History and Impact

The APGPD is arguably one of Australia’s most effective parliamentary friendship groups. Over the years, it has proven to be an important forum for Members of Parliament and Senators to come together across party lines to discuss and act on issues of both domestic and international importance with respect to sexual and reproductive health and rights. In 2012, the group was recognised with a Sir Ron Wilson Human Rights Award.

One of its most notable successes was in 2006, when a group of four women Senators from four different parties co-sponsored a bill to facilitate access to RU486, the ‘abortion drug’, which was not available in Australia at the time. The four Senators involved where Claire Moore (Labor), Lyn Allison (Australian Democrats), Judith Troeth (Liberals) and Fiona Nash (Nationals); only Senator Nash was not a member of the APGPD. This coming together was unprecedented in 105-years of the Australian parliament, given cross-party sponsorship of legislation is very rare. As Marian Sawer writes, “for all the Senators involved in the RU486 Bill… it was the networking and trust created through the Parliamentary Group that paved the way for further cross-party work.”

In 2007, the APGPD “was also instrumental in lifting the ban on certain contraceptives and abortion in Australia’s aid program”, as Sarah Dowse writes. Specifically, the group wrote a report which critiqued the conservative stance of our overseas aid:

Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programming should be pursued in the aid program… However, Australia places restrictions on the use of aid funds in this area…these restrictions deny women the same access to reproductive health choices, education and services we give ourselves.

Australia’s restrictions on aid had echoes of the United States’ infamous ‘Global Gag Rule’, which was rescinded again by President Biden as one of his first actions in office.

In 2012, the APGPD was recognised with the Sir Ron Wilson Human Rights Award from ACFID for its leadership, an “acknowledgement of the dedication of the time and energy” the group had put in to work in the international arena since its establishment after the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. The award is presented annually to an individual or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights.