Runner-up 2015: Louise Miolin , WA

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imageAuthor: Louise Miolin

Community, State: Manjimup, WA

Age, Grade: 16, Year 11

Throughout history, men and women have been perpetually regarded as unequal. The word itself says it all; history- his story. Not their story or our story, his story. As times progress, we in Australia can be proud of how far we’ve come we as a society in terms of achieving gender equality, but the reality is that we aren’t there yet. This is a truth that is too often neglected, buried beneath accepted social norms and disregarded by men and women alike. In order to continue climbing the steps to equality of the sexes, we must first recognise the issue of inequality for what it is; a social construct acting as a detriment to us all, no matter which sex we are born, or gender we identify with.

Gender equality cannot be achieved overnight, or by one person alone. It is therefore unrealistic to expect twenty-four hours in Prime Ministership to magically alleviate the problem. However, one day in a leadership position may just be enough to speed up the process, to influence the people of Australia to recognise the gross day-to-day inequalities around them and motivate them to make a change.

Coming from a small country town, I have borne witness to and even experienced many covert sexist comments, actions and attitudes in my sixteen years. I’ve got straight male friends whose sexuality has been questioned because they don’t play football; I’ve listened to a male teacher tell a group of female students not to wear high waisted shorts because “boys don’t even like it”, and many a Monday recess has seen the girl who fooled around with more than one person at a party labelled a ‘slut’, while the boy who did exactly the same thing is accepted as totally normal. Alone, these instances may be considered trivial annoyances-nothing to worry about. However, it is the seemingly unimportant comments and conversations in our daily lives which penetrate our minds, reinforcing ancient unfair attitudes.

Just as small things can accumulate to perpetrate negative ideologies, so too can small things work together to push for gender equality. All that is takes is a spark for us to realise the inequalities around us, and to stop naturalising sexism and gender roles with seemingly harmless phrases. (“You throw like a girl!” “Oh come on, man up!”) Alongside these individual steps, our government can introduce more practical measures: more grants for rural girls to attend university, a call for less sexualisation of women in the media, campaigns to encourage more boys into nursing and primary teaching as well as girls into science and engineering, perhaps even a portfolio for gender equality.

One person alone cannot achieve total equality overnight. However, they can be a leader. They can set an example for the rest of the nation and motivate us to recognise gender inequality as an issue that affects us all, and therefore an issue we must work together to overcome.