House debates

Monday, 26 November 2018

Private Members' Business

White Ribbon Day

10:41 am

Photo of Emma HusarEmma Husar (Lindsay, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that 23 November 2018 is White Ribbon Day (WRD) followed by the International

Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November;

(2) recognises that WRD aims to prevent violence against women by increasing public awareness and challenging attitudes and behaviours that allow gendered violence to continue;

(3) supports the United Nations UNiTE to End Violence against Women and the 16 days of activism campaigns which are held internationally from 25 November to 10 December each year;

(4) understands that:

(a) this year, as of 15 October 2018, 55 women have been killed by violence in Australia;

(b) one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them;

(c) each week on average one woman is killed by a current or former partner; and

(d) domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children;

(5) acknowledges the high economic cost of violence against women, which is estimated to cost the Australian economy $21 billion a year; and

(6) asks all Members to show their support for the principles of WRD.

Today, I'm proud to rise in support of a campaign to end violence against women and girls. I shared my personal story this time two years ago in the hope that women and girls throughout Australia would know the strength and resilience you can have after violence ends, and that no-one—no matter where they come from or their achievements in life—can have their lives interrupted by violence perpetrated against them. From 25 November until 11 December, we enter into 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls. It's an international movement, one which I support but wish we didn't need.

When we talk about gendered violence, we must recognise the intersectionality of gender violence around the world and, whilst we see it reflected in Australia, mostly in family and domestic violence, some in the world see violence against women as a weapon in war. They are different, of course, but both of them have their roots in the same place—control and power over women. Violence against women can take many, many forms. It can be easy to see for some—physical scars that leave marks which are hard to hide. For other women, violence can be financial—having money withheld or distributed as an allowance. Others may experience psychological and emotional violence, with constant threats and gaslighting. All these forms of violence are about power and control and, ultimately, a power imbalance. It's a story not too unfamiliar with the rest of our society and the power imbalances women are subjected to—not being paid equally, not having equal representation in our parliaments, not having equal positions on boards and having lower retirement incomes than men.

Our society is experiencing a power imbalance, and it is no surprise that power imbalances in our homes are leading to violence at epidemic levels. When our society at large fails to value the contributions of women in our workplaces and our communities, this will continue to be a problem. I've risen many times to speak in support of White Ribbon, speaking up for the need to make the changes required to make sure women are safe in our homes, our streets, our workplaces and around the world. I'm committed to making sure the 63 women who have been murdered in 2018—this year—have not lost their lives for nothing. I do not want to continue to see an increase in those statistics. These 63 women provide each of us with a determination to do better and to be better.

Two weeks ago, we watched in horror as the media reported the rape of a seven-year-old girl while she attended a dance class in Sydney. She was attending her weekly class, like so many children do, her childhood is now interrupted by a violent act against her by a man. Devastatingly, she joins the one in five girls who have been sexually assaulted by age 15 in this country. These are not numbers. These are lives of girls and women who have had their lives irrevocably disrupted by violence perpetrated against them.

These are numbers we highlight, but, of course, we know there are so, so many more—hundreds of thousands of incidences of domestic violence being felt in our country each week. These numbers are just those that are reported for victims we know about. We know many women live in fear of speaking out because, when they do, the punishment is harsh, unrelenting and further used by the perpetrator to continue to instil fear and terror and to launch threats against their victims. We must join together as a nation to be their voices. We must give our strength to them until they regain theirs.

We have reached a national crisis point. How many more women and how many more children must have their lives interrupted before this epidemic is addressed in a substantive and meaningful way? It has never been tolerable to allow this crisis to continue. We are a smart nation. We know what needs to be done. What we don't have, though, is the political will, understanding or desire to fix a problem facing half the nation's population—women. We have leaders who are men and parliaments full of blokes who have likely never been on the receiving end of such treatment, because we know the statistics tell us that this affects women predominantly more than it does men. If you haven't experienced it, it can be hard to understand it.

