Bill's Speeches

WHITE RIBBON BREAKFAST - CANBERRA - WEDNESDAY, 23 NOVEMBER 2016

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Good morning everybody.

I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and I pay my respects to elders both past and present. 

And as the Prime Minister did, we should acknowledge the shockingly high rates of family violence amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians – and vow to change this. 

I acknowledge the Prime Minister, I acknowledge Larissa Waters representing Richard Di Natale and all other members of Parliament who are here. 

On days such as this we should remember the women and children who are lost to us, taken from us too soon by violence.

We should also salute the courage of those who stand up, who speak out, who shine a light on a dark corner of our national life. 

The pain and hardship of family violence doesn’t end when you leave home, or change the locks. 

It's only the start of the next phase. 

Family violence is all-too-often impoverishing and isolating. 

And even as we speak here, right across our country, yesterday, last night, this morning, there will be our fellow Australians who are currently experiencing family violence. 

Right now, as we stand here there will be women who are desperately seeking secure accommodation, there will be sleepless kids who've woken up in unfamiliar bedrooms.

There is the upheaval of looking for a new job. 

And of course, for the survivors, who through no fault of their own have had to upend their lives as they go to the supermarket or the cafe or the gym or they even do something as mundane as turn on their iPhone. 

There will be that stomach wrenching, hot flush as you realise that the abuser is still trying to find you. 

And then we have our legal gauntlet.

A process that, despite the progress we've made, for those who go through the criminal and family law system, feel demoralised, dehumanised and their hope is further drained out of them.

And in the face of these challenges, I'm conscience that the great progress that's made here by White Ribbon and the fantastic sentiments expressed across the political board, we need to make sure that these words actually make a difference in the lives of these people, our fellow Australians who right now as we gather are experiencing the problems. 

I agree with the Prime Minister - building respect is fundamental.

Reforming attitudes is vital. 

But we also know that change doesn't begin and end just with the words we use. 

That’s nowhere near far enough, it’s nowhere near good enough. 

We want to in this place, live up to our rhetoric, we want to match our good intentions with action. 

I think we owe the survivors and the people currently trapped in the cycle of violence to tell it straight and to talk about action. 

This morning we're acknowledging White Ribbon Day, I want to propose three areas of action. 

Action in the workplace - including Family Violence Leave in the National Employment Standards - full stop. 

I want to say for the benefit of some in the talkback radio land, that this leave is not designed to help the abuser.

It is not a cushy entitlement – it is a test of our decency as a society. 

Secondly, I want to propose action in technology.
I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement of our e-safety commissioner and the expanded role, and like him I agree that more can be done. 

So called revenge porn should be a crime across Australia but it is not.
Criminalisation of so called revenge porn should be a Federal law, not just left to a patchwork of state laws, consistent with the Commonwealth DPPs recommendation. 

And we do need overdue regulatory attention in technology facilitated abuse. 

You know the stories, the spyware inserted by a vengeful ex-partner on the iPhone of the person escaping the abuse. 

And thirdly, we need more action in our courts and legal system. 

There is a test here for our courts.

When women go to court seeking justice.

When they summon up the courage, and the resilience to tell their story - they should not have to be directly cross-examined by their perpetrator.

This is trial by ordeal. 

It is an added indignity, a further injustice, inflicted by the abuser who has already done enough damage. 

Cross-examination in family violence by unrepresented perpetrators is a re-injury.

It is new harm on top of the old, we can put a stop to it. 

I listened to carefully to our Canadian guest speaker, when he said that women have been alone and in dealing with the violence, they've been alone, and we should not leave them alone in the witness box of a court hearing to be examined by their abuser. 

That’s why I am putting forward a proposition today, on White Ribbon Day, that Labor will amend the Family Law Act:

-       To compel judges in family violence cases to consider whether a witness should be protected under a range of mechanisms – such as video conferencing.

-       And, if the judge believes the available mechanisms under the act are insufficient to protect a vulnerable witness.

-       The judge should be empowered to direct that all unrepresented litigants, the men and the women, should be represented by Legal Aid.

We will commit $43.2 million to ensure that no victim of violence is re-traumatised by a system supposed to be there to support them.

We heard the calls for reform from many leaders in the movement against family violence. 

We heard them again at last month's family violence summit that the Prime Minister referred to.

Time for more arguments and calls for more evidence is over. 

We need action from the Parliament, the Government, we need it now.

I would welcome the Government taking the idea. 

Together, on White Ribbon Day, let’s show that this occasion is more about reciting ritual phrases, offering familiar promises to aim for better.

Let’s match our words with our deeds, let’s match the spirit of this gathering with substance. 

Let's be straight talking

Let's be as courageous as thousands of survivors are this morning when they woke up. 

Let us give as much hope to the children who are moving schools, unsure of what is happening.

Let us give those children the sort of courage from us that they're exhibiting today.

Thank you very much.  

ENDS


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