Good afternoon and thank you to the National Press Club of Australia for inviting me here today to speak.
I’m grateful to have a platform like the National Press Club to be able to highlight an issue so important to the lives of all people in Australia.
Firstly, I’d like to begin today by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we meet – the Ngunnawal people – and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
I’d particularly like to acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are joining us here today.
In acknowledging our First Nations Australians, I’ll take this moment to highlight the sobering statistics that confront us – and that is, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 11-times more likely to be killed due to experiencing family violence than non-Indigenous women.
They are also 34-times more likely to be hospitalised because of that violence.
These statistics are a national shame and it has to stop.
It’s just gone 12.30pm here in Canberra where I am delivering this speech and already today, police around the nation have dealt with more than 350 family and domestic violence matters.
Every week, Australian police on average deal with 5000 domestic violence matters.
That's one every – two – minutes.
One call, one police contact, one cry out for help – usually from a woman – every two minutes.
When this call for help comes, it is critical that police are equipped with appropriate training to respond. Sometimes, first responders like police are finding that they are not equipped.
Many in this room and watching at home would have heard this shocking statistic before – that one woman dies every ten days at the hands of her former or current partner in Australia.
One woman, one mother, one sister, one aunty, one friend.
Almost every week one woman’s life is taken by a person who professed to love and care for them – usually a man.
I had the enormous privilege two weeks ago of launching the second-ever ten-year National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, along with my state and territory counterparts, and my colleagues Katy Gallagher, the Minister for Women and Minister for Finance and Justine Elliot, the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, who are also here today.
It was the culmination of a lot of work and input from people, both in this room, and those not able to join us today. I also wish to acknowledge the work started on this Plan by the former government, and the ongoing work of my department.
We had input from victim-survivors, advocates, research experts, and all state and territory ministers.
It is the blueprint for how we will work to address family, domestic and sexual violence over the next ten years, by addressing the underlying drivers to prevent violence before it occurs;
… to intervene early and prevent further escalation;
… to respond appropriately when violence is used;
… and to support the recovery and healing of victim-survivors in ways which put them at the centre.
In the Plan, we set ourselves an ambitious target – to end violence against women and children within one generation.
Why women and children?
The one-generation aspect I will come back to in a moment but I first want to address the glaring question that people inundated me with following the release of the plan.
Aren’t men victims of family, domestic and sexual violence too?
Well the answer of course is yes, they are – and they must be believed and listened to when they disclose their experiences, and be supported to leave violent relationships.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that men do not experience family, domestic and sexual violence at the same rates as women.
One in four Australian women has experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15.
One in 13 men have experienced the same.
One in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
For men, this is one in 20.
The evidence shows there is a clear, gendered nature to family, domestic and sexual violence. Ninety-five per cent of people who have experienced physical or sexual violence name a man as the perpetrator.
It’s time for us to stop shying away from it.
The National Plan recognises that men can be victims of family, domestic and sexual violence, but the Plan is not trying to be everything to everyone – nor can it be.
What it sets out is a plan to break the cycle of gendered violence.
It’s for this reason, that the plan specifically acknowledges that gendered violence is violence perpetrated as a result of entrenched gender roles, gender inequality and rigid masculinity – which could be as simple as ‘men should not cry’ or women should be more ‘lady like’.
The Plan also acknowledges that violence perpetuated against LGBTIQA+ people is also gendered.
It can also manifest in unique forms, including family of origin violence, the threat of being outed, homophobic rape, transphobia and forcing members of the community into conversion practices.
To be clear, the Plan acknowledges that gender-based violence is rooted in gender inequality and unequal power relations, particularly those that view women and girls as subordinate to men and boys.
It’s everybody’s business to address the gendered dimensions that drive family, domestic and sexual violence.
The other question I’ve received since the release of the Plan, is around the bold ambition that governments around the nation have set ourselves – to end violence against women and children in one generation.
Many asked: ‘What was our yardstick for one generation’? ‘Could we name a date’?
To set the record straight here today – our goal to end violence against women and children in one generation means that we don’t want children born today and our children’s children to be having to deal with these same issues and rates of prevalence.
This is a significant line in the sand. All states and territories are united and are pulling in the same direction on this.
In other areas of community safety, we have a national focus on elimination.
