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Interview: Mr. Ravi Kewalram, Charge d’Affaires of Australia to the Republic of Korea
“The Exclusion of Women is Nonsense”
  • No matter what kind of person they are and no matter what backgrounds they have, there is no discrimination in Australian.

  • A Mindset the community shares is the key.

  • 18 week paid leave is allowed to the case of adoption as well as childbirth.

  • 2 week paid leave is provided to a father or a partner. 

▲ Mr. Ravi Kewalram, Charge d’Affaires of Australia   ©LEE, Jung-Sil, Photo Journalist

Australia is the world’s 12th largest economic power, evaluated as a country good for doing business and having a high level of educational achievement with respect for diversity. Australia launched ‘Workplace Gender Equality Agency’ in 2012 to concentrate on relieving gender pay gap and expanding the flexible working hours system.

The Women’s News met with Mr. Ravi Kewalram, Charge d’Affaires of the Australian Embassy(photo) and listened to his talking about gender equality policies of Australia and ‘work-family balance’ in Australia. Mr. Kewalram emphasized the mindset of a community as the key word for Australia’s diversity and multicultural policies.

-How has Australia developed its gender-equality policies?

“The Australian society generally perceives that women’s participation in economic activities and other social activities is natural and very critical. So, it focuses on a variety of programs such as lowering the barrier against work through kinds of incentives, tax relief and childcare systems and making conditions to protect diversity and raise flexibility at workplaces.

In the case of childbirth or adoption, women are provided with 18 week paid leave, and fathers or partners get 2 week paid leave. Workers who are engaged for more than 12 months are allowed to apply for flexible working hours, regardless of gender.

Australia has set the goal of 40% quota for women in the key governmental posts. Currently, 17 out of 58 ministers are female. For the first time, the ministers of foreign affairs and defense are female.

All the various factors for women’s participation complexly have worked and given these outcomes.”

-What is the current status of women’s advancement in the private sector?

“According to a recent statistics, as of June, 2015, 39.1% of a total of 2,570 executive positions in the governmental agencies are female. For the private sector, the proportion has jumped from 8.3% as of January, 2010 to 21.9% as of January, 2015.  

-How was that dramatic improvement possible?

“As I told you earlier, a mixture of factors works. The gender ratio of Australia is almost 50:50. It is no doubt that there is no difference between men and women in terms of their talents. We went through sufficient discussions and deliberation of various factors to prevent women’s advancement into the society in the past. For example, once a problem that a woman with great ability was unable to return to her original workplace was perceived, this is obviously because of the matter of childcare. This can come from the lack of social perception, or it can be because the woman is the only parent. Anyway, a problem is deeply deliberated from various perspectives.

We are one community, and discuss problems very deeply, considering all the related factors. We always ask ‘Why’."

-What is the key to reaching the community consensus?

“Above all, the perception that high-ranking policy decision-makers in the politics and the economy have is important. In Australia, it is strongly believed that if women, representing half of the population are prevented from contributing to the society with their abilities, it would negatively impact the community. Excluding women from the labor market is nonsense. Gender equality is a truth in terms of economic, social and ethical standards. The mindset a community shares should be put first for gender equality. The next step is legislation, meaning the obligation of parental leave, flexible working hours and so forth.”

-What is the approach targeting companies in promoting policies for work-family balance?

“It is usually applied to induce companies to go through processes to foster the positive perception towards work-family balance. It is a fundamental managerial approach, not a matter of improving public images. It is a process of deeply considering people’s values and talents and how to train and grow those human resources. They also try to figure out how to make them return to the original positions after maternity leave. This is natural because they already invested resources into those women workers, and their coming back is economically rewarding.”

-How special is the Australian educational system?

“It is of course in high quality. The educational system has strength in technical training throughout a wide range of areas. The lifetime education system is also well prepared. Australia emphasizes ‘training’ when it comes to education. It is fully supported by relevant policies for the people to get consistent training throughout their career lives."

-Australia is one of the representative multicultural countries. How has Australia dealt with multi-cultural matters?

“Since 1945, about 7.5 million immigrants have entered Australia. One fourth of the whole population was born abroad while 46% of the residents are those who were born abroad or one of whose parents was born abroad. The number of indigenous languages is almost 300. Other than those, including the languages that immigrants use such as Italian, Mandarin and Arabian, there are so many languages in one country." 

▲ Mr. Ravi Kewalram, Charge d’Affaires of Australia   ©LEE, Jung-Sil, Photo Journalist

In Australia, there is no systemic discrimination against any person or background. There are lots of NGOs helping immigrants. All the measures combined have made Australia a successful multi-cultural country. We also put the right supports in right places. For example, there are English education programs for adult immigrants. We believe language should be the key of support. The governmental services are provided in various languages. Companies also realize this reality and provide their services in different languages to respond to variety in customers.

Here, we also have a mindset believing that social and economic welfare links to successful multicultural policies." 

Conversation=CHO, Hye-Young, Editor in Cheif, Coordi and Trans=CHOI, Eun-Young, International Cooperation Manager
1384호 [Society] (2016-04-19)
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