Standing up for Canberra

Family Violence

I would like to begin by thanking the member for Gellibrand for moving this motion on a subject that is very close to my heart. I would also like to acknowledge his role in setting up, with the member for Hasluck, the Parliamentarians Against Family Violence group. It is really impressive to see men standing up the for an issue that so overwhelmingly impacts women. I commend them for that and I also commend the speakers on this motion today.

Violence against women in Australia is a deep rooted cultural problem and it is shocking. One in three women in Australia have experienced physical violence. Almost one in five has been subjected to sexual assault. And one woman is killed by her partner or former partner every week—every single week. Deputy Speaker Broadbent, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the work you have done in your community on this issue.

This violence has a number of names—it is domestic violence; it is family violence; it is intimate-partner violence —but the themes are always the same: physical, emotional and economic violence at the hands of someone you love. Family violence does not discriminate. It affects women of all ages, religions, races and socioeconomic backgrounds. In fact, just this morning a woman close to me told me that she has been a victim of domestic violence. That was quite a shock. She is a young woman—a beautiful woman—and she has been traumatised and abused by someone that she loves and that she trusted.

Violence against women is absolutely everywhere and it is crippling. Research shows that around two-thirds of women do not even contact police after being assaulted. These are smart women. These are strong women. Yet they are so crippled with fear that they cannot take action. Australia needs to come together as a country and take action for these women who are too afraid to speak out. Australia's leaders need to stand up and take action. Most of all, Australian men need to stand up and take action.

Changing the attitudes of men will take some time, so it is heartening to see important initiatives like the government funded White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Program gaining traction. Already, 24 workplaces, including the Navy, the Army and the NRL, have signed up to the White Ribbon accreditation pilot program, with another 68 major organisations to follow suit. I am proud of the former Labor government's approach to this issue. The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children provides us with a clear framework for reducing violence against women. I again welcome the bipartisan approach we are seeing in the chamber.

I would also like to acknowledge the important work of the Chief of the Defence Force and, in particular, the Chief of Army, David Morrison, for the work they are doing to stamp out unacceptable behaviour in the ADF. In my electorate, I would like to thank Relationships Australia, a community based, not-for-profit organisation that has been providing relationship support services for more than 50 years. Programs run by Relationships Australia have led to a number of positive outcomes, including a reduction in family violence and conflict and a reduction in antisocial and violent behaviour in schools and the community.

Despite all of these positive steps, one-third of Australian women are still experiencing physical violence. This figure has not changed in a decade. Australia is crying out for cultural change. Family violence is a serious problem, deeply entrenched in the fabric of our society. But it is not just here in Australia that it is a problem. It is a global pandemic affecting people throughout the world. Violence against women is a human rights violation. We should not think of it as being just the way things are. It is a serious problem which can and must be prevented.

I underscore the fact that violence against women must stop. We have a responsibility to make sure that our laws and our policies are helping to stop the terrible crime of domestic violence. We must support the work of those organisations on the front line in our communities, and we need a holistic, coordinated response from the government on this issue. We need to see our legal services, housing services, health services, child protection services, police and courts work together to end violence against women.

We have a chance, with bipartisan support, to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australian women. It will require men around the world to challenge the attitudes and behaviours of men who use or condone violence against women. We can only do it through a zero-tolerance approach and by calling out family violence when we see it, by uncovering and highlighting the fact that only weak men engage in this type of violence.

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