Bill's Speeches




SUNDAY, 14 JUNE 2015



It is a true honour to be here today, in a room full of people who knew and loved Tara Costigan.

This morning, before I came up to Canberra, my older two children, accustomed teenagers, sleeping like hibernating bears as teenagers can.

So I took my precious 5 year-old daughter to do the grocery shopping to make amends for the week that I’ll be spending in Canberra.

As you might know with 5 year-olds, they sometimes give you their pet-doll and she told me to whisper a secret, and then of course to tell her.

I whispered to it that I wanted to live for another 50 years so I could watch my daughter grow.

And then, I thought of this gathering and I thought of all of you.

As a parent, as a partner, a son and a brother…I cannot imagine the pain and the grief.

The daily, repeating whole-of-body shock of losing the beautiful and loving woman you loved.

And I cannot imagine actually how you got through. But I acknowledge that you are making a powerful living-tribute to a life taken to soon.

I am sorry I never met Tara and I’m sorry I never can. I am absolutely regretting I never can.

But you have told the story of Tara, and I believe you have touched the hearts of the Australian people.

When we read…or hear…or see a report of a senseless, stupid, wasteful crime which was Tara’s death.

It is natural for our belief in our fellow person to be tested. What sort of place do we live in that this could happen.

That sense of pain of lost, that sense of pain of unexpected lost, that pain of not being able to say goodbye and that pain of avoidable lost. This did not have to happen.

But when you look around this room, the privilege of looking at everyone here.

When we think of the money and clothes and toys and offers of help that flowed for Tara’s Angels.

When I think of the thousands who walked for Tara in March.

When I think of the great, giant and generous embrace Canberrans, and Australians more generally, I do know our kindness, our compassion is bigger and braver than any crime of cruelty or violence.

Friends, this year on average two people have died every week as a result of family violence.

It’s been in our cities and in the bush.

In our high-rises and leafy streets.

In our coastal villages and country towns.

People of every faith, every tradition, every culture.

But there is one thing they all have in common.

They were women.

They are women and their murderers are men.

And if we are to eliminate family violence from our national life, it is the men who will have to change.

I believe this can be done.

I believe the tide has turned on family violence in this country.

I believe the era of pulling down the blinds and turning up the TV to block out the noise is over.

That view that it is a family matter, that it is ‘none of my business – I cannot get involved’ and looking the other way.

The media have gotten much better at reporting family violence.

Communities are much better at discussing it.

We are all more aware and doing more to raise awareness is fundamental to a solution.

But the responsibility of government and leaders, of employers, of law enforcement and community organisations doesn’t stop at raising awareness.

Because ‘awareness’ doesn’t put a roof over your head when you’ve been forced to flee your home, to take your kids out of school, to effectively hide in your own country from some ex-partner who once claimed to have loved you.

Awareness in itself can’t steer you safely through the court process, and the torcher that family law can be.

Awareness doesn’t help you pick up the pieces and start again, in many cases moving away from your family, friends and support network.

Awareness is fundamental but it is not enough.

Just as we do not tolerate half-measures in the fight against terrorism, we should not stop at anything less than our 100 per cent effort in the fight against family violence.

We do need more support for family aid. Full stop.

Extra help for case-workers and counsellors on the front line.

Better training for police, magistrates and court officials.

Stronger investment in home security and safe housing.

And more resources in remote communities.

We will continue to offer bipartisan support for the actions of the Government.

But this is why the Tara Costigan foundation and the support it will find for frontline services is so timely and is so important.

I don’t know you all and I know some of you here but I do know uniformly from the people I’ve met that you are modest people.

You have never wanted the circumstances that have brought you together but they have happened and you cannot turn back the clock you so badly want to.

You are strong people and you are a model and inspiration for other people elsewhere.

Friends, there are words and terms we cannot use today.

There are truths we cannot utter, there are things we cannot say.

But we can say…

…a month after this nation honoured the remarkable Rosie Batty as Australian of the year…

…a week after Tara gave birth to a beautiful baby sister for her two darling children…

We lost her.

We can say, every week this year, two women in Australia is murdered by their partner or their ex-partner.

And we can say that this must stop.

We can say that nothing less than 100 per cent is worth doing, it has to be 100 per cent.

And we can say it is up to all of us to stop this.

Because as long as injuries go unreported, as long as intervention orders are not unsought…

As long as there are women going to work with black eyes hidden by sunglasses and bruises covered by long sleeves…

As long as there are children growing up in household witness to their father abusing their mother…

As long as women are forced to go on a solo oddity of the criminal courts, the civil courts, the long vigils in the family courts and the journey to consequent poverty.

As long as family violence affects any one of us – it affects all of us.

Like Michaelia, I am humbled that you would share today, and invite me to share today with you.

Being here with you, you great and modest people, makes me a bit more proud to be Australian than I was before I came here.

I congratulate you for keeping on your feet, I congratulate you on what you’ve done, I mean what I say.

I, and the Labor party look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

Together, we will eliminate family violence.

Together we are strong.