We know what needs to be done. Our experts and our communities have told us. The list is short, simple and common sense. It is time to fund women's crisis centres so, when it comes time to leave, there is somewhere for women to go. It is time to support women through legal services and for a proper, well-funded Family Court system so, when a woman does leave, she isn't facing systems abuse. It is time to eliminate current behaviours that enable violence against women, to educate and to support programs that shift attitudes and create a society rooted in equality, not power imbalances. It is time to ensure that men who are perpetrators are held to account by treating it as a criminal offence—no longer is it a private matter. We also need to profile offenders in order to better understand their patterns and their likelihood of reoffending and what drives them to offend in the first place. It is time to give women access to paid leave so, when a woman does leave, she can continue her employment and have the security of knowing that her job will still be there. Access to unpaid leave and her own super does nothing to support a woman who needs to go.

It is time to end the gendered slurs on women in workplaces in senior roles— (Time expired)

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

10:47 am

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and thank the member for the motion. In 2014, I took an oath to become a White Ribbon ambassador. It's part of my strong belief that women should live in safety and free from all forms of violence. On White Ribbon Day, 23 November every year, we stand together—men and women—and we condemn the actions of the few who commit domestic violence and we call on all men to respect women and show that they abhor violence against women and stand with us and say no.

On Friday, I attended a breakfast in Jamestown for the White Ribbon Day organised by the combined service groups in the town to highlight the toll violence takes on women, children and society. I thank the members of those groups for putting together that breakfast. It was a very pleasant morning on the lawns in Jamestown. We want to enlist men in this campaign because we know how powerful it is when men say no to their brothers, their fathers, their sons and their mates when it comes to violence and disrespect of women.

The label of 'domestic violence' somehow suggests violence against women is part of what goes on in the home. But it's not a private matter; it's a crime. The term 'domestic violence' is one that has the risk of minimising and mitigating what is a crime of violence. It has to be seen, rejected and stopped as a crime. Disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women, but all violence against women begins with disrespecting women. This is about respect. It presents a personal challenge to us when others either do not share our views or, maybe without specific intent in fits of personal rage or drug induced detachment, breach the trust between men and women in their relationships. Women are not to be owned, controlled or manipulated. They are not and should not be subservient to men. And, although on average they have less physical strength than men, there is no circumstance in which the exercise of physical dominance is acceptable.

Sadly and alarmingly, violence against women continues to be one of the most prevalent human rights abuses in Australia and around the world. As a White Ribbon ambassador, I believe all men must act to prevent this domestic violence and all violence against women. Being an ambassador means taking an active stand against any form of violence committed against women, and those of us that take this oath make a promise to live by the oath and not to commit, excuse or remain silent on this issue.

Statistics can be very confronting. They are, in this case, depicting an appalling story of abuse of women and children by men. It is true that I've come into contact with some men who have been victims of abuse and violence committed by their female partners, and that is no more acceptable than the violence committed against women, but the numbers overwhelmingly demonstrate that the predominance of violence is committed by men against women. In fact, some are quoted in the wording of this motion:

(b) one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them;

(c) each week on average one woman is killed by a current or former partner; and

(d) domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children;

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to experience domestic violence. As men, I and my fellow males, particularly those of us in positions of authority and in our communities, must confront these statistics. We must stand publicly against violence and abuse.

Violence comes in many forms. There is emotional violence where men control finances; isolate women from family and friends; humiliate, demean and belittle; make threats against children; threaten women with injury or death; and cause long-term emotional damage. Anecdotal evidence shows us the vast majority of violence against women goes unreported, and its prevalence has been unbroken and intensified through the decades. The federal government's domestic violence campaign launch last year was part of a $100 million Women's Safety Package targeting how parents raise young boys.

Violence against women starts with disrespect. The excuses we make allow it to grow. We must support women who have suffered violence. If someone who has been suffering from domestic violence wants to make a permanent separation, they need support from family and friends and from organisations that offer safe refuge for abused women and children and that specialise in aiding victims of domestic violence. Women's stories are often unheard, but the long-term damage to them and their families is insidious. I encourage males using violence in relationships to seek professional help and use their networks to promote discussion and change.

