Press Conference in Brisbane


Topics: Launch of First Action Plan and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: I'm so pleased to be here today with Minister Burney, Assistant Minister Elliot, my state and territory colleagues, along with Professor Sandra Creamer who is Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee. Today we are launching our two Action Plans that underpin the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 to end violence against women and children in one generation. These Action Plans outline concrete actions and targets that all governments will take to make a real difference to the safety of women and children in this country. These Action Plans really outline the shared commitment that states and territories along with the Commonwealth will take to try to shift the scourge in our country which is domestic and family and sexual violence. Of course, in the First Action Plan, there are ten action areas outlined in which we will work together to progress change. In the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan, there is some clear guidance of how we will work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people to affect real change in communities. Importantly, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan recognises some of the unique drivers of violence against Aboriginal people as well as the importance of culturally responsive response responses to family and domestic violence. We also have six targets that we will work together on as shared targets for governments so that we can measure our progress on these Action Plans. I think it's fair to say that all governments across Australia have come together to make ending family domestic and sexual violence a priority. We’re working together to coordinate to have shared responsibility, but also a shared desire to end this and today with the launch of the Action Plans the next concrete steps that we're taking to end violence against women and children. I'll just hand it over to Minister Burney.

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Thank you, Minister Rishworth. Well, today is incredibly significant. What we have is the uniqueness of the Commonwealth, all the states and territories and the Aboriginal community through Professor Creamer’s Advisory Group coming together to address an issue in this country that has nothing but confounding issues around it. The idea that we are a first world nation that is doing so well but yet the issue of family violence is something that's so prevalent in the broader community and absolutely prevalent in over-represented way in the Aboriginal community. Can I congratulate Minister Rishworth, Assistant Minister Elliot, and other ministers from the state and territory jurisdictions and the Advisory Committee for taking in a very important step of identifying an issue that was not spoken about five or ten years ago and that is violence within the Aboriginal community. It is something profound that this is taking place. We live in a country where Aboriginal women and children experience violence, death and maiming at a much worse rate than other women. It's not a competition, but that's the reality. And our reality has been seen and accepted. And that is why today we're seeing the launch of these two Action Plans. It is also important to recognise that underpinning this Muriel Bamblett has pointed out are Closing the Gap targets – target 13 – which talks about violence in First Nations communities. But the plan also recognises the way in which the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities want to address these issues. Both at the community level but also a family and a personal level as well, which is absolutely crucial to addressing the issue. This is a difficult topic, but today we have taken great strides to address the issue.

SANDRA CREAMER, CHAIR OF THE ADVISORY COUNCIL: Thank you, Minister Burney and Minister Rishworth and also to the ministers who are standing behind me and those ministers who are not here. I'd like to also really pay respect to all of the Advisory Council who have come from around states and territories to be forming this agreement. This is a national agreement that has been formed under the Coalition of Peaks and that was in 2020 under the Target 13. I'd really like to acknowledge the Coalition of Peaks for that agreement. But I'd also like to acknowledge and the men that have been walking with us in eliminating domestic and family violence in our communities as Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples, but working collectively together to make our environment much safer, and to eliminate the harm that has been happening for our women in our communities. I'd also like to say this has been a long time coming, especially for those who have been living generation after generation without support without resources but as a collective group with our ministers with governments. This is now the start of how we can eliminate domestic and family sexual violence out in our communities and working together. So thank you.

