Greg Donnelly gave this speech in the Parliament of New South Wales recently. The text has been slightly edited.


I wish to congratulate the winners of this year’s NSW Women of the Year Awards.

The awards commenced in 2012 and have been held every year since then. A number of outstanding women from across New South Wales have participated in the awards and been recognised for their enormous contributions and achievements across a range of categories. What strikes me year after year is the enormous drive and commitment of the nominees to advance and improve the welfare and wellbeing of their communities.

You may not be aware, however, that with respect to the award categories, including the most prestigious one, the NSW Woman of the Year, you actually do not have to be a biological woman — i.e. a person born as a female — to be able to participate.

If one examines the eligibility criteria, the first is that the individual “identifies as a woman”. I repeat, “identifies as a woman”. I note that the third criterion provides that “self-nominations will be accepted”.

If I understand the eligibility criteria correctly, it appears to me that a biological man — i.e. a person born as a male — can nominate himself for one of  the NSW Women of the Year Awards.

I draw this matter to the attention of the House not because I am being frivolous or looking to make some cheap joke. But ideas have consequences.

You may have seen recently in the United States the enormous public reaction to permitting a transwoman, Lia Thomas, to compete head- to-head with females in women’s college swimming championships. For those not familiar with the controversy, I invite them to watch the races on YouTube and ask yourselves the questions, what is going on and how did we get here?

Even LGBT tennis great Martina Navratilova is dismayed by this development. She said recently: “It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning, ever. But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.

And ask yourselves, too: is it right and fair that women should have victories stolen from them, be denied competition places and forego other opportunities because sporting clubs, bodies and organisations are mandating that they have to compete against transwomen i.e. biological males?

And so that we are not caught up in some hypothetical exercise, I ask you to consider whether this is right and fair for our wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, nieces, granddaughters, mothers-in-law, aunties.

And what about contact and high impact sports, including, rugby union, rugby league and AFL? A new and significant focus comes into play — the health, safety and well-being of female athletes.

We all know from either our own lived experiences or that of family members or just from observing contact and high impact sports, the types of injuries that commonly occur – neck and back injuries, broken bones, concussions, torn muscles and catastrophic knee and ankle injuries — just to name a few.

The clear and present danger to females of permitting transwomen to go head-to-head with them in such sports would, you would think, not be debated and contested.

However, that is not the case. Over the past 12 to 18 months I have had a number of women raise with me serious concerns they have about having to go head-to-head against transwomen in their favourite code, be it rugby union, rugby league or AFL.

They, for good reason, have serious and well-founded concerns about what World Rugby in October 2020 laid out so clearly in guidelines which banned transwomen’s inclusion in the female game based on injury prediction.

In support of that decision, they produced 49 studies showing that drugs to suppress testosterone have only a limited effect in decreasing the physical advantages of the male body in terms of muscle mass, strength, and power. World Rugby’s modelling explored the risk factors in the situation where a typical player with male characteristics tackles a typical player with female characteristics. They found a minimum of 20 to 30 percent greater risk for female players.

Are we really going to try and sustain the argument that female swimmers or weightlifters or tennis players or golfers or soccer players, etc do not deserve protection from transwomen?

If steps are not taken immediately to ensure that the eligibility criteria for the NSW Women of the Year Awards are amended to restrict participation to females i.e. biological women, none of us should be surprised if we find out next year that the 2023 NSW Woman of the Year is in fact a biological man.

Prior to entering the NSW Legislative Council in February 2005, Greg Donnelly was a full-time official of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association NSW Branch. He is the Chair of Portfolio...