I swear never to commit, excuse, or remain silent about violence against women. That is my oath.

10:52 am

Photo of Susan LambSusan Lamb (Longman, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to the member for Lindsay for raising this motion. I rise today in a state of furious dismay. I rise because our nation is in crisis and there is simply not enough being done to fix it. There have been 63 Australian women who have lost their lives to violence since the start of 2018. That's 63 lives too many and, with a month still left in the year, I fear that that number may rise further still. Make no mistake: this is a crisis.

Yesterday, 25 November, marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It's almost incomprehensible that such a day need exist, but, until we see some change, we still need this platform to shed light on just how bad this problem has become. Every day, police respond to over 700 cases of domestic violence. While domestic and family violence affects people from all walks of life, we know that it is women who are disproportionately affected. In Australia, women are nearly three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. They are almost four times more likely than a man to be hospitalised after being assaulted by their spouse or their partner. These are truly shameful statistics.

Last month, I met with the founder of an initiative in my community called Hairdressers with Hearts. This initiative aims to assist women and men who are currently experiencing abuse, be it family and domestic violence or elder abuse, by utilising the safe and trusted space of a hairdressing salon to provide information, to provide support and, of course, to provide advice. The founder, Sonia Colvin, told me how she introduced this initiative three years after hearing some absolutely terrible stories from her clients, knowing that something had to be done. Sonia sought out the information and training to link victims up with the support they need in the time of crisis. She has now assisted 89 women and men since she commenced this initiative on Bribie Island. I truly commend Sonia and her team for the great work that they're doing, and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them.

But an organisation can only do so much. For real societal change, we need a government who will support people when they need it most. That's why Labor has committed to investing $88 million over two years in a new safe housing fund to increase housing options, including for women and children escaping domestic and family violence. To escape an abusive relationship, a victim needs somewhere to go. All too often, a lack of housing options can stand in the way of that escape. While victims need somewhere to go, they also need time to get their affairs in order—to seek support, to change a bank account, to go to the doctor, or probably just to move out. I don't believe that people should have to choose between leaving a violent relationship and earning a living. That's why I'm proud to support Labor's commitment to legislate 10 days of paid domestic violence leave into the National Employment Standards.

I don't believe that this is something that should be contentious in parliament. I ask the Morrison government to join with Labor and offer bipartisan support for this legislation. In welcoming the newest member of the House this morning, the member for Wentworth—and I'd like to congratulate her, of course, on her recent election—I extend that request to her; I ask her to join and support this legislation for 10 days paid domestic violence and family leave as well.

We need to do absolutely everything we can to make it easier for people to escape violent and abusive relationships, and this must be a priority. We cannot go on like this. We simply cannot. Sixty-three women have already lost their lives. This is a national crisis. The status quo is unacceptable, with 63 lives lost already. Let's stop this, and let's stop this now.

10:57 am

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Murray, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is certainly very, very true that all women in this great country of ours have every right to feel safe at all times. Whether walking down the street or in the safety of their own homes, all women should feel 100 per cent safe all the time. The coalition government has long been very proud of their stance of zero tolerance towards any violence against any woman. White Ribbon Day is the opportunity for those of us in positions of leadership to actually stand strong, stand tall and loudly decry any sense of normality about domestic violence. We understand that it's out there. We understand it's in the community. One of Victoria's leading policemen, once he retired, described domestic violence as Victoria's and Australia's dirty little secret.

The fact that it is so common is quite disgusting. We understand that one in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15, and one in two women have experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime. On average, one woman per week is murdered by either their current partner or a former partner, and 40 per cent of women continue to experience violence from their partner while temporarily separated. The statistics are quite horrifying.

