Thank you very much Dr Alan Ryan for your extremely warm introduction, and I'm very grateful that you didn't count those years.
To your excellencies, distinguished guests, members of the ADF and other military delegates, ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we're meeting here this afternoon, and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging, and to elders from other communities who may be here today.
I'm very pleased to be able to be here this afternoon to address this first ASEAN-Australia Women, Peace and Security Dialogue. And to those of you who have travelled such a very long way to join us here in Melbourne - as I was reminded on my arrival by our car driver, Australia's most liveable city, which is very hard for a Sydney-sider to swallow, frankly - thank you so much for travelling here to Melbourne.
It is very important for our regional collective effort on women, peace and security that we have representatives from the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, from the Laos People's Democratic Republic, from Malaysia, from the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, from the Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand, and from Vietnam. It's a great pleasure to see you all here.
On both a personal and a professional basis, the women, peace and security agenda is very important to me. We know that women's full and meaningful participation is essential. Among many other important outcomes, it is essential to preventing conflict and to creating durable peace after conflict, and resilient stability after disasters. To achieve this, we need to pursue the full representation of women in every aspect of the security dialogue, including operational activities, consultation, formal negotiations. Our approach to women, peace and security must encompass the whole of the human terrain that we are dealing with.
We need to make the women, peace and security agenda an inseparable part of the DNA of all of our peace, security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and our conduct in combat zones. The work that you have been doing over the past few days, described very, very well - thank you very much, Sri Danti - will contribute significantly to strengthening regional cooperation in the areas of peacekeeping, the protection of human rights, and promoting the practical importance of including a meaningful gender perspective. This is absolutely critical to achieving genuine stability, peace and security outcomes around the world.
But that's not news to any single of you who is here this week. The joint summit of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, the Sydney Declaration on 18 March made it clear that, together with our ASEAN counterparts, Australia is committed to advancing gender equality, the empowerment of women in our region, and to the women, peace and security agenda. We're committed to strengthening collaboration on promoting the role of women in building and sustaining peace.
We must include women in all aspects of peace and security processes, in conflict prevention and conflict management, in resilient and sustainable peace operations and when supporting economic recovery and community stability. That declaration sets out a clear vision for the future of the ASEAN-Australia partnership, and our shared commitment to elevate our cooperation.
This Women, Peace and Security Dialogue represents a very practical implementation of that intent. Over the past three days, you've collaborated to identify strategies, to address the specific challenges and emerging issues in our region. This demonstration of international cooperation of civil service, of military, police and civil society to achieve meaningful inclusion of women in all aspects of regional security is ground-breaking.
I note that you've reaffirmed our commitment to the conventions that underpin the women, peace and security agenda as a means to achieving sustainable and inclusive peace, security and development. I very much commend your focus on continued regional collaboration and partnerships with diverse stakeholders to raise awareness of the importance of women, peace and security. You've identified the need to encourage efforts to support the resilience of women and girls, and adapted capacities through education as a way to meaningfully engage in conflict, post-conflict and humanitarian response.
Building capacity through education and training is another aspect on which we can continue to build. I also note and support your recommendation to promote best practice in this area, through information-sharing and establishing a community of practice. I'm certain the Australian Department of Defence will keenly contribute.
Ladies and gentlemen, as part of my job, I meet many remarkable women and men, making important contributions to the women, peace and security agenda, not just in Australia but in all of my travels. They are engaged in significant work to help support international peace and security, and they're also involved in day to day tasks that might seem ordinary but are critical to creating the skills and the voice that we need to make women, peace and security concepts mainstream. I'm very proud of the work that all of those individuals do.
My department - the Department of Defence and the ADF - have an integral role in Australia's implementation of the integrated whole-of-government approach to women, peace and security. I'm very committed to ensuring that the Australian Defence organisation continues to apply the principles of women, peace and security in all of our work. I don't need to tell you that, for too long, the typical conflict, post-conflict and HADR approach often exclude women from the business of conflict resolution processes, for peace-building, from peace assurance, from national and regional security affairs. Ignoring the voices and perspectives of 50 per cent of the population was hardly a recipe for success.
In its work, the ADF has implemented a number of women, peace and security initiatives. This includes the establishment of 11 positions dedicated to implementing women, peace and security, and the planning and the conduct of our operations. They are supported by over 60 trained gender advisors, whose role is to challenge traditional thinking and planning to ensure that different perspectives are taken into account, which can produce very different and innovative approaches to operational tasks.
I note that women now represent 17.1 per cent of the permanent ADF workforce. As of December 2017, women represented 17.2 per cent of all of our deployed personnel, and 27 per cent of deployed Australian peacekeepers. The women, peace and security agenda, though, is much more than military women talking to civilian women. The agenda is a complex global issue, and we do have to continue to think carefully about how we are implementing it. One risk that I think we need to be very careful to guard against is assuming there's only one international women's perspective, or that women's perspectives in an affected community about conflict resolution or peacebuilding are the same as ours, or anyone else's, or that our perceptions of women's priorities are universal or transferable to any random situation.
The purpose of women's participation and representation is to ensure that the many voices of women are heard. Sometimes, there will be disagreement and robust discussion. That's why broad representation in security institutions is important. It will take time, it will take that valuable commodity of patience. There does need, though, to be a greater appreciation and broader awareness that the women, peace and security agenda is mainstream.
One very good recent example that I've experienced is in Afghanistan. I had a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul in February. We discussed the progress that was being made in engaging women in the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, and in broader peace and reconciliation efforts. He and the First Lady of Afghanistan are very passionate advocates for the inclusion of women in their Defence and Security Forces, and in that national narrative.
He reminded me that in Afghanistan, a man cannot enter the home of a woman who is there by herself. So, without women serving in front line units, members of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces are much more restricted in the capacity to engage with large segments of the population. It was a very logical and rational approach and priority that the President identified.
Women contribute to advancing the security of the whole Afghan population, including in counter-terrorism, in counter-violent extremism strategies and tactics. They do this not just by their presence as women, but through their skills, their knowledge and their creative ideas for solutions informed by their own experience in a very, very difficult period of conflict in Afghanistan, directly connected to their own communities, their own societies.
Australia is part of supporting Afghanistan efforts to increase women's participation in the Defence and Security Forces, with a senior gender advisor currently embedded at the NATO-led Resolute Support mission headquarters. She leads a team of advisors from coalition partners to ensure meaningful participation by Afghan women in operational activities.
On International Women's Day this year, I attended a round table at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane with a number of ADF gender advisers, some of them are in the room this afternoon. At the roundtable, a senior ADF officer who'd recently returned from deployment, said that she was often asked as the gender advisor: what do Afghan women want? Her response tells us a great deal about how to implement women, peace and security successfully. She said, when asked: let's ask Afghan women what they want. That's what we mean by women's participation in peace and security. It's not our women's' participation in peace and security operations or consultations and negotiations, but the women in affected communities who are the stakeholders in the outcomes.
Similarly, in other operational activities in Iraq, we're working to support Iraqi authorities to increase female participation in their security forces to around 8 per cent, or 100,000 women. Australia provided the first gender advisor to the counter-Daesh coalition in October last year. And as I said, our concept for Iraq is similar to Afghanistan: to support the full participation of Iraqi women in peace and security outcomes, whether they're military or civilian. But as this dialogue has identified, women, peace and security is a transformative agenda.
During my visit to the Middle East region in February, I met also with Australia's two gender advisors who are embedded with the International Counter-Daesh Coalition, and as I said, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission. They are both making a significant impact. They are incorporating that women, peace and security perspective into operational planning. I particularly want to emphasise the value of their practical lived experience and their feedback - to me, and to the senior leadership of the ADF. It is my view, and it is the view of the senior leadership of the ADF, that the practical experience on the ground of women who are deployed in those roles is very valuable to us in our thinking and in our planning.
