MURAL HALL, PARLIAMENT HOUSE
TUESDAY, 03 MARCH 2015
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Good Morning everyone. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders both past and present.
It is lovely to be here this morning, along with the Prime Minister, Senator Christine Milne and all of the distinguished guests.
I congratulate Julie McKay on this event and it’s fantastic that we’ll be hearing from our own Ambassador Natasha Stott Despoja on important matters this morning.
When Emma Watson delivered that remarkable speech at the United Nations, she posed two simple questions for us to ask ourselves:
‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’
Today, we answer: ending gender inequality is a job for all of us – and it’s right now.
This must begin with tackling family violence.
Family violence is no respecter of background, faith or race – it fragments communities across Australia.
Yet the definitive risk factor for victims of family violence - is being a woman.
And for far too many women, fleeing their home in fear is not the end of that nightmare.
It is only the beginning of a traumatic set of new trials, caused by the dislocation of the life they once knew:
Dealing with authorities and police, telling your fearful secret - to strangers.
Leaving behind your support network, your friends and family to escape the reach of the abuser.
Trying to find somewhere safe to live, looking for a park to run in, a café to sit in, a supermarket to shop in, without looking over your shoulder, without being stalked.
Having to look for a new job because your abuser knows where you used to work.
Realising the debilitating cost of it all, that sense of financial security evaporating, the plans you’d made for your family’s future, slipping from your grasp.
Knowing that this process if you weren’t already poor – will make you poor.
Seeking justice through the legal system, a process that can be torturous as it is long.
Dreading in those little moments, those unprotected moments on the step of the court, or standing in a corridor coming face-to-face with that angry person who has made your life a living nightmare.
Each and every one of these trials and tribulations is magnified for non-English speakers as the Prime Minister has said, for the elderly, for people with disability and of course, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women suffer the highest rates of family violence.
For every woman, picking up the pieces and starting again takes a tremendous toll, both emotionally and financially.
It is a demoralising and disempowering ordeal that can shatter the resolve of the most strong, the most resilient person.
And far too often, Australian women are forced to fight this battle on their own, in isolation.
This must change.
It is time to make family violence a national political priority.
Now, we have made progress, we have made quite a bit of progress – and inspirations like Australian of the Year Rosie Batty spur us to work harder and go further.
Many of my colleagues care about this deeply and I acknowledge members of the Government do this.
But I think I might be forgiven for acknowledging some of my own - Tanya Plibersek, delivered the first ever National Plan, investing in legal and housing services.
Julie Collins, helped establish OurWatch; Jenny Macklin, who actually worked in Canberra’s first ever women’s shelter, has dedicated so much of her working life to this cause.
And current Shadow Minister for Women, Senator Claire Moore, and Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jan McLucas, they’re carrying on this tradition.
Today, governments and political parties on both sides, on all sides are more involved, police training is better, judicial awareness is improving.
And more men are accepting that it is their responsibility to step up and speak out: to never remain silent in the face of violence, abuse or attitudes which shelter that behaviour.
But only some of this is true, in some places – and none of it is true in all places.
Victims of family violence endure a ‘postcode lottery’.
Right now, the coincidence of where a woman lives determines whether or not she gets the right help and support - or is left to go it alone.
In 2015, gradual and patchy progress really isn’t good enough anymore.
Family violence is a national crisis, it is our chance to seize a moment in the Australian story to find a solution.
The final, inescapable truth about family violence is that it is men’s behaviour to blame.
Not just for the acts of violence, but if we want to change family violence we must realise that at the core of it, it is a culture of gender inequality that views cowardly and cruel attacks as a lesser crime, because they happen behind the front door of a family home, and the victim is a woman.
We have a responsibility to call this sexism for what it is, when we see it, when we hear it, when we read it online.
That is on us – the men of Australia.
Unless attitudes change, among young men and their role models, unless men change, nothing will change.
So friends, the gender equality is the pledge we sign today – and it’s a promise we have to live and keep every day.
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