When we talk about road crashes, we do not concede that it is acceptable for there to be any fatalities or injuries. That’s why all states and territories are taking a zero road toll approach.
We accept this, and we want to end it.
So why shouldn’t we also have a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women and children?
That is what the one generation statement is about: uniting us in a common goal to say ‘no more’.
I acknowledge it’s ambitious. I acknowledge this will take a lot of effort. But violence against women and children must not be acceptable – or inevitable.
I want to be clear – shifting community attitudes and reducing prevalence of violence will take more than just this ten-year plan. It will take a generation of change to see a sizeable shift in some places, but I’m confident that significant progress can be made.
We must ensure we are making the right investments now across the board – not just in response; but in prevention, in early intervention and in healing and recovery.
The first National Plan was released by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and while it did not achieve all its targets, the societal shift and growth of evidence we have seen over the past decade since its release, cannot be understated.
What it did was build the national architecture to develop the evidence base and start an important dialogue.
This new National Plan builds on what we have learned, and has importantly been shaped by the advocacy and the hard work by many victim-survivors, advocates, frontline sector workers and others who have – for years – campaigned relentlessly for change.
I would particularly like to acknowledge Dianne Newton from Hallett Cove in South Australia. It was Dianne who many years ago really influenced my understanding of the power of consistent advocacy and raising the voices of victim-survivors to affect change.
In addition to our one-generation target, one of the other focus areas in the latest National Plan is perpetrator accountability.
What I mean is actually making sure that those who choose to use gender-based violence are held accountable for their actions. The responsibility to stop using violence belongs to the person using it.
Our response cannot be to just ‘lock them up, throw away the key’ – we need more nuanced approaches, including through prevention and early intervention.
Accountability, in part, is ensuring victim-survivors are never being held responsible for calling out the violence they face.
It’s ending the rhetoric of ‘why didn’t she just leave’ and shifting it to ‘why is he choosing to act in this way?’.
It’s an improved community understanding and social expectation that we all call out sexist language and sexist behaviour – wherever it happens.
Think about it – and challenge yourself to answer honestly: if your work colleague was in a relationship where he was treating his partner disrespectfully, and you witnessed it, would you speak up?
Would you call him out, or support him to change his behaviour?
We need a total societal attitude shift to help meet the goal of ending violence against women and children. The media also has a crucial role to play here.
Our responses to family and domestic violence must include appropriate legal and punitive responses that keep victim-survivors safe.
It should also incorporate other responses and approaches which support a perpetrator who has chosen to take responsibility for their behaviour and facilitate change.
Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. She has made enormous strides for gender equality in our nation.
As part of her work with the Champions of Change Coalition, she has looked at innovative ways to change perpetrator behaviour, and keep women safe.
One example of this, is a policy implemented by Rio Tinto – which not only addresses how to best support employee-perpetrators but also keeps the safety of victim-survivors at the centre of responses.
Rio Tinto pays for accommodation for perpetrators in order to give them a place to seek interventions for their behaviour while keeping their family members safe in their home. Too often, we see victim-survivors forced to flee their homes for safety.
The company also offers paid leave arrangements for perpetrators to attend an assessment session for an accredited behaviour change program.
It is organisational-led policy like this that will help to achieve our goal of ending gendered violence within a generation.
People who choose to use violence need to be called out, they need to know their community won’t accept their behaviour and – if they are willing to take responsibility and change – they need to be supported to get help, and stop their cycle of abuse.
This example grapples with an important question: which is how do we support women to stay safely in their homes and communities and are not the ones who are forced to leave?
While we grapple with solutions to this question, we also need action now. We know that if a woman has a safe place to go and take her children, she is more likely to take the steps to leave a violent relationship.
Consultations to inform the National Plan highlighted that access to appropriate emergency accommodation is more difficult for women and children who are First Nations, from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds – or who live with disability.
To address this, I am pleased to announce today – the Albanese Labor Government will invest $100 million from the Commonwealth to deliver up to 720 additional Safe Places for women and children leaving violent situations.
What’s important about this investment, is that for the first time we are prioritising this funding to give specific consideration to the needs of those women I’ve just mentioned.
This will improve access to appropriate emergency accommodation options for victim-survivors who may have otherwise found it difficult to access. It will give them a Safe Place to go.
We know victim-survivors can experience the compounding impacts of racism, ableism and sexism and our goal is to provide Safe Places which recognise this, and are inclusive and accessible.
