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I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I pay my respects to elders past and present.
I acknowledge the Prime Minister, I acknowledge Our Watch and I acknowledge all the Members of Parliament who are here.
And of course, I want to acknowledge my remarkable wife, who is also an ambassador for Our Watch.
It’s been busy today, it’s the 10th anniversary of the Apology so along with our familiar words of respect for our First Australians, we should again pledge ourselves to reducing the unacceptably high rates of family violence within Aboriginal communities.
I would also like to acknowledge Mary Barry, she’s informed people that she’ll be moving on after a period of time. You, working with Julie, and a whole lot of people, you’ve done a great job Mary and I think everyone here knows that, thank you very much.
I want to thank Chloe, it is Valentine’s Day tomorrow so why wouldn’t you come to parliament to help celebrate it? Such a happy place.
Chloe has done a great deal to educate me about the problems and challenges of violence against women and children. She’s done a great deal to open my eyes as to how we respond to it. And she knows how to communicate it very personally.
As we gather here tonight, I wonder in how many households around Australia an all-too-familiar scene is being played out.
It’s tea-time, Dad’s come home.
The conversation at the dinner table stops. What sort of mood is he in? Has he had a good day or a bad day? That game of emotional Russian roulette starts again.
Will it be alright tonight – or not?
Perhaps he’s had too much to drink, perhaps he’s frustrated with the way his life has turned out…whatever. Whatever the resentment, whatever the simmering anger, it will be the wife who is the magnet for the blame and the focus of the anger.
Perhaps he’ll growl, perhaps he’ll yell, perhaps the kids will be playing the music too loud, perhaps the food is not to his satisfaction.
Perhaps, with a bit of luck, he might just fall asleep on the couch in front of the television.
But all evening long the family tiptoe around him– they know he smoulders, they know he’s angry, they know he’s wakeful.
There are thousands of our fellow Australians right now, dealing with that emotion.
Kids made adults because they’ve got to learn to manage their angry father. To humour him, to placate, to cajole, to keep the music down.
There will be thousands of households where children will become adults and diplomats and peacekeepers.
There will be tens of thousands Australian children, now, as we talk, who acquire a kind of sixth sense of premature adulthood, that antenna. You can almost feel the tension and detect it imperceptibly, with that radar.
There will be mothers who are determined that the children don’t get the brunt of the anger. It will be dreadful.
That’s what a night like this, here with all of you. That’s what it means to me, when I think about Our Watch.
Chloe is right and Malcolm is right. We have begun to change the way we talk about family violence.
Growing up in the 70s and early 80s as a teenager, like all of you, I knew the story of the Good Samaritan. But in the 70s and 80s and long before, as a nation, we were much more likely to pass by on the other side of the road.
There are thousands of families for whom there will be no Good Samaritan. But it is changing.
It is changing because of organisations like Our Watch.
It is changing because of brave survivors who come forward and tell their story. It is so hard, it is embarrassing to tell your own story. You second-guess yourself. Could you have done it differently? What did you do, to attract the anger? You blame yourself long before you get to the true cause.
It is changing because the media talk about violence against women and children with a seriousness and a prominence that wasn’t previously the case.
But in this building we have a privilege, we have a gift. We can do more than just talk.
We can make decisions to properly fund legal and counselling services, so women can get the help they need, when they need it.
We can drive reforms in the Family Court, so that seeking justice doesn’t become a long, impoverishing, disempowering process of re-injury.
We can put more resources into making sure the maintenance is paid.
We can put the right resources into safe accommodation. Because all too often we hear people say, when they learn the facts: ‘Why did she stay? Why did she stay?’ when the real question we should be asking is ‘Where could she go?’
We can make 10 days’ family violence leave a workplace right, so that survivors have time to pick up the pieces without worrying about their job a well.
Thanks to Our Watch and tens of thousands of brave women, Australia has crossed the threshold on family violence – as a problem, it’s become part of the national debate.
But we here in this place, we have the opportunity to get on with the solutions.
Thank you very much.