Minister Rishworth interview on ABC Illawarra Mornings with Nick Rheinberger


Topics: Safe Places, family and domestic violence

NICK RHEINBERGER, HOST: As it happens the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth is visiting the Shoalhaven this morning and I asked her about many of these things which her portfolio does touch on. It looks like they are going to be opening some safe spaces for women, amongst other things, in the Shoalhaven. Here's Amanda Rishworth talking to me this morning.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: We're going to be doing a number of things today. The first is we're going to mark the opening of a number of the Safe Places, which is our initiative to provide crisis accommodation to women and children right across the Illawarra. Today we'll be marking the opening of safe places that will support over 300 women and children in the Illawarra this year. That’s a really important initiative and it'll be great to talk firsthand to those frontline workers. But we're also importantly, having a carers roundtable. I know that many carers do an amazing job. They look after their loved ones and we want better recognition of those carers. We're putting together a carer strategy, but we need to hear from carers right around the country, and particularly those in Nowra, in Wollongong, right across the area. So, we'll be talking with carers and we'll also be having a bit of a celebration, a new multicultural community hub in Nowra, a really exciting initiative which I know Fiona [Phillips] has been very involved in and very supportive of. So, really my visit here is hearing from people on the ground about local community services and ensuring that we are there supporting them.

NICK RHEINBERGER: Tell me more about the Safe Places. How will women be expected to access those?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Safe Places is a really important program where the Commonwealth funds the building of crisis accommodation and then a number of different organisations provide the ongoing support for those organisations. So, if women are finding themselves, they need crisis accommodation, the easiest way to get support is by ringing 1800RESPECT. You can ring, you can SMS, there's also video conferencing that is available. That is probably the best front door for people to get access. But what's really important, while that's a national line, is that there is crisis accommodation in the local area. So, today we'll be visiting crisis accommodation in a number of places, but one in particular is in the Shoalhaven region.

NICK RHEINBERGER: Are those buildings built already? Are they ready to go?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: They are in different stages. So, some buildings are already built and then there's some that are currently being constructed and there's going to be another round of funding announced shortly, another hundred million dollars. But the ones we're visiting today are both in operation and near completion.

NICK RHEINBERGER: Ok, how many are ready to go now?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Ready to go now? There are six ready to go now here in the Shoalhaven region, and there are other 32 ready to come in the Illawarra region.

NICK RHEINBERGER: Right. Now you would, of course, be well aware that this is a huge part of the conversation in Australia at the moment, including in rallies over the weekend where the Prime Minister was invited, or not invited, to speak. I'm just interested in some of the demands, if I can put it that way, for the Federal Government about, first of all, declaring a domestic violence national emergency. Would you agree that there's an emergency? Is that the reasonable thing for the government to agree to?.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, a couple of things. I would say this is a national crisis, but it's been a crisis for some time. You speak with family, domestic and sexual violence workers, this isn't a new thing. This has been a crisis for some time. We need, not just action for one month, two months, three months. We need action over years, decades and generations if we are going to change the trajectory and the national shame that this domestic family violence is. So, look, my focus absolutely is not shying away from the fact that this is a national shame, but we need persistent effort. This has been a crisis for some time, it continues to be a crisis, and so we need to persist with our action. What I've been really saying is this needs to be sustained. It has been on the national agenda over the last week, but we need this on the national agenda every single day.

NICK RHEINBERGER: Some of these other ones are not necessarily about being a national emergency, whether you define that or not. Blocking the media from publishing images of victims for 48 hours, victim blaming, prevention training, is that within the Federal Government's power to do?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously when it comes to frontline services and training, our frontline services, that's critically important. There's a joint responsibility there for the Commonwealth Government, the states and territories. We've put, I think, it's close to $40 million into frontline service training. It goes to police and health workers and a range of people, to give people a better experience when they come into contact. Of course, states run the hospital systems and the policing systems, but together we've called this out as a really important action item. In terms of the media, it is really important. There's a broad number of issues about how to ethically report family and domestic violence. And Our Watch, which is funded by the Federal Government, does a lot of work with media organisations about how to best ethically support media to report. There's a range of elements in there. There isn't just one thing that needs to be taken up by the media to ethically report on family and domestic violence. Our Watch is really important in working with media organisations to actually work with them about how to best ethically report based on evidence and based on the voices of victim survivors as well.

NICK RHEINBERGER: Yes, that is the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, who's in the Shoalhaven today.