What we have to understand is that we need to have these conversations. This is a male problem. This is a problem that men in Australia have to face up to and acknowledge and accept. Men have to be the proponents of the push to stop domestic violence. We need to have the conversations with our children, and certainly by that I mean our sons and our grandsons. It's not just a matter of having the conversation at one stage or one point in their careers or lives; it's a matter of continually reinforcing to them that there are no circumstances in which it is okay to physically strike a woman. The more we can bring this issue out into the open and the more we can decry the fact that this is still an ongoing issue, the more we can live in hope that eventually we will get on top of this and, in years to come, be able to look back into the past and say, 'Those statistics used to be horrendous and now they're considerably better.'

We understand there was an enormous financial commitment by this government in the 2018-19 budget to create a range of initiatives. Over $300 million has previously been spent on women's safety. This new package of $100 million is additional funding in relation to safety, housing services and educational services. There has been more money spent in relation to preventive strategies and cultural change and money spent on services like housing and financial support to keep women safe so they can in fact leave a violent situation. There's $10 million to prevent forms of sexual violence, including non-consensual sharing of intimate images. There is $30 million for frontline legal services. There's $30 million for three years for a national campaign called 'Stop it at the Start' to target the influencers of young people—parents, friends, teachers and sports coaches—to help them change their actions and attitudes towards violence against women. In the previous budget, there was an additional $55.7 million for legal assistance to, again, help women who are in the process of separating from a violent situation.

As I said earlier, this is a male issue. All the money in the world is not going to help stop this unless we can change attitudes and unless we can get to our young sons, our young grandsons, our nephews, unless we can get to young boys, to make sure that they understand that there is no situation anywhere in their lives where it's going to be okay for them to physically strike a woman.

11:02 am

Photo of Gai BrodtmannGai Brodtmann (Canberra, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security and Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Yesterday was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and day one of 16 days of the Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. Family violence and violence against women is an enduring and persistent social issue affecting the lives of too many Australian women and too many children and families. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' personal safety report of 2016, 17 per cent of women have experienced physical violence at the hands of a former partner or partner and 23 per cent of women have experienced emotional abuse in a relationship.

White Ribbon Day aims to prevent violence against women by increasing public awareness and challenging attitudes and behaviours that allow gendered violence to continue. But shouldn't we be doing this every day and shouldn't we be doing more? On average, an Australian man will murder his current or former partner at a rate of one woman per week. That is one woman every week. The dedicated volunteers of the organisation Counting Dead Women have concluded that 63 Australian women have been killed by their partner or former partner so far this year. That is 10 more than last year, and we still have over one month of 2018 to go. It is disturbing and it is simply unacceptable.

Violence against women is prevalent in our society, and my community of Canberra is no different. According to the Domestic Violence Prevention Council, there were 1,408 people who accessed the Domestic Violence Crisis Service in Canberra in 2014 and, of those, 94.4 per cent were female. Family violence continues to be an increasingly alarming part of the Canberra community, with the most recent ACT Policing crime statistics showing 1,905 incidents of family violence from January to October of this year and 898 family violence assaults. Of all family violence assaults in Canberra, 62 per cent were perpetrated by a partner or former partner, and no-one can forget the shock that went through Canberra when Tara Costigan was murdered those years ago.

On Friday, I had a coffee catch-up at the local shops at Waramanga, at the What Cafe. I had the great pleasure of meeting Lula Dembele, who is the CEO and founder of A Man's Problem. As the member for Murray mentioned today, this is a male issue, and this is the point that Lula's organisation is underscoring: that, while violence is a problem for women, it is not a woman's problem. Most sexual and family violence is committed by men against women, men are responsible for the majority of domestic homicides and 95 per cent of all victims of violence in Australia report a male perpetrator. So as Lula, who is here with us today—and it's great to have her in the chamber—points out: why do we view this as a woman's problem? Yes, violence is a problem for women but it is not a woman's problem. The perpetrators are accountable, so let's reframe this issue. As the member for Murray has said, this is a man's issue; a male issue. On average, one Australian woman per week is killed by her male current or former partner. Lula makes the point that, if we want to eliminate violence against women, we need to focus on and work with the people using violence in domestic and family settings. We need to understand that violence against women is a man's problem to own and to resolve.

