THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
SPEECH TO THE SYDNEY PEACE PRIZE
UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY
FRIDAY 3 NOVEMBER 2023
Thank you for that lovely welcome to Gadigal country.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respect to elders past and present.
And tonight I pay a special tribute to the winners of last year’s peace prize, the authors of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
I know the pain is still very raw, the grief is ongoing.
But you can walk tall, every one of you, knowing you acted at all times with dignity and generosity.
And you can take heart, knowing there are millions of Australians who support you, who will fight for reconciliation, whenever you are ready.
Friends, at a time of war, we are gathered here tonight in the name of peace.
And as the innocents of Israel and Palestine live through daily terror, separated by a border but united in fear and mourning, we add our voices to the calls for peace.
As Pope Francis reminded us last week:
We must not get used to war, to any war. We must not allow our hearts and minds to become anaesthetised before the repetition of these horrors’.
He was right. We cannot let ourselves become anaesthetised.
We can’t turn away from the horror, because the world is full of brave people, who need our solidarity and support.
And that is what the Sydney Peace Prize is all about.
Celebrating those people and supporting their causes.
Recognising heroes of the peace movement, sending them our strength.
And in doing so, replenishing our own store of hope.
Tonight we add Nazanin Boniadi and the courageous women of Iran to the list of heroes acknowledged by the Sydney Peace Prize.
Women who have taken to the streets, who have stared down a theocratic government, who have attacked the very principle of gender apartheid, and who have risked their lives and freedom in the process.
From the shores of Australia, we look on these women with a sense of awe.
And from a distance of almost ten thousand miles, we feel the power of their rallying cry:
Women, life, freedom.
Zan. Zendegi. Azadi.
The protests we are honouring tonight began after Mahsa Amini was arrested by the morality police for failing to cover her hair in public.
Mahsa was twenty-two years old when she was taken into custody.
By the time she left prison, she was unconscious.
Three days later, she was dead.
A terrible, unthinkable, brutal injustice.
But out of the grief that followed came something powerful – resistance.
Schoolgirls leaving their classrooms in protest. Schoolboys joining them in solidarity.
Women leading the way, men lending their support.
Iranians of every class and background coming together to support an urgent set of principles:
That women have the right to experience joy and pleasure, that we can make our own choices, that we can live our lives in public, and that we can do those things without the control or surveillance of the state.
As tonight’s prize recognises, women’s right are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.
When the great male statesmen of the postwar world came together to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they naturally agreed on an opening:
That ‘all men are born free and equal’.
Which would have been the final text, without the presence of women like our own Jessie Street, without Eleanor Roosevelt and India’s Hansa Mehta.
Brilliant women who insisted on a very different meaning:
That ‘all human beings are born free and equal’.
This was the moment when the world decided that human rights were universal.
When we decided that no one should experience discrimination on the basis of their sex.
It is that principle we honour here tonight.
As Australians, living in a liberal democracy, our lives are different in many respects from the protestors of Iran.
We don’t know what it means to live under theocracy.
But women everywhere know what it is to suffer discrimination and to live in fear of gender based violence.
More than two million Australian women have experienced sexual violence.
One woman is killed every week by an intimate partner.
More Australian women have died through domestic violence this century than Australian soldiers were killed in active combat.
As feminists, as supporters of peace and justice, we will keep fighting until every woman, everywhere is safe and free.
We will get there, one day, I truly believe that.
And we will get there because of inspiring young activists, represented here tonight by Nazanin Boniadi.
Because no cause could be more just than our demand:
That every human being, regardless of sex or gender, is recognised as equally precious and equally free.
And Nazanin, I heard you say in an interview that you imagine a free, democratic and secular Iran.
“Imagine this beautiful country, with its warm kind people. Imagine if there is freedom.”
We share that hope with you.
And we salute the work and sacrifice that you and so many others have given to seeing that dream come true.