YVETTE D’ATH, QUEENSLAND ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND MINISTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE: It’s wonderful to have the Commonwealth and state and territories all represented here today. And I think it's fitting that these Action Plans and particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan to bring an end to violence for women and children is launched here in Queensland. We know we have an over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our justice system and across domestic family and sexual violence. We know that there are no boundaries when it comes to domestic family and sexual violence and that is why no one state or territory or the Commonwealth can resolve this alone or meet these targets. We must have collaboration and we must work and share information together, collect data to make sure that we have the resources we need the focus that we need on programs and policies, funding going where it needs to go and making sure that we're supporting the providers in this sector to build capability and capacity and have the workforce that they need. But importantly, for our programs we’ve got to make sure that they're very targeted, not just supporting victims survivors, but also supporting and making sure that we are working with perpetrators to stop the cycle of violence in this country. And that's what these action plans are focusing on. I'm very excited about these Action Plans and I'm looking forward to Queensland working with our interstate colleagues and the Commonwealth. Because this isn't a Commonwealth plan, it's a national plan. So all of us coming together to share our knowledge and most importantly to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help them co-design this body of work faster. Listen to those with lived experience, to learn from them and to be directed by them as to where our focus should be. So I want to particularly thank Sandra and the whole Advisory Council for the work they have done in consulting across this country, listening to people's lived experience, talking to people on a country to get the Action Plan that we have today. That is a living document that will evolve over time and we have the goodwill and we have the absolute dedication and commitment of every minister across this country to make this happen.

JOURNALIST: In terms of having these two separate plans, does it I guess surprise you that it's taken this long to have a separate plan for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think what became very clear as we were developing the National Plan, a clear desire, not only to have a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan, but importantly for that to be done in consultation and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves. And that has been what the process has really been captured. And I would like to thank the Advisory Committee for the on the ground consultation that did occur but what became very clear was the partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, community organisations was key if we're actually going to change things within communities. So I think this has been an exceptional piece of work. It is timely when it comes to achieving Target 13 of Closing The Gap. But also important if we are going to actually make a difference on the ground. The practical difference requires partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And that is what this dedicated Action plan is about.

JOURNALIST: When we look at those early intervention programs. Obviously, it's important to really hammer home point to young men growing up, but when it comes to women to ensure that they don't fall victim to domestic violence. Obviously we have the emotional, physical sexual abuse. In terms of financial abuse that we're seeing so much nowadays. Should there be more mechanisms in place to talk about financial independence with young women particularly in schools?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think you've touched on a really important area of financial abuse, along with other emerging areas of abuse that are less understood. So the Action Plan, certainly, and our National Plan looks at financial abuse as an area that does need to be looked at and targeted. Some of the actions that the Commonwealth has taken, for example, around that financial independence is looking at expanding the escaping domestic and family violence payment to place-based areas because we know while that payment has been available, it hasn't been accessed as well by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. So that is one area. But also in some of the system changes we've made in Services Australia, where domestic and family violence needs to be considered to determine whether someone is part of a couple to look at that financial independence. But it goes much further than just governments. It is about financial institutions, understanding family and domestic violence and financial independence, recognising the signs and looking at intervention. But your question also goes to prevention and that is really, really key. Our understanding across the community and community awareness of financial abuse is not as high as physical abuse. So there is a lot of work to be done to recognise some of the less recognised forms of abuse out there in the community, such as financial and indeed technology facilitated abuse.

JOURNALIST: Getting everyone on board and ensuring a consistent message, in terms of the states and territories will that be done on a National Cabinet type basis?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We actually get together very regularly as women safety ministers and women's ministers through the Women and Women's Safety Ministerial Council. We've been working very hard and very collaboratively towards these Action Plans. But of course, as Minister D’Ath has said, that measurement on tracking how we're going to look at how we process data, shared data, is going to be critical so that work will be done through the Women's and Women's Safety Ministerial Council that meets on a regular basis.

JOURNALIST: Some people say your target of reducing intimate partner homicides by 25 per cent is an ambitious target. Why did governments want to have such an ambitious target? And do you think it will be achieved?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There are six targets in the Outcomes Framework. And I think there was a desire across all governments that we needed to set some targets that could be measured and that is community attitudes, knowledge within community but of course a reduction in women being killed by their intimate partner. So these are really key measures. They are ambitious, but we need to start aiming for something. I think we would all recognise across governments that one death is one too many. But we do need to start working towards a reduction. And this gives us something to aim for, and I think has been widely welcomed by stakeholders across the country.

