House debates

Monday, 27 November 2023

Private Members' Business

Elimination of Violence against Women

7:10 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I would like to thank the member for Newcastle for bringing forward this very important motion and for allowing me the opportunity to speak on it. This past Saturday, 25 November, was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, commencing 16 days of activism against gender based violence. It is a poignant annual reminder that we need to do better as a society and better as a government.

The recent reports of the deaths of five Australian women at the hands of their partners--men who reportedly loved them--in just 10 days were devastating and alarming. More than one woman is killed every week, and these stories are, sadly, unfamiliar. In my own electorate, we have some of the most concerning family violence statistics in the state. We as parliamentarians have to ask ourselves what further steps we as government can take to do better to prevent these tragedies from re-occurring.

I would like to commend the work that is being done by the current ministers, because it should be bipartisan, and recognise the good work that the ministers and shadow ministers have been doing and are doing for the prevention of family violence. I thank them for their continued commitment and for their heartfelt statements in this place to date. Hearing the similar goals, policies and planning benchmarks provided by each as we work towards eradicating this scourge from Australian society concisely reaffirms the bipartisan approach that is already in place, in this place, and must continue to drive meaningful change. I appreciate that the current government has the same noble intentions as the one that preceded it and the strong desire to move the dial further.

Over the past 18 months as the shadow assistant minister for the prevention of violence, I've travelled to Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and, of course, my state in New South Wales. I've spoken to organisations who are currently at the coalface when it comes to prevention and response to family and domestic violence. During that time, I have consistently heard the analogy that these agencies feel like they are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, spending infinite time and resources on the clean-up and not being allowed to focus on providing that fence to protect potential victims.

Some of these agencies have seen great success in their grassroots men's behavioural and community group education programs, and they need the right supports to be able to expand them. I recently sat with Kempsey Families Inc, which provides holistic services across family units and continually strives to adapt programs to best cater to the whole unit. To be able to expand these programs efficiently, they need a separate space for men and women so that each participant feels safe and catered to. This is a sensible and considered approach to properly addressing prevention, intervention, response and recovery. I have concerns the government, both on this side and the current government, continue to focus the majority of the available budget on the back end of the domestic violence cycle while putting less than 18 per cent into the total dedicated budget towards prevention programs. It is where we stand as a government today.

Response is extremely important. I'm not saying in any way that our domestic and family violence response agencies are not stretched, and they deserve every cent they get, but we need to address the problem.

Let's not beat around the bush: the facts are that eight out of 10 men are the offenders. We need to put in place the funding and the programs for men's behavioural change and men's support networks to change that generational thinking, because a male victim child today quite potentially becomes a male offender tomorrow. Let's focus on prevention. Let's fund prevention and let's do it today.


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