Australian Embassy

Ambassador Bruce Miller's opening remarks at International Women's Day event

3 March 2016


Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Bruce Miller and I’m the Australian Ambassador to Japan.

I am very pleased to welcome you all here to the embassy today, on Hina-matsuri (or Girl’s Day), to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Today is traditionally a day for parents to pray for their daughter’s happiness, growth and good health by putting up displays of ornamental dolls or ‘hina-ningyo’.

But instead of praying for a good marriage, tonight we will focus on the empowerment of women; looking at ways for women to be in control of their own future, and to become leaders in the fields they pursue.

International Women’s Day on the 8th of March is an opportunity to celebrate the many achievements of women, as well as discuss the path towards gender equality throughout the world.

Tonight, we will be focussing on the importance of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Currently, there are both cultural and organisational barriers which discourage women from studying and working in these fields.

In Australia, despite comprising 55% of STEM university graduates, women make up only one quarter of the STEM workforce.

Fewer than one in five senior researchers in universities or research institutes are women.

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced in the National Innovation and Science Agenda last year, we must embrace new ideas in innovation and science to maintain economic prosperity in an era where our greatest asset is human capital.

It is, therefore, in all our interests to empower the full potential and creative capacity of women to give a competitive edge to Australian businesses and research institutes.

To this end, the Australian government will invest $13 million over 5 years to encourage more women to embark on, and remain in, STEM-related careers.

This includes supporting the expansion of the Science in Australia Gender Equity pilot program which assesses and accredits the gender equity policies and practices in Australian science organisations.

Japan is facing similar challenges.

Japan’s future economy will depend on greater female participation in innovation-related careers.

Japan is a natural partner for Australia to work together to overcome these shared challenges. And our close ties are built on a long history of collaboration.

Not only does this year mark the 40th anniversary of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, it also marks the 40th anniversary of the Australia-Japan Foundation which has supported scientific collaboration between Australia and Japan through its grant program.

Australia and Japan have had a science cooperation treaty in place since 1980, and formal researcher exchange programs for even longer.

In recent years we have seen a significant boost in this collaboration, driven by universities in both countries, along with research institutes and companies.

They know that the quality and impact of our science and innovation is higher when we work together.

Last year, in Kyoto, I had the pleasure of attending the World Engineers Convention.

And I am pleased that Australia will play an important role in fostering future international collaborations by hosting the next World Engineers Conference in Melbourne in 2019, the centenary year of Engineers Australia.

Indeed, Dr Marline Kanga, an Australian female engineer, has been elected as President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations in 2017-2019.

We must embrace opportunities like these to forge stronger cooperation between Australia and Japan, and to make research and innovation a stronger focus in our bilateral relationship.

One of the most important ways to engage more women in STEM is to celebrate successful female role models.

And here tonight, I am delighted that we have three outstanding women at the top of their fields.

Dr Bronwyn Evans, who will be moderating tonight’s discussion, is a Board Member of the Australia Japan Foundation, the CEO of Standards Australia, and an electrical engineer.

Professor Caroline McMillen, our distinguished guest speaker, is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle and an internationally renowned biomedical researcher.

Dr Yuko Harayama, our other distinguished guest speaker, is Executive Member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation and was a professor in the Management of Science and Technology Department, within the Graduate School of Engineering at Tohoku University.

I am honoured to open tonight’s event for Women in Science, and look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel.  Thank you.