JOURNALIST: Perpetrators obviously can move. How can police systems be bolstered so that police forces are communicating with each other?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think cooperation is key here. Sharing information is key. Obviously there are legal boundaries and barriers to that. But I think working together and cooperating between the states and the territories, between the Commonwealth is key to this. So I think there is a real desire to continue to working together across jurisdictions and with the Commonwealth and I think it is a time where everyone, every single one of these ministers, but every single one of the Cabinets that these ministers represent, have approved these Action Plans and support these Action Plans. And so there's a real desire for action.

JOURNALIST: Minister Burney a couple of questions. In terms of implementing this on community with family groups obviously it's a very complex part of this DV space. Why is it so important to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people heading up these mechanisms to ensure that prevention can result?

LINDA BURNEY: What we know is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know their communities and know what the answers are. There is no magic bullet from Capitol Hill or Macquarie Street or wherever, for this issue. It is very much about what's going on in communities, which is which is why it's been so important to have Professor Creamer and her group involved in developing this in partnership. And what this represents is a new way of doing business. We heard from all state and territory ministers about the collaboration that they're doing at the state and territory level. At a Commonwealth level, we need to work across jurisdictions, but across agencies and in partnership with the community. The other thing of course, is that this issue affects the Aboriginal community disproportionately. I had the experience of talking to someone just recently, where every single woman in the ICU at a large regional hospital was there because of domestic violence, and they're all Aboriginal women. That's unacceptable. It's unacceptable in any terms. So the fact that Minister Rishworth and others have come together to do a standalone Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander plan recognises that disproportionate burden, but also provides answers, and that's what's important.

JOURNALIST: To Professor Creamer. What was some of the conversations that were had in establishing these plans? And do you think enough has been done in schools in the curriculum and within the community space?

SANDRA CREAMER: That's one of the conversations that we did have. We did want to include men in this Advisory Council, we felt that it was really important. You can't move forward with just women, you need to have men at the table as well. Because for us as Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people bringing men in, it brings that balance back because we can't move forward without them. That's what runs the balance within communities and families. But we did speak about this in the education system and about taking to young people. It's vital that that happens and it should be in the education system. We need to be talking about safety, about how to recognise how you need to keep yourself safe. What are the signs of anything that is going to go awry you or if you see any signs in anybody's behaviour. It's important for our young people to understand and keep them safe. So it's about building their own safety environment. But as well as teaching young boys that hitting somebody or even teasing young girls, it's not acceptable anymore, but about learning about how they can deal with their own behaviours. And if they've grown up in that environment, how that they can get help because they need to know that there are many different options and ways of dealing with something rather than just one way of hitting out or being directly abusive. They need to understand the alternative ways of dealing with their emotions. And that's why we spoke about that in the Advisory Council. It's important that we start learning and teaching our young people about the different options about behaviour as well.

JOURNALIST: How difficult will it be to break that intergenerational cycle?

SANDRA CREAMER: This is just the start. As we know, intergenerational cycles – it's a long time. And for us, our hearts are continually weeping from that intergenerational trauma and violence that we've had. But you know, we're not the key to fixing it all. But we have to start to start laying down that. Through the Action Plan as I just spoke about that – going into the schools and working with young people and teaching them that there are different behaviours and different ways of dealing with their emotions. We can start now so that we can look forward to at least the next generation to bring that down. And that's what it is about that time of coming down to zero, that's a long, long stretch to ask, but it's about how we work together collectively to bring that down. And this is the beginning because it’s an Action Plan. It's not just a report, it's about the actions that do need to be happening today and starting tomorrow to roll this out.

JOURNALIST: Is part of the education, particularly with young men, also about simply calling it out and saying it's not okay?

