Standing up for Canberra

Private Members Motion: White Ribbon Day

Yesterday was International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and day one of 16 Days of Activism.

Family violence and violence against women is an enduring and persistent social issue affecting the lives of too many Australian women and too many children and families.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Report of 2016, 17 percent of women have experienced physical violence at the hands of a former partner or partner and 23 percent of women have experienced emotional abuse in a relationship.

White Ribbon Day aims to prevent violence against women by increasing public awareness and challenging attitudes and behaviours that allow gendered violence to continue.

But shouldn't we be doing this every day and shouldn't we be doing more?

On average, an Australian man will murder his current or former partner at a rate of one woman per week.

That is one woman every week.

The dedicated volunteers of the organisation Counting Dead Women have concluded that 63 Australian women have been killed by their partner or former partner so far this year.

That is 10 more than last year, and we still have over one month of 2018 to go. It is disturbing and it is simply unacceptable.

Violence against women is prevalent in our society, and my community of Canberra is no different. According to the Domestic Violence Prevention Council, there were 1,408 people who accessed the Domestic Violence Crisis Service in Canberra in 2014 and, of those, 94.4 per cent were female.

Family violence continues to be an increasingly alarming part of the Canberra community, with the most recent ACT Policing crime statistics showing 1,905 incidents of family violence from January to October of this year and 898 family violence assaults.

Of all family violence assaults in Canberra 62 percent were perpetrated by a partner or former partner, and noone can forget the shock that went through Canberra when Tara Costigan was murdered those years ago.

On Friday, I had a coffee catch-up at the local shops at Waramanga, at the What Cafe. I had the great pleasure of meeting Lula Dembele, who is the CEO and founder of A Man's Problem.

As the Member for Murray mentioned today, this is a male issue, and this is the point that Lula's organisation is underscoring: that, while violence is a problem for women, it is not a woman's problem.

Most sexual and family violence is committed by men against women. Men are responsible for the majority of domestic homicides.

95 percent of all victims of violence in Australia report a male perpetrator.

So, as Lula, who is here with us today—and it's great to have her in the chamber—points out and asks: why do we view this as a woman's problem?

Yes, violence is a problem for women but it is not a woman's problem.

The perpetrators are accountable, so let's reframe this issue.

As the Member for Murray has said, this is a man's issue; a male issue.

On average, one Australian woman per week is killed by her male current or former partner. Lula makes the point that, if we want to eliminate violence against women, we need to focus on and work with the people using violence in domestic and family settings. We need to understand that violence against women is a man's problem to own and to resolve.

This is the 37th anniversary of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and we aren't making any progress.

In fact, if anything, we're going backwards.

These statistics will not change if we as a nation don't stand up and tackle this issue head on.

We reframe this issue, as Lula has mentioned and as the Member for Murray has mentioned: this is a male issue.

These statistics will not change if we as a nation continue to turn a blind eye to the heartbreaking and tragic reality that one in six women will be assaulted and abused by someone they love.

It is essential that we as a nation are able to come together to erase the scourge of domestic and family violence in our communities; to ensure that women have the support that they require to enable them to live a safe and happy life; and to ensure that they have support from services when they are fleeing violence.

Today, I express my support for White Ribbon Day and the ongoing awareness campaign to reduce the occurrence of violence against women. I call on everyone in the Australian community to stand tall in the face of this heartbreaking and prevalent issue, this scourge on our society and our community, and say enough is enough.