeping women safe and their children. It's also about being able to live the economy that enables women to prosper and to flourish. An economy that determines choices and opportunities, and only a stronger economy can deliver those opportunities. A stronger Medicare, more and cheaper medicines, more affordable childcare. All of this depends on the strength of our economy and the entrepreneurs and small and family businesses right across this country which provide the prosperity for the country to live from.
And it's about jobs, because it's always about jobs at the end of the day. Whether you're leaving school, raising children, or preparing for retirement. Not having a job either yourself or within a family or being worried about losing a job robs you of those choices and of your independence. So over the last five and a half years with more than 1.2 million new jobs new have been created and more than half being taken up by women some 690,000, in fact. This is something we're very pleased to see. There are now more than 5.9 million Australian women in employment and female participation in our workforce is at record highs. We've appointed a record 45.8 per cent of government board positions to women under our Government. And the gender pay gap is moving in the right direction, now down to a record low of 14.5 per cent.
So we’re for jobs, but not just for the pay check. A job creating economy makes families stronger, communities stronger. Men and women stronger. Economic Opportunity and the greater choice and security that can come with it are at the heart of what we're seeking to achieve in our vision for a prosperous, safe and cohesive Australia. I want to thank the UN Women National Committee in Australia for hosting this breakfast today to support UN women's programs globally and to enhance the prosperity, economic participation and safety of women in our region and around the world. I want to thank you for your attention today and I hope you will enjoy the day's proceedings and Aunty Violet, thank you again so much.