Statement on a Significant Matter – Family and Domestic Violence

Today I rise to acknowledge the ongoing impacts of family and domestic violence has across this country.

Violence against women and children, in any form, is unacceptable.

This year alone we have already seen too many lives lost to family and domestic violence.

One life lost is one too many.

These are women of every age – from every cultural background, with different jobs and levels of education or income, living in different areas and leading different lives.

They are all lives that have been cut too short, at the hands of their current or former intimate partner.

They are aunties, sisters, daughters, and friends. They are women we have loved and women we have lost too soon.

But of course we know that it’s not just women and children losing their lives to violence. It is also women and children living every day in fear because of the violence they are experiencing.

Women who are in their backyard and look up to see a drone flying overhead, knowing their ex-partner has found them.

Women who find tracking devices in their children’s toys.

Women who field abusive calls at their workplace every day.

Women who wake up to hundreds of abusive messages on their phones.

Women who make the brave choice to leave and have to couch surf because they have nowhere to go.

Women like Sadie – not her real name – an Aboriginal woman who left her abusive partner. But because he would not move out of their home, she was sleeping on friends’ couches and had to make the heartbreaking choice to leave her daughter with high-needs in the same house as the man who had been terrorising her life.

This is something that does occupy my mind significantly and I know that it is something that a lot of people in this place are absolutely committed to ending.

Thinking about how we can end violence against women and children is something that we all must do.

It must change.

There must be zero tolerance for violence in our communities.

No one should be living in terror each day, living in terror or living in fear of the person who professed to love them.

It is important to acknowledge it is happening everywhere around us. It isn’t a problem in the suburb next to your suburb you live in, or in another city – to where you live. It is happening to people we all know and love.

This week I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Cathy Oddie at our event here in Parliament House to mark the beginning of paid Family and Domestic Violence leave for all businesses.

She told me in, a really emotional way, about the practical difference it would have made for her and the practical difference it will now make for women escaping family and domestic violence.

About not having to choose between your job and having time off to work to deal with family and domestic violence. And I am so pleased that we have seen businesses both big and small embracing the start of paid family and domestic violence leave.

Because this leave will save lives.

And it is an important step towards our goal to end violence against women and children. Of course, everyone has a role to play in ending violence against women and children. Whether it is, employers, sporting organisations, media, educational institutions, service providers, community organisations, but of course governments too have such a critical role to play.

The scale of violence against women and children is shocking. You may have heard these statistics before, a lot of people have heard these statistics before, but I think it is worth repeating:

One in four women has experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15.

One in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.

One in five women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

One in six women and one in nine men has experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 15.

A key piece in ending violence against women and children is addressing the attitudes in our community that support it. This includes the attitudes that deny gender equality, that seek to limit women’s autonomy in relationships and that objectify women and disregard consent.

We know that too many people still hold attitudes that are out of step with the reality of family and domestic violence, and attitudes which entrench inequality and discrimination.

The 2021 National Community Attitudes Survey found that while most Australians (91 per cent) recognised that violence against women was a problem in Australia, only 47 per cent recognised that this was a problem in their suburb or town.

It also highlighted that one in ten people still think that men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household.

Almost one in ten still believe that men make more capable bosses than women in the workplace; and that one in ten agree with the statement that, on the whole, men make better political leaders than women.

These insights show that we still have a way to go in shifting attitudes and beliefs towards violence against women and children if we are going to address gender inequality and achieve a future free from violence.

I am really pleased that I have, as Minister, been working very closely with all state and territory Governments, who have shared a commitment to ending violence against women and children in one generation.

And I have acknowledged many times this is ambitious, but I truly believe, if we all work together, if we all pull in the same direction this can be achieved.

The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 does provide us a blueprint for whole of society, all levels of government approach to end violence against women and children in one generation.

I am really pleased that over two successive Budgets our Government has made a record investment of $2.3 billion for a range of initiatives to end violence against women and children.

These range from investments in prevention, because we know prevention is key to generational change.

It is investments in early intervention, so important to actually stopping violence from occurring and escalating.

Investment in response, so critical that women have a place to go, that they have support when they need to leave a violent situation.

And the other area which we are investing in which is so critically important is healing and recovery. Because healing and recovery investment leads to breaking the cycle of ongoing violence and potentially women going back to violent circumstances.

Of course, as identified in our National Plan, it is not just addressing the acute effects of violence, but also about tackling gender inequality. That’s why so many of these areas the Government is taking action in are linked.

We are implementing all recommendations from the Respect@Work report, because it is crucial that Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces, and indeed all workplaces in Australia, are safe, respectful and reflect best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

And we have legislated for a positive duty on employers to provide workplaces free of harassment, and we are investing in consent and respectful relationships education in schools, as well as broadly across the population.

We are also implementing improvements to the support offered by 1800RESPECT, and have already expanded it to meet the needs of people who experience workplace sexual harassment.

And we are implementing investment into the crosscutting principle of ensuring perpetrators are accountable for their actions. Ensuring perpetrators do have the interventions to ensure that we do break the cycle of violence against women and children.

There is a lot of work being done across all jurisdictions about how we appropriately respond and make sure the supports are in place.

Leaving a violent intimate partner relationship is the most dangerous time for a victim-survivor and their children. In addition to the safety implications, women face multiple and systemic barriers when leaving a violent relationship, which can lead to homelessness, economic insecurity, social isolation and the loss of employment, income, assets, and support networks.

I’m especially pleased we have been working to improve the Escaping Violence Payment, so this is quick and responsive and provides support to victim survivors when needed.

We must connect with and embed the voices of victim-survivors while also making sure that all burden is not left with the victim survivors. That we do place accountability where accountability lies – and that is with the perpetrators.

Of course I would like to thank all of those victim survivors that contributed to our National Plan and continue to contribute to giving advice to government, but especially to acknowledge the Lived Experience Advisory Group being established by the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission.

This will be a critical way to get ongoing voices of victim-survivors embedded into our policy response.

The Albanese Government is committed to a country free of gender-based violence – where all people live free from fear and violence and are safe at home, at work, at school, in the community and online.

We acknowledge the lives lost to gender-based violence.

We commit to working to create an Australia where women and children can live their lives free and safely in all settings.

We must all commit to the view that violence against women and children is not inevitable.

The National Plan opens with a statement from victim-survivors, which I urge everyone to read.

I will end my remarks today by sharing some of that statement:

“Abuse and violence is a problem for victims, but it is not the victims’ problem. Genuine change begins with a willingness to listen. We must stop protecting perpetrators with our silence, and through inaction. We must be willing to sit in discomfort. It is time to be brave.”