Minister Rishworth interview on Triple J Hack


DAVE MARCHESE, HOST: With me is Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. Minister, thanks so much for joining us on Hack.


DAVE MARCHESE: Most women in their 20s have experienced sexual violence, that's what this research is telling us. It's also telling us though, as we've just heard, what we can do to address it. Things like making health services for women who have experienced this kind of violence free. It's 2022, why don't we already have these kinds of supports in place?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously this is a really shocking statistic. It's really, really concerning and I am working very closely with my state and territory colleagues to look at what the next National Plan looks like in terms of supporting women, children and sexual violence as part of that. But I think we need to actually also focus not just on our services, which are critically important, but actually prevention as well. 

DAVE MARCHESE: Will the Government adopt this recommendation to make health services free or subsidised for women who have experienced sexual violence because it seems to be a very clear way of helping this issue? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're working on the National Plan to look at violence against women and children. Both state government and Federal Government working together. We'll look through this report, look through the recommendations and work through them as part of our deliberations on the National Plan. 

DAVE MARCHESE: Okay, so this National Plan that we're talking about is to reduce violence against women and children - where is it up to? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We've had some productive meetings with the states and territories and we want to progress this as soon as possible. Of course, after that comes the actions that each state and territory will take and the Commonwealth will take. We'll continue to work through that. It's really, really important that with this National Plan, that we're not just talking about services. We've got to talk about prevention and there's a really important campaign out there at the moment called Stop It At The Start. What that is about is promoting respectful relationships. So supporting respectful relationships is about having conversations. It's about calling out bad behaviour, and it's about talking with children really about what respectful relationships look like. Whether they see it on TV or in school. So I would really encourage people to have a look at that campaign and look at how we promote more respectful relationships in in our community.

DAVE MARCHESE: There are some really important and helpful campaigns out there but I'm just wondering with this National Plan, do we know when we're going to see it? Is it going to be by the end of the year? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're working as hard as we can to finalise that National Plan. We do have to get states and territories committing to that so I'm working very keenly. I've been in the job 12 weeks, and so I'm working very, very hard. We've already had our first meeting, and we want to see this happen. But it hasn't stopped me actually taking action. I think the 1800RESPECT hotline - which I would urge people to call if they ever feel they need assistance if they have experienced violence and harassment - is a really good resource. Firstly, I'd say that from the first of July this year people can call 1800RESPECT if they've experienced sexual harassment at work. This is a big issue that a lot of women talk about. So they can actually call that number. And from July 2023 we're also looking at providing SMS and video call services. So once again, really important services and support out there.

DAVE MARCHESE: I've got a message from someone who says ‘I work in mental health and referring to specialist trauma services like sexual assault centres takes forever. My clients wait months and months, even up to a year after their assault’. What are we doing to address this? It's a huge issue that people who need help and they're trying to get it, and they can't.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It is really, really concerning. There are a number of services out there, but I think the other issue is we need to embed that trauma-informed services across all services...

DAVE MARCHESE: [Interrupts] But people are waiting a long time, the waiting lists are ridiculous and that's what we're hearing. 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I understand that and like I said, I've been working with my state and territory colleagues. The Federal Government doesn't run specialised sexual assault services, we work with the states and territories. But what I'm saying is that most services should be able to be better trauma-informed and I think that is really, really important that we have trauma-informed services right across the board. So whether it's other mental health services, that they are better at dealing with people that come in that have had this experience.

DAVE MARCHESE: What about young women in particular, because as we've been hearing, young women are so deeply affected by this. In the National Plan. Is there going to be a specific focus on young women?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're working through the National Plan. I will be releasing it. But I can tell you that there will be, of course, a focus on sexual violence, about how we respond to sexual violence, and some of the causes of sexual violence - which is a lack of respect, and actually dealing with it. So I think that's really, really important. And, for example, through the New South Wales government, we provided a boost of $20 million to help victims survivors of sexual violence. So that is the way that we've delivered services through the states and territories. And we will continue to work with the states and territories around this. Really important to have the expertise out there and the training out there so we are going to continue to work on this.

DAVE MARCHESE: Just quickly Minister, the Government's got the Jobs and Skills Summit that's happening tomorrow. One of the big things that it's focusing on is improving women's participation. Is this kind of research that we've been hearing about today going to be considered in all of that? Because obviously, the flow on effects of financial instability is so, so important. 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The impact of violence on women is something that will be aired at the Jobs Summit. And it's one of the things that why we actually made it a critical priority piece of legislation to get 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave as a national standard. So it doesn't matter where you work. It doesn't matter if you're a casual worker and you can access those 10 days of paid family and violence leave. We've also been improving the escaping violence payment which supports people as well. So the impact, as the report said, has wide reaching consequences and I think this is a really important area to concentrate our attention on.

DAVE MARCHESE: All right. Well, there's lots to focus on. We're going keep checking in Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth. I know you're saying that you've got to work with states and territories and there's still a bit of work to be done on the National Plan, but people are going to be expecting to see something soon. And that's what we're hearing. Thank you very much for speaking with us on Hack.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No worries, thank you.