Good morning everyone.
I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Bundjalung people, and the traditional custodians of the lands from which you are all joining today.
I pay my respects to their elders – past, present and emerging.
I extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.
I would like to recognise some of today’s speakers and those who have made today happen:
Janelle Saffin MP, Member for Lismore
Kelly Banister, General Manager, NORWACS – and today’s MC
Deb Parkinson, Executive Director, Gender and Disaster Australia
Professor Judy Atkinson AM – thank you for that welcome to country, Judy
And some of our local service providers:
- Lainie Rees, Co-Manager, Men and Family Centre
- Professor Caroline Atkinson, CEO, We Al-li
- Jillian Knight-Smith, CEO, Women Up North Housing
As the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, and Member for Richmond, I am so pleased to be here today with Gender and Disaster Australia and the Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services (NORWACS), to mark their collaboration and tireless work in addressing violence against women in the aftermath of the floods.
This work is particularly important as we come together to support the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
Lismore and the Northern Rivers have experienced catastrophic flooding. Flooding which has and continues to devastate our region and our communities.
The impact the floods has had on our townships, homes, and businesses across the region has been disastrous, with thousands of homes significantly damaged, uninhabitable, and displacing many.
The impact of the floods does not end there. We know that the rates of domestic violence increase alarmingly in the wake of natural disasters.
It’s in times like these where the work of groups such as Gender and Disaster Australia and the Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services, is so crucial.
Gender and Disaster Australia and the Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services have rallied together to support the Lismore and Northern Rivers communities.
While Gender and Disaster Australia brings expertise in the impact of disasters on women, men, and people of diverse gender and sexual identities, Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services brings a valuable perspective in recognising and challenging the effects of gender stereotyping and discrimination.
Together, both groups bring a unique perspective to the field, embedding a gender lens to emergency management practice, and ensuring that a more holistic approach is provided.
The critical work of these two organisations demonstrates how the emergency management sector plays a key role in identifying and responding to violence against women and children.
Through Gender and Disaster Australia’s training programs, including those programs that our government proudly funds, both Gender and Disaster Australia and the Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services have worked tirelessly to better equip our frontline responders - with NORWACS bringing a critical on-the-ground perspective.
This training has provided frontline responders with the ability to better recognise, respond and support women and children experiencing or at risk of violence when disasters strike, allowing the best possible care for our flood-affected communities.
I am so proud to be here today to highlight and focus on the important partnership between Gender and Disaster Australia, the Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services.
As we are in midst of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an international United Nations campaign, I acknowledge and recognise the importance of uniting and collaborating to make change.
This message is reflective of this year’s theme – “UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls”.
Together, we can help end violence in all forms - and that is why women’s safety is a key national priority for our government.
The Albanese Labor Government recently launched the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-32. This Plan provides the foundations for a whole-of-society approach to ending gender-based violence in one generation.
It is the cornerstone of our Government’s strategy to address family, domestic and sexual violence, and sets the national policy agenda for the next ten years - guiding the work of Commonwealth, state and territory governments, family safety experts and frontline services.
The National Plan has the ambitious vision of ending violence against women and children in Australia in one generation, and importantly commits to ongoing engagement with victim-survivors in the development of policies and solutions.
The National Plan outlines what needs to happen to achieve our vision, including by building the workforce, strengthening data collection systems, increasing accountability for people who choose to use violence, and providing trauma-informed support to victim-survivors through their recovery and healing.
This Plan will be supported by our newly appointed Domestic, Family, and Sexual Violence Commissioner - Ms Micaela Cronin.
Micaela will work to amplify the voices of victim-survivors. And today I would like to acknowledge their resistance and resilience.
The Government has made a record investment of $1.7 billion in women’s safety, which will work towards implementing the National Plan.
This includes $169.4 million for 500 new frontline service and community workers to assist women and children experiencing violence, and $100 million for crisis and transitional housing options.
We are also addressing the structural issues that contribute to violence against women and children, including addressing housing affordability, increasing women’s economic security, improving access to childcare, and providing 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave.
We are committed to a future in which every woman, child and person in Australia can live free from fear and violence, at home, at work, in cities, in our regions and schools, online, and in all communities across Australia.
The continuation of frontline services and other support systems is crucial, particularly as Australia is currently experiencing extensive flood events in Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales.
We have extended funding for Emergency Relief, Food Relief, and Commonwealth Financial Counselling programs for a further 2 years until 30 June 2025.
We also, here in Lismore, recently announced an $800 million federal and state flood buy-back scheme, which will also work to provide grants for housing raining and retro-fitting.
And to supporting vulnerable people experiencing financial hardship, we will continue to support the national emergency relief and financial capability sectors.
This includes funding for No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), which offers people affordable loans essentials and essential payments.
United efforts across the board are working to prevent and respond to violence against women in disasters, specifically in the aftermath of the 2022 Lismore and Northern Rivers floods.
I would like to thank the tireless work of all our frontline workers, and thank Gender and Disaster Australia, and the Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services, for their commitment to supporting women and children through these times.
I’d like to remind anyone here today that if you or someone you know is impacted by by sexual or family violence, call 1800RESPECT 24 hours, 7 days a week on 1800 737 732