Minister Rishworth interview on ABC PM with David Lipson


Topics: Family and domestic violence; Innovative Perpetrator Responses and Brother-to-Brother hotline; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan; Northern Territory funding; Toxic masculinity

DAVID LIPSON, HOST: Amanda Rishworth is the Federal Social Services Minister and is responsible for women's safety. She joined me earlier. Amanda Rishworth, thanks for being with us. The Federal Government has announced an expansion of a hotline for First Nations men and boys experiencing family violence. Can you just give us an example of a situation where this hotline could head off an incident of violence?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: The Brother-to-Brother hotline is currently available for men age 18 to 25. And it's a hotline that there's Elders on the end of the line. So a man can ring up if he's having relationship issues and wants to try and resolve those issues to talk through their experience of family violence and just wants somewhere culturally safe to talk. This hotline has already shown to be very helpful and that's why I'm really pleased we're expanding it now so that it'll go down to 10 years of age so that young boys will be able to call it as well.

DAVID LIPSON: We did hear there in Jane Bardon's story that domestic violence in the Northern Territory is three times the national rate and that the NT Government has increased funding by $20 million. The Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says she can't afford any more unless the Commonwealth provides more money in line with the scale of the NT's problem. Will the Commonwealth offer the NT more funding in this area?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We've been working very productively with all states and territories and the Commonwealth has actually moved away from solely a population based funding to states and territories. When it comes to the Northern Territory, our most recent budget has led to $147 million over four years being invested for family and domestic violence services in the Northern Territory. Now, not all of that goes to the Northern Territory government. A lot of it is direct funding to organisations on the ground. But this is a significant investment and that we do see the seriousness of the problem. In addition, we have also worked with Aboriginal leaders right across this country to develop our first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan, because we know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children are seeing a higher rate of serious incidents which lead to injury. And so that work was really led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and we've now, in the most recent budget, put $263 million into that.

DAVID LIPSON: When you hear, more broadly, that six women die across Australia in ten days recently, due to domestic violence, 58 women have died so far this year that the problem appears to be getting worse despite the billions of dollars being poured in – do you worry about your plan to fix this over the space of an entire generation, rather than something more urgent, more acute?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say – it devastates me that one life lost to domestic and family violence is one too many and the numbers we are seeing are just unacceptable. So we do have to take urgent action. And as a Government, in our National Plan and in our Action Plans there is investment and more investment happening right now to frontline services, to emergency responses for women fleeing domestic and family violence.

DAVID LIPSON: Why isn't it working?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well a key element of this is not just focusing on the victim-survivors, it is addressing the root causes and that cannot be fixed overnight. It is the attitude towards women by men and boys and by society that is so important. It is about healthy relationships and that investment has to start early and it has to be ongoing.

DAVID LIPSON: Just on that, on respectful relationships. It is very important and a lot of focus on it is needed. Adolescent men and boys are often, in their nature, kind of anti-establishment. They're rebels. Is there a danger that this sort of stuff, if not done right, if it's too preachy for example, could force male teens into the arms of people like Andrew Tate, who kind of preach a form of toxic masculinity?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This can't be done in a preachy manner. It has to be done through organisations that are trusted and that have the expert relationships. The Man Cave is one of those organisations that has built credibility with teenage boys and it is going to have to be role models that resonate with teenage boys and we're going to have to push those role models out there. It's not going to be government preaching, it's going to have to be from trusted other role models. So, it is a danger that we have to manage, but there are many organisations out there doing great work that government can fund without being the direct message deliverer.

DAVID LIPSON: Amanda Rishworth, thanks very much for joining us.