Standing up for Canberra

Domestic Violence - Tara Costigan

It is with great sadness that I rise again today to speak about an issue that has sent shock waves through the Canberra community—that is, domestic violence. In a matter of weeks, we have had three deaths allegedly linked to family violence, and the death that has really mobilised the Canberra community has been the tragic death of Tara Costigan. I spoke in the House about Tara Costigan a few weeks ago, but I speak again today because it is still an issue that is front and centre for many Canberrans. A few weeks ago, I held a mobile office in the Woden town centre. I assumed I would be inundated with people wanting to talk to me about Public Service job cuts and other issues related to what was happening in Woden. But, instead, the main issue of discussion with constituents was the sadness, the distress and the concern that is being felt by the Canberra community about what happened to Tara, and the fact that domestic violence seems to be so prevalent in Canberra.

As we know, one in every three women have been a victim of domestic violence and family violence. In a way, Canberra has seen the reality of that statistic in recent weeks. In the mobile office, it was front and centre of the discussions. And I just heard today of an event that one of my media advisers went to and again it was a central conversation there. It is still causing great distress and causing people to burst into tears, such is the horror and shock about what is happening as a result of domestic violence.

Deputy Speaker, you will recall that Tara was murdered in her home in Tuggeranong at the start of March. She was just 28 years old. Just a week before Tara was killed, she gave birth to a daughter. It is just shocking. That daughter and her two other children, aged nine and 11, have been left without their mum. The 40-year-old man who has been charged with Tara's murder was her former partner.

It is believed that Tara sought court protection from her ex-partner a day before she was violently killed. The interim domestic violence order was granted by the magistrate, but it is unclear whether the man was served with the order by police. What is clear for all to see is that Tara Costigan was a victim of domestic violence. Family violence is the leading cause of injury and death in Australian women under 45 years, and more than two women are murdered by an intimate partner every single week. It happens everywhere, every day, and affects women of every age, income, postcode, religion and race. It is a problem of epidemic proportions, and it is about gender equality. This issue is about empowering women. If I can steal the words of our leader, Bill Shorten, 'Gender equality is not a women's issue, it's a humans rights issue.'

Just as Canberrans have come together to support the children of Tara Costigan, we need to come together to take action against this scourge in our society, and deep-rooted cultural problem. Action begins with talking about the issue and calling it out for what it is. This can be difficult because often women are experiencing physical, emotional or economic violence at the hands of someone they love.

Action means raising the issue with our family and friends, in our schools, in our workplaces, at our local footy clubs and walking groups, and speaking out when we see it. It means strong leadership from all of us here, from the community, from business and sporting leaders, and policymakers. It means closely listening to our Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, when she tells women experiencing family violence to seek help, and tells us all to better understand the services that are available to support these women.

Action means commending the organisations who have signed up to the White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Pilot Project, including Navy and Army. It means adopting a zero-tolerance approach and having the courage to act when we see it. It means remembering that only weak men hit women, and it means providing funding to legal, housing, health and child protection services, police, justice and the courts, to ensure that every part of our community is working to end violence against women.

Tara Costigan's death has reminded us all that we must tackle family violence and that we must tackle it now. I applaud the Leader of the Opposition for taking such a strong lead on this in calling for a national summit, and I want to commend the Canberra community for their overwhelming support for Tara Costigan and her family. On the weekend, thousands turned out to attend a walk in support of Tara. I thank Canberrans for sending a very strong message: that we are here to support Tara's family and friends, and that we have zero tolerance for family violence.

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