Address at the White Ribbon Day Parliamentary Breakfast Parliament House, Canberra
Yoonggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngoonawal dhowrrra.
Wanggarra lin jin yin marunn bulaan boogarabung.
We’re here in the land of the Ngunawal people and we acknowledge and honour all of their elders past and present. Dan’s listed all, or many of my distinguished parliamentary colleagues and leaders of the Defence Force and our sponsor. So I want to say again, welcome to you all. But above all, we’re here to pay tribute to the mothers, sisters, daughters, the grandmothers and granddaughters, aunties and nieces, all the women whose suffering and bravery we honour today.
To those who’ ve had the courage to speak out, whether for themselves or on behalf of others, we thank you for your strength and especially the many people who are represented here today. To those who can’t speak up, and who suffer in silence; please know that you are not alone. The nation stands with you. And to those who are tragically no longer with us to tell their story; your story has added irresistible weight to a force that has broken through the silence that has hidden domestic violence for too long.
At this White Ribbon breakfast I’ll begin by recommitting myself to the White Ribbon pledge; I will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women. Not all disrespect of women leads to violence against women, but that my friends, is where all violence against women begins. Not all disrespect of women ends with violence against women, but that’s where all violence against women begins. Once that seed of disrespect is sown, it reproduces a shameful pattern where three in ten Australian women will experience physical violence, one in five will experience sexual violence and about one in four will experience violence from an intimate partner over their adult life.
Now when I became Prime Minister, I made a commitment to change those statistics. And my strongest partner and collaborator in that is the Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash. I want Australia to be known as a nation that respects women. I want respect for women to be at the very heart of what it means to be an Australian. So I’m proud today to report on the progress my Government has made since announcing the $100 million Women’s Safety Package and the Third Action Plan.
An important priority has been negotiating a National Domestic Violence Order scheme, which I am pleased to inform yo u, was launched last week. The Commonwealth has worked closely with the states and territories to develop model laws to give effect to the scheme, meaning women can now cross state and territory borders without losing their protection or having to register multiple orders. Local police will enforce the conditions regardless of where the DVO was issued, meaning women will be protected by that order right across Australia.
That is a milestone achievement. Too often, the law has not provided the necessary safety and reprieve for victims. Working closely with the Attorney-General Senator Brandis and front-line workers, we’re implementing more reforms. We’re amending the Family Law Act to stop perpetrators directly cross-examining a victim in family violence matters. We’ve asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to review the family law system to ensure it meets the needs of families and effectively addresses fam ily violence and child abuse.
Following the release of the Exposure Draft in 2016, we’re introducing the Family Violence and Other Measures Bill this week, to keep families safe. The Bill will improve the interactions between the federal family law system and state and territory systems, rather than having victims of domestic violence navigating through multiple court systems. As part of the Bill we will criminalise the breach of personal protection orders issued under the Family Law Act. This reinforces that domestic violence is not a private matter, it’s a criminal offence.
And we’ve made the largest Commonwealth investment in legal assistance services, $1.73 billion, as the government recognises the essential role of the legal assistance sector in providing access to justice for the most vulnerable Australians. In 18 months our 12 Specialist Domestic Violence Units have supported more than 2,800 clients, facilitated more than 7,600 referrals to legal and social services such as crisis accommodation and mental health support. Now, technology with all of its wonders, has some dark sides and can be used and is used by perpetrators to continue to perpetrate violence against victims by harassing, tracking or stalking them. Now, in addition to the Telstra Safe Connections Project for victims, which will distribute 20,000 smart phones, we are providing training to frontline services to help domestic violence victims understand how to use their smart phone safely and ensure it is not a conduit of harassment, of threats, of violence.
The eSafety Women website has had more than 160,000 page views since its launch in April last year, providing important information to women to keep them safe. And in the past 18 months, we’ve had around 3,800 frontline workers take part in eSafety workshops and more than 2,000 complete domestic-violence-alert training. Our trauma-in formed training will enable Family Violence Prevention Legal Services better to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. We have also helped the ABS develop a national data collection and reporting framework, so we can form a clearer picture of when and how violence occurs.
All of this work demonstrates our commitment to Australian women and children. We are with you and we will continue to push for gender equality across every aspect of Australian life, so we can stop violence before the seed is sown, to stop it at the start. Our $30 million national campaign, jointly funded with the States and Territories, is changing the way Australians talk about gender. The TV commercials, which were absolutely brilliant, have had more than 42 million views. Almost 70 per cent of those who recall the campaign have taken action as a result. This goes to the heart of what White Ribbon stands for; the cultural change needed to stop violence, and for individuals, in particular men, making that personal commitment to change.
Engaging fathers is a strong focus of White Ribbon. I look forward to seeing the impact of your Empowering Fathers Project as it gets off the ground over the coming months. It will help young men and fathers – and grandfathers too I should add – to better understand the responsibility of being a husband, a partner, or a dad and remember how important it is to stop disrespect of women at the very start. Lucy was the first person that I heard say this and she is absolutely right; we all have an obligation – fathers and mothers – to bring up our sons and grandsons to respect all the women in their lives, right from the very start.
Edmund Burke, wrote that:
“No-one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing, because he could only do little.” Today I challenge all Australian men to think about what you will do to advance equality in your world – in your roles as fathers, sons, brothers, colleagues, mates – no matter how small an action it feels. A word to a nephew, a word to a grandson. That could change the direction of a life and keep women safe in the future. We can all do better, and we can all do more. All of us are capable of saying: “That behaviour, that language, is not acceptable,” when we see sons or brothers or friends or workmates show disrespect. All of us are capable of thinking twice before applying gender stereotypes, or implying that to be female, is to be weak or inferior.
The answer lies in all of us. We have within us the power to create an Australia where domestic violence is always challenged and never accepted. The personal and political will expressed here this morning fills me with the faith that one day we will triumph over this terrible violence.
Thank you all very much.