There is a moment I recall with my eldest son Percy whenever I think about gender-norms, family dynamics and respectful relationships.
I was in the kitchen doing the washing up one evening at our home in Adelaide, wearing a set of pink rubber gloves – a scene familiar to many homes around the nation and, indeed, the world.
Percy bounded out to the kitchen with his usual happy spirit and in seeing me doing the washing up stopped, startled and asked me “Mummy, what are you doing wearing Daddy’s pink gloves?”.
I paused and smiled - knowing I only really ever did the washing up about three times a year - and said to Percy “well, these aren’t Daddy’s gloves - they belong to anyone who is doing the washing up”.
Percy, who was three at the time, absorbed what I said and then carried on doing what was next on his toddler to-do list. But the interaction has stuck with me.
As a mother of two young boys - Percy and Oscar - how my husband Tim and I raise them and role model to them is vitally important not just to their lives but to broader society.
Kids take in everything.
They see how we model gender norms in our households and this feeds through to how they approach relationships with respect.
Little things matter.
Little comments and little actions matter. How parents and carers relate to one another particularly in domestic environments matter. As parents and carers – the custodians of our next generation – we have enormous power here.
And it is not disconnected from the task of stamping out violence against women and children.
We can no longer think about just addressing bad behaviour when it has already started. There is no doubt we need to Stop It At The Start but we also need to raise children and boys in particular to respect women, their choices and their ability to have gender equal roles in society and the family unit.
Violence against women and children is a problem of epidemic proportions in Australia. One in three women have experienced physical violence since the age of fifteen. One in five women have experienced sexual violence.
On average, one woman in Australia dies at the hands of their former or current partner every 10 days.
That statistic alone means that before the end of the month, another woman will die to violence by someone who at some point professed to love and care for them – usually a man.
These are not just statistics. They represent the stories of real people, and everyday realities. The impact of this violence ripples out across Australian families.
Increasing respect for women in all areas of society is one of the biggest single things we can do to try and stamp out violence against women and children.
To end violence against women and children, we must address gender inequality in all its forms and expressions.
Research shows there are strong links between socially dominant forms and patterns of masculinity, men’s sexist attitudes and behaviours, and men’s perpetration of violence against women.
And what is better than trying to change men’s attitudes, is raising the next generation of men in the right way.
Having conversations with boys about healthy masculinity and self-expression and reinforcing this with actions demonstrating healthy relationships, positive masculine expression and respectful ways to be a boy and a man are important steps in ending violence against women and children.
It’s something I am thinking acutely about in the final stages of putting together the next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children.
The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 will support a renewed national approach to addressing all forms of gender-based violence to collectively address, and ultimately end, violence against women and children in Australia.
The Plan also lays out the steps to building more respect around women and breaking down the stereotypes around their perceived place in society.
It is what I, along with my colleague the Minister for Women Katy Gallagher, will discuss with our state and territory counterparts at the first meeting of ministers responsible for women and women’s safety in Adelaide this Friday.
For the Albanese Labor Government – we don’t want the next generation of men and women to be grappling with violence against women and children.
Government has an important role to play in eliminating violence against women and children, but families, parents and carers have a critical role too.
More pink gloves for dads.
Amanda Rishworth is the Federal Minister for Social Services