Paving the way to equality

"WILL parental leave bring equality?"

That was one of the questions posed by social commentator Anne Manne during her presentation on Saturday at La Trobe University as part of the Talking Justice forum.

"In reality, as wonderful that it is that we are having a conversation about parental leave, it completely obscures, that for children, there is at least 18 years of raising them," Ms Manne said.

"We need all sorts of things - work place flexibility and a raft of other things - so you can't just have an excessive concentration on the first few months or half year of a child's life.

Anne Manne

Anne Manne

"It's much larger than that.

"But care actually goes much deeper than that because the very parents who are struggling over managing working families now will, before long, in another decade or two, manage a new, similar kind of crisis and that is elder care.

"Suddenly the frail parent becomes seriously frail ... this is the crisis of old age where you need to swing your attention fully and properly to that old person so you can honour what it takes to care for them. So our parental leave is an immensely important plank for social policy.

"We cannot go forward into any sort of equal or just society without it but it is entirely misleading to think that it will alone produce a society where we are able to care for one another in a way that most of us would like."

The Talking Justice forum opened on Friday night and continued throughout the weekend with an impressive line-up of speakers including Father Frank Brennan, Raimond Gaita, Anne Manne, Graham Atkinson, Kate Auty, Arie Freiberg, Simon Breheny, Debbie Kilroy and Nicholas Cowdery QC.

The event was designed to start conversations about the role of justice in a free society and covered many topics.

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