Interview on ABC Afternoon Briefing with Matt Doran


Topics: Family and domestic violence, National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, National Royal Commission, Social media companies

MATT DORAN, HOST: The Federal Social Services Minister is Amanda Rishworth and she joins us live this Friday afternoon from Adelaide. Amanda Rishworth, welcome back to Afternoon Briefing. You must be incredibly frustrated, aside from any other emotions that you may well feel when you see news like what we've seen this week come through of more deaths allegedly at the hands of male domestic violence perpetrators.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: I am frustrated and I'm angry, as I think many women and men right around the country feel. It makes me very frustrated that we see this violence continuing to happen. But it also makes me feel quite ashamed that this is happening in our country. There are too many women dying at the hands of a former or intimate partner and we need this to change. But we do need consistent and persistent attention on this issue and an ongoing conversation about how we turn the tide around cultural attitudes and disrespectful attitude towards women in our society.

MATT DORAN: That issue about persistent and continued attention, you are right in making that point there. But we do have a lot of discussion around this issue and have done so even just on this program alone, at length over the last couple of years or so. Why do you think the message isn't quite getting through? We are still seeming to hit the same roadblocks here, or the same issues here every time we discuss it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I do think attitudes are slowly shifting some. The most recent research suggests that more than 80 per cent of people recognise that family and domestic violence is an issue in our country, but less than 50 per cent think it's happening in their suburb. And so it is really important that we continue to have this message, but importantly, also empower people with what they can do. No one government, no one institution is going to be able to change this by themselves. So, it is about supporting people, call out disrespectful attitudes towards women, disrespectful language towards women. It is about providing our sporting clubs, our businesses with the training they need about how best to support someone that is facing family and domestic violence, but also how they might intervene early when it comes to men and men behaving badly. So, I think all of these parts play a role, but it's important that men in particular have the confidence to call out this behaviour. The vast majority of men are very respectful towards women, but they need the confidence to have conversations with their friends, with their colleagues, to make sure that they are sending the message to that this type of disrespectful behaviour towards women is just unacceptable.

MATT DORAN: You're right in saying that there needs to be a concerted effort across different levels of government to tackle this issue. But this discussion constantly goes back to what the Federal Government is doing and what more funding could be there, what new programs could be there. Are we going to be seeing any further funding in this space in next month's Budget?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: In the last two Budgets, we've invested $2.3 billion into family, domestic and sexual violence. But it's not just the quantum that's important, it's also where that money is going. It is directly to support the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children in areas of prevention, early intervention, response and then healing and recovery. It's important that we invest in all of these areas. Obviously, we're always looking in areas that we can bolster, but it's also not just about funding, it's about how we change our systems. And of course, there's been work being done in Services Australia to look at how they treat a couple that may be in a domestic and family violence situation to allow for exemptions and exceptions in that circumstance and how we treat are those in family and domestic violence situations to ensure that is properly recognised. So, in addition to funding and programs which we are looking at how we best deliver, it's also important that we look at system changes. And of course, that's not just for the Federal Government, it's also for the state governments as well. And we work very closely with the state and territory governments in looking at how we can shift the dial. So, we'll continue to focus on what we can do to change those attitudes, to look at our response to family and domestic violence, along with states and territories, and work at how we best support community organisations and other institutions to change as well.

MATT DORAN: When we're talking about pushing for systemic change, clearly that is something that needs deeper investigation to really get to the heart of what's going on there. I know that in your home state of South Australia, there is a Royal Commission looking into domestic and family violence. There have been similar inquiries in other jurisdictions. Is that something that if there were enough people calling for it, that you think the Federal Government would consider at a Commonwealth level?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that many, many people with expert knowledge in this area contributed to the development of our National Plan, which is a systemic approach about how we address family and domestic violence. But of course, monitoring and evaluation of that plan. It's a relatively new plan, monitoring and evaluation of that plant. That's why we've stood up a permanent Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner and Commission. Their job, of course, importantly, is an independent voice for victim survivors, but also to evaluate the progress we have made. We're early in our National Plan and we'll continue to progress actions in that, but we have a permanent, independent function through the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner to evaluate, to look at progress, to look at new changes, systemic changes that may be coming our way. And one of those systemic changes, of course, is some of the online environments that young men and boys are finding themselves in, where there is very misogynistic – whether they be influencers or other places online that they are finding themselves in. So, there are often emerging areas that are impacting the attitude against women and the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner along with other groups, are very important in looking at those areas and pushing on how we address those things.

MATT DORAN: It is an interesting point you make there, because we have seen as well this week a lot of discussion around the sort of social licence that social media companies need to have to operate. Do you believe that the big players here Meta, X, other companies are doing enough to stamp out that sort of environment orders to ensure that men aren't being exposed to that sort of commentary on their sites?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We think social media companies have a social responsibility to ensure that harmful attitudes are not continually pushed against women on their platforms. Of course, there's a balance of freedom of speech, but there is more social media companies can do about promoting the respectful attitudes towards women and girls. But of course, we've also got to empower, I think, people, older people, influencers in a younger person's life to have those conversations. Often it is very hard for parents, for example, to know what type of environments their young people are experiencing online. So, we need to look at how we empower young people to have those conversations with other adults in their life and empower those adults. So, that's just one area I do think does need attention. But this is a changing environment, and we do need to continue to work on how we promote respect, both in the online environment and also in the offline environment.

MATT DORAN: Amanda Rishworth, it's a very important discussion. We thank you for your thoughts this Friday. Thanks for joining us.