Closer to home, and more in our region, we're working with the Philippines to address the terrorist threat that is posed by extremists in that community, to share the knowledge gained through our counter-Daesh activities regionally. In November of last year following a meeting that I had with Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Australian Department of Defence, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, supported the efforts of the Government of the Philippines to stabilise the city of Marawi through the delivery of a reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery seminar. A not insignificant undertaking, given the extraordinary impact on the city and the people of Marawi. At that seminar, 44 women of different backgrounds engaged in those discussions about security, governance, participation, and social and economic wellbeing in Marawi. Their recommendations to key decision makers had a role in shaping that future peace.
Further to that, and working closely with ASEAN member states, Australia provides support for military personnel to attend programs on Women, Peace and Security, such as the UN Peacekeeping Operations course, the Military Gender and Protection seminar. Delivered by our Peace Operations Training Centre, these courses prepare participants to apply the principles of women, peace and security in peacekeeping operations. And in May of 2017, Defence - as I mentioned - adopted a new strategy for integrating a gender perspective into all our international defence cooperation activities. Probably one of the most important parts of our outreach around the region, through the Pacific and further afield, our Defence Cooperation Program is something of which we are very proud.
This strategy focuses on making women, peace and security a business as usual activity on all military operations and exercises. It also presents a valuable opportunity to deepen cooperation and build stronger relationships with our international and regional partners. We're participating in an array of bilateral and multinational initiatives with our ASEAN partners to promote our collective aspirations for the women, peace and security agenda, and all of you from all of our ASEAN partners will be familiar with some or all of those. I'm very pleased, for example, that Australia is now able to co-chair the ASEAN Defence Minister's Meeting-Plus expert working group, on peacekeeping operations, which we currently do with Indonesia for the next three years. We previously co-chaired the counter-terrorism working group with Singapore for three years as well.
When that expert working group met in Australia late last year, I really appreciated the opportunity to meet and to speak with more than 70 regional peacekeeping experts on integrating gender considerations in operational planning, to promote the women, peace and security agenda. All in Canberra, a great opportunity for everyone to come together to hold that discussion. In turn, only last week in Bali, the expert working group discussed the experience of female peacekeepers on operations at the most recent meeting there.
I hope that those examples - and there are many others - demonstrate Australia's commitment to the partnerships with have with ASEAN on women, peace and security. Without greater participation of women, at all levels and in all roles, we really can't expect to be as successful as we want to be and we should be.
I visited many of your countries in the last year. Almost all, in fact. Still a couple to go. They have been extremely valuable and positive engagements; an opportunity to forge new relationships, to identify challenges and identify opportunities between us all. Because implementing this agenda can't be achieved by any one of us acting alone; it needs to be achieved collectively and collaboratively, and I think this forum and the great feedback I've heard from this forum in the last few days, shows just how well it can be done. Your attendance here also tells me that you understand that.
I hope that a productive discussion, a dialogue such as this, is able to continue into the future, to ensure that we are successful in delivering on the opportunities that the women, peace and security agenda presents. I look forward to future events like this; not just here in Australia, but hopefully right around this fabulous region. I congratulate you all on the outcomes document you've developed, and look forward to its agreement when ASEAN and Australia meet again in November this year. Australia is very committed to our strategic partnership with ASEAN, as ASEAN is at the very heart of the stability, the prosperity, the security of our region.
So I thank you very much for what you have done and your efforts this week, and the work that you are all doing in your respective countries. In her final remarks this afternoon, Sri Danti said she was inspired and touched by the level of engagement and participation. She observed that the women, peace and security agenda is pivotal to our region. I could not agree more. I thank you all for your attendance and your support, and look forward to working with you into the future to ensure that we advance as a mainstream cause, as part of what we do as business as usual, the women, peace and security Agenda.