PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 3 MARCH 2016
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Good morning everyone.
It's great to be here and I thank the Prime Minister for his remarks.
I wish to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.
When we offer these words of respect today, we think in particular of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who show such remarkable resilience in the face, in many cases, of great hardship.
I'd like to add my thanks to Julie McKay for nine years of extraordinary service as the Executive Director of UN Women.
Julie, when you speak, you speak well and you speak from the heart, and you also speak the truth.
And we will continue to seek your counsel and wisdom in the future.
I’d like to acknowledge some of my remarkable leadership team, Tanya Plibersek is here, Penny Wong, and I'd like to acknowledge, and I don't always get the chance to do this, all the women who comprise our shadow executive.
Also the deputy co-leader of the branch is here, welcome.
Can I also knowledge my wife Chloe, who I don't get the chance to catch up with enough during Canberra weeks so why not share it with everyone? It's great.
She's been a passionate advocate for the elimination of family violence, and a lot of the things I say on this subject and other matters really make sense of her work.
I’m conscious that at this breakfast you hear words and they are important words.
The condemnation of a national shame, the denunciation of perpetrators of family violence.
Language is important, attitudes are important, respect is important.
But sometimes I think just facing up to the truth is even more important, together.
We meet as we commit ourselves, as everyone here does, Liberal, Labor, all the parties here, commit to improving the position of women in our society and beyond.
We need to face up to the structural failings, the entrenched inequality that is confronting women in modern Australia and we need
to actually decide that we will move to make change in our system.
It is true that in 2016 while we sit here, the odds are still stacked against women seeking to break away from family violence.
Getting help from our legal system is a long, impoverishing, isolating ordeal.
Many people caught up in family law cases cannot afford private legal representation – leading to long delays and worse outcomes for kids.
We can't truly deal with family violence until we recognise the important role the family law system plays in this country.
More often than not, divorce and separation brings financial hardship for women.
Too many victims of family violence receive a minority share in the assets of the relationship.
Right now, as we enjoy our lovely breakfast, there are women paying the mortgage on homes occupied by men who have abused them and hurt their children – and then they still go on with the family law process and receive a minority share of the settlement.
And for every expense incurred in family law, resolving property disputes is infinitely more costly and complex.
There is widespread misunderstanding in the community that parents can have equal access to children when they are violent and abusive parents. That is wrong.
Right now, there are often no specialist services in our family court system for risk assessment or safety planning.
What this means is it's far too common for women going to court to come face-to-face with the man who has caused them pain and suffering, from a terrifying chance encounter in the corridor of the court to an aggressive cross-examination.
And every problem is magnified for women with disability, or with limited English.
That's why, on International Women’s Day last year, the first policy commitment I made as Labor leader was nearly $50 million in targeted legal services - to ensure that women threatened by violence are not facing the gauntlet of our legal system alone.
And $15 million more to help keep women safe in their own home.
These are down payments and we're all determined to do more.
We must address the faults and failures that make our legal system, not a system of justice for woman trying to flee abusive relationships but an instrument of further pain and hardship for women who have already endured too much.
Family violence is just one consequence of the inequality women face around the world.
We need not only to look at our family law system but we need to look at the economic inequality that women face: from working hours, to pay, to superannuation.
Now the story isn't all bad here. Aurizon, ANZ, there are companies really leading the way on these questions.
As a nation though, we need to get past the old concept of women having to choose between the competing priorities of work and family. Instead we need to see care-giving and paid work as two kinds of vital human activities that can be done by either men or women.
Men need to step up at home.
More men need to request flexible work arrangements; we need to redefine the ‘ideal worker’. The 'ideal worker' is not someone
who presents at their desk or their place of work for 12 and 14 hours every day.
We need to provide role models for our children of men taking responsibility for unpaid work.
The Economist was right, we do need to encourage our boys to respect women and one of the ways we can encourage them to respect women is to do more of the unpaid work.
It is sometime fashionable in this place to talk about the great movements of the 21st century, but I firmly believe that if this parliament did nothing else in the next number of years but advance the march of women through the institutions of power: in workplaces, in unpaid work, in family law and economic equality, if we did nothing else in this country as a whole in the next 15 years but install women to a place of equal treatment in our society, we will be a richer, more prosperous country with a far better prospect of a brighter future.
We all have a part to play in making this change a reality.
In Australia, in the Pacific and in the wider world.