Standing up for Canberra

Hong Kong Chamber: A Letter from Canberra

It’s been a busy start to the parliamentary year, with a number of key bills and reports already debated.

The annual Closing the Gap report was released in early February, and the responses by the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and Members of Parliament were powerful and confronting. 

This year’s report reminded us of the inequality that still exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians – of the “two nations, two Australias”.

Indigenous Australians have higher rates of cancer, diabetes, preventable diseases, illiteracy, poverty, depression, addiction and suicide than non-Indigenous Australians.

A young Indigenous Australian leaving school is more likely to go to jail than university. And an Indigenous woman is 30 times more likely to know the pain and fear of family violence – and 15 times more likely to be driven from her home as a result.

The gaps in Indigenous Australian health, education and welfare mean our first peoples are leading a life of unrealised potential. The inequalities are vast, and underscore why we must to better.

Family violence was also the centre of debate during the sitting fortnight, as parliamentarians acknowledged International Women’s Day, signed up to the UNWomen’s HeForShe campaign and heard from Australian of the Year, domestic violence crusader Rosie Batty.

Family violence is the leading cause of injury and death in Australian women under 45 years old. One in three women over the age of 15 will face physical violence. 17 in every 100 Australian women will face violence from a current or previous partner. Yet only 20 per cent of those women who face family violence from a partner, will actually report it to the police.

Members and Senators from every party acknowledged that Australia needs strong leadership from our politicians, community, business and sporting leaders and policy makers on the issue. The Opposition Leader has called for a national crisis summit.

Our leaders, our communities, are calling for action. It is a blight on our society and we must act now.