Bill's Speeches

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

WEDNESDAY, 4 MARCH 2015

 

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Family violence is a matter of national urgency.

 

It is without a doubt one of the greatest contradictions in our society that an act of hate can be done by people who claim to love the victim.

 

It is not right in this country that Australian women are more likely to be badly injured, or worse, by partners who claim to love their spouse or their part.

 

For too long, family violence has been regarded as part of an uncomfortable outsider issue, best left to women's groups, the police or homeless services.

 

The truth is that family violence does not have a race, class or ethnic background issue.

 

It is a gender issue.

 

We have responsibility, I believe, for all of us in this place, to make it a national political priority.

 

I know that this issue is of great importance to all who have the privilege of serving in parliament.

 

I know that we are all increasingly antagonistic to the notion that, whilst a neighbour might speak up if they thought a stranger was conducting an act of violence in the house next door, when it is between members of a family in the house next door, the convention is: it is not an issue which we should automatically involve ourselves in.

 

Today I have asked the Prime Minister to convene a national crisis summit on family violence as soon as possible.

 

I acknowledge that he has agreed to meet with Labor to discuss this idea.

 

In the event that a summit is not viewed by the government as the way to go—and we hope it is—we would convene one within the first hundred days of being elected.

 

The case for a summit is this.

 

It is not just a government talkfest.

 

It is not just state and territory leaders, as important as they are.

 

There can be no solution to family violence without the voices of survivors being central in the discussions.

 

We need an assembly of the front line—community, researchers, advocates, women's groups, and community legal services.

 

I am very proud that in the previous Labor government—led by Tania Plibersek and many of my colleagues—we had the first National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

 

I acknowledge that the second plan has been adopted and advanced upon. But today I put before the House the proposition that we need to do more, and more urgently.

 

Too often the first public warning sign that a woman is in danger is a report of her injury at the casualty ward, or indeed worse. Too little has changed too slowly.

 

We need a national summit to capture this momentum.

 

Like every Australian I was proud that the 2015 Australian of the Year is Rosie Batty.

 

Her story of struggle is unimaginable to all of us, frankly.

 

I appreciate that—from the Victorian royal commission through to the Queensland government's report, Not now, Not ever, released two days ago by Dame Quentin Bryce, the South Australian parliamentary inquiry, ANROWS, and work by the current government—work is being done.

 

Indeed this debate today stands on years and decades of effort by many people.

 

This parliament has an opportunity to add our effort collectively to something which many people have worked on.

 

I am proud, amongst many, to have Jenny Macklin serve alongside us in this parliament as she worked on the first Canberra women's refuge many years ago.

 

Some years ago! But it is important that we end what is called the postcode lottery.

 

The quality of support that one receives should not depend on where you live.

 

It should not depend on the role of the dice or if you find a magistrate who is particularly in tune with working through the needs of a survivor and making sure that the system works.

 

Every woman is entitled to feel safe in her home and secure in her community.

 

If you cannot find safety in your home, then the system must support you.

 

That family violence can happen to anyone means that the right help must be available to everyone.

 

We offer this idea of a national summit to the government and we also encourage them to look at our other proposals.

 

On average, women affected by family violence will move three times—three upheavals: away from your support network, your family and friends, moving from your community and indeed your job.

 

Sometimes women are still paying the mortgage on homes that they have had to flee while the abuser sits in the house.

 

As a starting point, Labor would invest $15 million in a safe at home grants program so that the abuser is not rewarded and the survivor can stay—better security systems, alarms, locks and CCTV would allow women to be safe in their homes and ensure that children can sleep in their own bedroom rather than having to move from their school and their friends, adding distress upon trauma.

 

We also recognise that when women seek legal protection from their abusers our court processes can be an emotional and financial gauntlet—intimidating, complex and slow.

 

Our system should be built on one fundamental principle: when forced to court, seeking protection from family violence for you and your children, you should never walk through the system alone.

 

Labor will invest $42 million in front-line community services; and, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, who suffer the highest rates of family violence, we would invest another $4.5 million dollars in building capacity for family violence prevention legal services.

 

There is further to go, and I recognise that work has been done on improving security for women in our courts and that training for our magistrates, judges, court official and police officers has improved.

 

But no act of family violence ever occurs in isolation. Each one can be marked on an escalating continuum of rage.

 

Interrupt the pattern of dangerous behaviour, perpetrators who abuse drugs and alcohol, law enforcement, justice and child protection systems—as a first step, we would provide $8.4 million to develop research and divert perpetrators from the path which leads to escalating grief and harm.

 

Underneath all of this, the fundamental issue, which will assist, tackle and defeat family violence once and for all, has to be the pursuit of equal treatment for women in our society.

 

We believe that it is possible to teach respect in our schools, sporting clubs, workplaces and the military.

 

We also believe that, if leaders play their role in business, politics and sport, we can also do this in the media.

 

Complaining about political correctness is easy.

 

Dismissing offensive and outdated attitudes to women as harmless fun is easy.

 

But sexism and misogyny carries consequences for women, for children.

 

It is time for us to recognise that the problem is not women; the challenge is men and men's behaviour.

 

Labor priorities are clear but we would seek a national summit not to validate our views or support our choices.

 

We want immediate action.

 

We want to be guided by the people who know.

 

The principle of having a summit and bringing people together—not just the states and territories, and the national government—is sound.

 

Let's bring together all of the voices in one place at one time.

 

We have remarkable momentum built upon the shoulders of survivors and their supporters, advocates and research.

 

Fundamentally, we must also recognise that no discussion of family violence is free from the discussion of gender equality, economic empowerment, seeing women have financial control over their own lives, and women in leadership; work at the grassroots as well.

 

It is not inevitable that family violence will always be with us.

 

Labor does not accept that it is an inevitable course of society and life that women have to be the victims of family violence.

 

There are some things in life that cannot change, but violence against women in the family is not one of them.

 

We have the capacity to do this together.

 

Diversity and support for changing attitudes means that there can come a time in the future when people will look back at the debates we have today and look at the efforts of champions, from Ken Lay through to Rosie Batty, and through to so many others, including, unfortunately, so many about whom we have not heard names or their stories.

 

We can put an end to this.

 

ENDS

 

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