International Women's Day event focuses on young women most-at-risk

Burnet Institute

06 March, 2019

A lighter moment after the event. (L-R) Dr Cassandra Wright, Dr Alisa Pedrana, Gigi Shorten, Chloe Bryce Shorten, Emma Shorten and Dr Megan Lim.

Investing in Young Women Most-At-Risk was the key theme of our International Women’s Day event which attracted a bumper turnout of supporters of Burnet’s work in Young People’s Health.

Thank you to our keynote speaker, Victoria’s Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Ms Liana Buchanan, our emcee Professor Caroline Homer AO, and the supporters who attended and gave generously to our special IWD campaign.

Burnet’s ‘Investing in Vulnerable Young Women’ campaign aims to raise $40,000 to progress our research projects addressing key health issues, empowerment and opportunity. You can help by making a gift today.


Investing in Young Women Most-At-Risk

Keynote speaker, Victoria’s Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Ms Liana Buchanan, delivered a stirring speech highlighting the many challenges facing young women in Victoria, especially those most-at-risk and vulnerable.

“For me International Women’s Day serves a dual purpose – it’s a day to celebrate how far we have come and often painfully slow progress towards ending gender inequality … to recognise shifts like particularly here in Victoria where we have recognised not only the extent of family violence but … that family violence at its height is about gender inequality,” Commissioner Buchanan said.

Below is an excerpt of some of her key messages that we will also post as a video ahead of IWD on 8 March.

“It’s a day to recognise the strength and resilience of women across this state and the world, and to recognise their contributions, often achieved against the odds,“ Commissioner Buchanan said.

“There is still much work to be done to achieve gender equity. Efforts to truly tackle family violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and the objectification of women and girls.

“As a children’s commissioner I need to focus on girls in this state most-at-risk. Their experiences are often invisible and we need to highlight the issues they face.

“I had no idea how limited our systems were to cope with some of the issues facing young children when I can into this role.

“We need to lift the lid on sexual violence in the home and also pay tribute to girls who survive the unimaginable to create a life.

“We see young girls in the care system who have experienced significant family violence but little counselling. They often struggle to access services.

“Where sexual abuse is suspected we need to do much better. Girls are 20-70 times more likely to commit suicide in these cases.

“Girls with adverse childhood trauma and experiences will have unwanted pregnancies and other risk issues.

“So what do we need to do better? We need to shift investment to early intervention especially where children are exposed to harm.”

(L-R) Professor Caroline Homer AO, Associate Professor Helen Evans, Professor Margaret Hellard AM, Ms Liana Buchanan, Dr Elissa Kennedy, Ms Chloe Bryce Shorten and Dr Megan Lim.

Why Burnet cares about Young People’s Health research?

“Major changes in their lives and risk behaviour will happen in young people. It’s important to measure the impact via research,” Burnet Institute Deputy Director and a key Young People’s Health researcher, Professor Margaret Hellard AM told guests at the annual International Women’s Day luncheon at Burnet.

Research underway at Burnet

Head of Burnet’s Young People’s Health Working Group, Dr Megan Lim highlighted the groundbreaking research her team has been involved in since 2005.

“Back in 2005 we started the Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll research study asking young people about a range of health issues affecting their life,” Dr Lim said.

“Emerging influences impacting young women’s health such as social media, pornography, sexting, alcohol and drugs.

“Our research is mainly aimed at 15-29 year olds, and that 14-year span is really important because that’s the timeframe when they transition from young girls to adult women and are most at-risk of poor sexual health, poor mental health, initiation of drugs and alcohol risk, and bullying.

“Social media has had a major impact on young women so its important to have evidence-based research to inform policy,” Dr Lim said.

Image: Lady Anna Cowen, a wonderful supporter of Burnet’s work.

Image: A bumper turnout for Burnet’s IWD 2019 luncheon enjoyed the interactive activity where they were tested on the surprising findings of our young people’s health research.

Find out more about Burnet’s Young People’s Health work.

International Women’s Day was honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March 1911, and the day is marked around the world on 8 March.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Associate Professor Megan SC Lim

Deputy Program Director, Disease Elimination; Head, Young People’s Health




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