This is on top of already-committed $100 million investment for crisis and transitional housing for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women at risk of homelessness, through the Housing Australia Future Fund, and the $169 million investment to boost frontline workers.
These investments are part of our record $1.7 billion spend in last week’s Budget for measures to address gender-based violence.
How can businesses play a role?
The National Plan highlights the role that the wider community can play in ending gender-based violence.
An area I think we can make great strides in is through the intersection between workplaces and domestic violence.
As a union organiser for the SDA in Adelaide in the early 2000s, I’ll never forget the moment when this hit home for me.
It was 11.15am on a Wednesday in November 2004 when 61-year-old Carole Schaer was shot dead by her estranged husband as she worked in the handbag and shoe section of the Myer department store in Adelaide's Rundle Mall.
Carole’s tragic death impacted the whole workplace, along with her family and friends – and it is a clear reminder that domestic and family violence doesn’t just happen in the home.
It ripples through all areas of our lives – including workplaces.
There is a very important role workplaces have in ending violence against women and children.
They can be uniquely situated to provide a safe working environment – of course free of sexual harassment and violence – and to contribute to the prevention of domestic and family violence.
Being able to remain in paid employment is critical to escaping from a violent situation.
People experiencing domestic violence should never have to choose between their safety and their wages.
This is why one of the first bills Labor introduced to Parliament – and passed last week – was to provide 10 days of paid leave for people to deal with the impacts of family and domestic violence.
More than 11 million employees will be eligible for this entitlement – whether they ever need to use it or not, the protection will be there.
Some businesses, like Telstra, NAB and Virgin Australia were already supporting their employees in this way before it was a legislative requirement.
The influence of business to make an impact extends beyond the employee. They can also support their customers, their suppliers and their contractors.
I know a number of our large telco providers are working towards having 100 per cent of their staff trained in DV awareness. Some have implemented solutions to assist victim-survivors in regaining independence in situations where their accounts, like their phone service, are tied up with their perpetrator as the account holder.
The new National Plan is based on the emerging evidence and includes a new focus on healing and recovery for victim-survivors.
When victim-survivors are not supported to recover, they are at higher risk of being subjected to continued harm, experiencing poorer health and well-being outcomes.
A victim-survivor’s recovery journey is about dealing with trauma, healing from the physical and mental impacts of the violence they have experienced, rebuilding aspects of their life – which may include returning to the workplace and community – and obtaining financial independence and economic security.
This is where we all have an obligation to victim-survivors to create a society in which this can be achieved, and why we have made recovery and healing an essential component of the National Plan.
First Nations experience
The voices of First Nations peoples have been critical in informing the development of this National Plan. First Nations women have consistently called for self-determination in addressing family violence and it is essential that our national policy response is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This is why the National Plan commits to a standalone National Plan to End Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women and Children.
But, we cannot wait until this standalone Plan is delivered before we act.
The National Plan includes Closing the Gap as one of six cross-cutting principles that will guide effort and investment over the next 10 years.
It recognises that violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is not just an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander problem. We must work with First Nations people to overcome inequality, and recognise and address the continuing trauma and systemic discrimination they face.
Since becoming the Minister for Social Services, to have heard directly from victim-survivors and frontline staff about the impact family, domestic and sexual violence has had on their lives.
In one community, I heard about the generational cycle of violence.
At a women’s shelter I was told how men had been able to bypass the security measures that had been put in place to protect the women and children seeking refuge.
This was because those men had once been boys – taken to the women’s shelter by their mothers when they had left violent situations.
This is where we must break the cycle and end the epidemic rates for violence we see now for the next generation.
Supporting children and young people who are victim-survivors and addressing the impacts of developmental trauma, is key.
Without recognising children and young people as victim-survivors in their own right, we can’t put in place the appropriate measures which will help us achieve behavioural change and end this generational cycle of violence.
Sexual violence has been elevated in this Plan due to the gendered nature of perpetration.
Sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, as I’ve said already, are driven by gender inequality and the unequal distribution of power.
As a mother of two boys, I often consider the importance of the example my husband and I set for our children in respectful relationships and gender equality.
Men can have such an important role to play in challenging views that condone gender inequality.
The evidence tells us that when children have exposure to positive, healthy female and male role models – the benefits have positive, intergenerational impact.