SANDRA CREAMER: That's exactly right and we have to start doing more. We've got to say ‘no that's not okay’. It’s really important that we start calling that out. But how when people do start calling it out there how they can also keep them safe. Because if you call it out people sometimes they may say something to you. It’s about looking at that alternative way of okay, somebody says that to me, how you can protect yourself. We have to look at all these alternative ways and they're out there but it's just about teaching our children from the start to be able to do that. But it is very important that we do start pulling out that behaviour. I just want to say that when I was at a hotel and a guy had seen that we had first started doing this, he said to me ‘you know what? I did not know what cohesive control was until I saw the news talking about that. Now I understand’. We have to keep that conversation going. We have to talk about it. It's hard to talk about these things sometimes. And it's very difficult to talk about. But it's about having reasonable conversations, and about setting up the schools to talk with our young men about learning about respect and bringing it in a cultural way how we used to be. We didn't have that violence, but it's about recognising that and doing things more appropriately and working together.

JOURNALIST: One for Attorney-General D’Ath. Back to the sharing of information across jurisdictions, the legal implications that are facing governments – how complex and difficult are they?

YVETTE D’ATH: I think sometimes we can make it too complex for ourselves and you know, my many years as Attorney-General but also now Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence – too often we use confidentiality as an excuse to share information. We need to make sure that we do not have laws in our states and territories and at a Commonwealth level that are putting barriers in place that will keep women and children's safe. Confidentiality should never be the reason why we can't do that. Now, you must ensure that you respect people's confidentiality and you must protect people's data. But that can be done in a way that we can achieve both aims. I know a number of years ago we talked across jurisdictions about the domestic and family violence laws and making sure that we had recognition across borders so that women who had an order in one jurisdiction, who fled into another state or territory, weren't having to go to court and walk into police stations and ask for a new order and go through that ordeal all over again and have to tell their story all over again. So some of that work has been done, and that recognition is there, but we have a lot more work to do. And the starting point is collecting data. We don't do enough in working with our providers in this space, as well as across government agencies, as well as across jurisdictions to share data. All three levels of government have responsibility here. We need to collect data, and we need to evaluate it to figure out where the programs go and how we actually ensure that the funding is getting outcomes. It's not just ticking a box of how many people did you see or support? It's did you change the cycle? What's happened to that individual? What's happened to that offender? Have we changed the cycle? What's happening to their children? And as you've heard today, cross agency across jurisdictions – its housing its health, its mental health, it's drug and alcohol. It's working with police. It's working with child safety. It's working with justice. We have to work across all of these areas, if we actually want to achieve the targets that we're setting ourselves and sharing of data, collecting the data, sharing of data, making sure all of our policies are evidence based is the way we're going to get there.

JOURNALIST: The DV inquiry in Queensland discovered that a lot more work needs to be done in terms of identifying the victim. We saw the Doreen Langham case early on, the fact that her reaction to the situation – she was laughing and she was smiling, she was nervous – but the police didn't identify that as her being in trouble. Where are we at with ensuring the police are equipped with the tools and the knowledge and the training?

YVETTE D’ATH: We’ve got the training. The training is happening. But there's a lot more work to be done in relation to training with police but across other agencies as well, who work with victims or it's not even those who directly work it’s those who have indirect. So even working with our health professionals, working with our legal profession, they may be coming into to talk about, you know, family law, they may be coming in to talk about property issues, but what they may be able to see is that this person is also in a domestic violence situation. So it's teaching people giving them the tools to identify all of that. Yes, we're certainly doing a lot of work with police. We have just launched a discussion paper, the first in the country I understand, on a perpetrator strategy. So it's not about just individual programs. It's an overarching strategy. We've got the trial of body-worn cameras so you talk about like and cancer trolling body-worn cameras and being able to use that as evidence in court. So there's a lot of new initiatives that we're trying. We've got funding going out to providers, who now victims can come in and actually get things checked, including their vehicle, their devices to see if they've been tracked. We've just heard today, examples of tracking devices being put in toys. You know, that's just shocking, absolutely shocking. And I think the public would be shocked to think that sort of behaviour and drones over yards to see if they can find their ex-partner. I mean, these are shocking examples of what's happening in our society. So our work will never end. Technology will be our saviour, but also our flaw, because every new piece of technology we have to constantly try to get ahead of that. Of what does that mean to keep women safe? But what does that mean in the hands of a perpetrator and being able to use against victims. We're doing a lot, but there's a lot more work to be done.