Doorstop interview at Parliament House


Topics: Family and domestic violence, Royal Commission, Rosie Batty

JOURNALIST: Minister, your reaction to what we're seeing in terms of the amount of women killed to domestic violence this year?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: For me, I'm incredibly angry and frustrated as many women and men around Australia are. The levels of family domestic violence are just too high. It is a national shame. And so I'm joining with many other men and women saying, enough is enough. We cannot continually see this as a women's problem. This is a whole of community, whole of society issue that must be addressed. No one government, no one institution, no one individual can stop this. We all need to work together to look at more of what we can do. And of course, a key element of that is ensuring that men do stand up and have their voice heard, do call out bad behaviour, whether it was with friends or family members. This is all part of how we need to actually turn this around.

JOURNALIST: The Government's got a number of measures in place, the National Plan, people will say ‘well, is it working if we're seeing these rates’?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The National Plan has been signed up by both the Commonwealth, states and territories but importantly, was informed by victim-survivors and other experts, of course. Outlined in the National Plan is a number of areas there's prevention, early intervention, response and healing and recovery. And some of that work while it's urgent to invest, the results will take some time to see the change we need to turn things around. For example, attitudes that condone violence against women, changing attitudes does take time, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't put the urgency and effort. The Commonwealth has invested a record $2.3 billion in our National Plan, and so we will continue to work towards it. This is a critical area that has been focused on by me as Minister, by the Government. But it does need consistent and persistent and sustained attention.

JOURNALIST: It's good that we're seeing the issue highlighted. But to get there, we've had to go through so much trauma. So I mean, it's double edged, isn't it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We know it has been a crisis for some time. It is good that we're having a national conversation about this, but one life left lost to domestic and family violence is one life to many. What I hope is this national conversation will mean that there is sustained attention and sustained resolve across all areas of society community to say enough is enough. This has been most recently incredibly tragic – too many women dying at the hands of an intimate or former intimate partner. But we do need to continue the sustained effort to turn this around.

JOURNALIST: It is a national embarrassment, isn’t it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's a national shame that we have such high levels of family domestic and sexual violence in this country. We need to turn this around. It has been a crisis for some time. There would be many advocates that have been trying to get this message through. But it is important that we now all work together. Governments at all levels but also civil society, organisations, businesses. Just recently we did have for example, ten days of paid family domestic violence leave. That is an example where businesses are taking up the responsibility. But there is more businesses can do and I'd encourage any business – there is training available – about how to best support someone that has experienced family and domestic violence. Because a business or employer can play such an important role to support someone through this.

JOURNALIST: What's wrong with Australian men that this has happened?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think this is a problem across Australia but across the world. We see attitudes towards women, particularly attitudes that condone violence against women, too prevalent. Statistics show that this is changing and there is better awareness. For example, a recent survey suggested more than 80 per cent of people recognise that family and domestic violence was an issue in the country, but less than 50 per cent thought it was happening in their local community or suburb. So there is a huge piece of awareness that needs to be addressed but we also need to – all of us, all of us – call out attitudes, misogynistic attitudes, hateful comments towards women, sexist comments, we all have a role to call that out because that all feeds in to disrespectful attitudes towards women.

JOURNALIST: Rosie Batty started the national conversation almost a decade ago now. White Ribbon has been around for a very long time. What is it exactly that is different this time about this national conversation that will make anything different from it has for the last decade?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: As Minister as soon as I took over the role, I was very focused on delivering a National Plan with the voice of victims survivors at the centre. We need to continue to raise this issue to ensure that it's a topic of conversation that people are comfortable to have at their workplaces, at their sporting clubs. If people are not confident about how to have those conversations, how to call out disrespectful behaviour, I would encourage them to look at Stop It At The Start. This is a Commonwealth-funded initiative that actually provides education resources about how to have those conversations. We are going to need consistent and sustained attention on this. And as the Minister responsible, and as the Government we will continue to work towards that.

JOURNALIST: These calls for Royal Commission are they too early do you think?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We have a National Plan which is less than two years old. The Action Plans are, for example, less than 12-months old. We need to have this consistent effort that is put into those Action Plans. Those Action Plans were informed by the voices of victims-survivors. And Rosie Batty herself did indicate that we've got this National Plan. We need to actually just start delivering it. That's exactly what we're doing. I would point out though that some of the initiatives that we are funding in the plan will take some time to see the results. When we are talking about prevention and early intervention one example of that is a program to work with young men and boys that have experienced family and domestic violence. To ensure that they don't continue the cycle. Now we're not going to see the benefits that that intervention will have for some time. That doesn't mean that investing in this isn't urgent now. Thank you.