Men have an opportunity to influence change, role model positive behaviours and champion an equal society that does not tolerate violence, abuse, discrimination or harassment of women.
It is important, when addressing levels of gendered violence; we acknowledge that with a greater focus on public awareness – prevalence may go up, because individuals will feel more supported to come forward and seek help. We need to be prepared to see this in the data. Sexual violence in particular we know if underreported.
But if we don’t collect the data, we don’t know where and how the violence is occurring – where it is prevalent.
As the reports of prevalence of violence and abuse increases it will be challenging to determine – based just on this data – how much progress is being made. Relying on prevalence data alone may not, in the short term, give us the most accurate account of our progress.
So how will we measure our success over the next ten years?
Success will be fewer people – overwhelmingly men – choosing to use violence against women and children.
Success will be fewer people holding harmful attitudes about the use of gender-based violence.
These may include attitudes that mistrust women’s reports, objectify women and disregard consent. It also may include attitudes that minimise violence and shift blame from perpetrators to the victim-survivors.
Success is a community wide intention to intervene when witnessing violence and disrespect to women. We want an increase in the proportion of Australians that know where – and how – victim-survivors can access support.
Success is ensuring that when victim-survivors do need support, it is timely and accessible.
Success is a reduction in the numbers of perpetrators who breach court orders.
It’s also an increase in the proportion of perpetrators who are held accountable for their actions through the justice system.
It is important that there is equal access to support and justice right across Australia – including for women living in rural and remote Australia.
Significant work must be done on how we collect data on these indicators of success, to ensure we are making progress.
For example, we need to measure more than intimate partner violence. For too long our understanding of domestic, family and sexual violence has been viewed through the narrow lens of intimate partner relationships.
Our understanding has grown and as such our measurement tools need to be fit for purpose.
We need to continue to monitor community attitudes, to ensure we are making progress.
We need to better understand the experiences of certain communities, such as the LGBTIQA+ community, First Nations peoples and women and children with disability, so we can tailor responses to meet specific needs.
We need to know more about how and why victim-survivors access support, and what their experiences are when they access support, so we can continuously improve these services.
We need unified data across all states and territories because domestic, family and sexual violence occurs nationally – it does not stop at state and territory borders.
This will require significant cooperation and trust between the states, territories and the Commonwealth. I’m heartened by their collaboration on the National Plan and know that we’re all pulling in the same direction on these issues.
To ensure we develop evidence-based solutions, we need a national research project on perpetrator behaviour.
Too often, the evidence collection focuses on victim-survivors, not on those who choose to use violence – which is the problem that we must address.
This is the clear message I’ve personally heard from victim-survivors.
To ensure that we are measuring progress in all four domains, the National Plan will be supported by an Outcomes Framework, which will track, monitor and report change over the life of the Plan. It will help us continuously assess and improve our work. It will also help us respond to new or emerging areas of need.
There is still more data and evidence development work to be done, but there is plenty we can start monitoring now to keep us on track for our goal.
We will continue to work on our two concurrent Action Plans.
These will underpin the National Plan and will step out tangible actions.
One of these will be our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan, which is currently being designed in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council.
A few days ago, Australia’s first ever Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner – Micaela Cronin, who is here today – commenced her five-year appointment in this role.
She will have a big task of working with governments and the wider community to hold us all accountable for the progress on the Plan.
I want to end today by highlighting the words of those who matter most in all of this – and that is the women and children who have experienced family, domestic and sexual violence, and all victim-survivors of gender-based violence.
In the National Plan – on page 8 – the words of victim-survivors are printed for all to read. They are powerful and they should be heard.
Your contributions to the National Plan will help towards our goal of ending violence against women and children in one generation – and to that we say thank you.
Now, to your words:
It is everyone’s responsibility to end the perpetration of violence against women and children, and all victims of gendered violence.
Stand with us, do not look away when we show you our pain. See what is happening all around you every day – from the sexist comment or homophobic joke, to the excuse ‘boys will be boys’.
Discard the intuition that just because you know someone, they could not possibly hurt or abuse another.
The people who use violence and abuse against their families, partners, children, colleagues, friends or dates are people you already know.
People you like. People you love.
We should not have to die to get your attention.
… These are powerful words. And this is everybody’s business.
Thank you, and I look forward to taking your questions.