This is the 37th anniversary of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and we aren't making any progress. In fact, if anything, we're going backwards. These statistics will not change if we as a nation don't stand up and tackle this issue head-on. We reframe this issue, as Lula has mentioned and as the member for Murray has mentioned. This is a male issue. These statistics will not change if we as a nation continue to turn a blind eye to the heartbreaking and tragic reality that one in six women will be assaulted and abused by someone they love. It is essential that we as a nation are able to come together to erase the scourge of domestic and family violence in our communities, to ensure that women have the support that they require to enable them to live a safe and happy life, and to ensure that they have support from services when they are fleeing violence. Today, I express my support for White Ribbon Day and the ongoing awareness campaign to reduce the occurrence of violence against women. I call on everyone in the Australian community to stand tall in the face of this heartbreaking and prevalent issue, this scourge on our society and our community, and say enough is enough.

11:07 am

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I commend the member for Lindsay for bringing this motion before the House. Of course, she shouldn't have to. Today, I stand in solidarity with her and with all survivors. White Ribbon Day was on 23 November. On that day, I joined hundreds of Western Australians marching for the 28th Annual Silent Domestic Violence Memorial March through the streets of Perth. While marching in silence through the streets of my city, I thought about those who we have lost and those who continue to suffer, too often silently, from domestic and family violence.

My thoughts continued to return to Beverley, Mara, Charlotte, Alice and Beatrix, along with others lost, represented visually—bluntly—by coffins placed on the gardens of the Supreme Court. I thought of the ultimate act of violence inflicted upon these lives. I thought of all of the things they would never do, never see and never experience. But the thought I cannot get out of my head is, what were the last minutes of their lives like? Behind a front door, just like my own, just streets away from where I live with my wife and my young son, sustained violence was committed. To take that thought out of your mind is very difficult. My best attempt is to turn to the policy question which we have a duty to answer: how early and how comprehensive is the intervention needed to prevent such violence and murder from occurring?

On average, one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner—every single week—in this country. One in three women have been assaulted. To put this 'one in three' into real lives, one analysis notes that some 2,194,200 Australian women have been victims of assault. No stadium or population comparison is needed: 2,194,200 Australian women. Just think about what that means for the community that we live in. Deep inside, you have to wonder: 'What if that violent capacity were inside me? What is different in my life that means that it isn't? And, given that the instances are in the millions, what don't I know about those who I see in my professional and friendship circles every single day?' And then there is the most uncomfortable question for any parent, 'How do you make sure that it isn't your son or your child who becomes the perpetrator?' I see one of the great tests of us as a country and us as a parliament is the question, 'Can we break this cycle in the next generation?' It's a challenge I take on, not just as a representative of the people of Perth but as a man, as a father, as a son, as a friend, as a colleague and as a member of my local community.

Yesterday, November 25, was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The United Nations UNiTE to End Violence against Women was an initiative launched some 10 years ago, in 2008. We have not lived up to its ambition. The initiative aims, amongst other things, for:

•Adoption and implementation of multi-sectoral national plans of action that emphasize prevention and are adequately resourced.

In other words, White Ribbon Australia does a great job but it fulfils only one very small part of the challenge ahead of us.

In developing an adequately resourced national plan we must, at the centre, acknowledge that violence against women is driven by gender inequality. You will not eliminate violence against women without achieving gender equality, and elimination starts with our children. I do commend White Ribbon Australia for their Breaking the Silence in Schools program and the teachers and parents who participate in that program. Of course, we need to teach children that violence is unacceptable.

Elimination ultimately means more resources for community organisations. I want to acknowledge the work of the under-resourced organisations throughout Perth and throughout Australia which worked tirelessly to deliver support. I want to say very clearly and unambiguously that these organisations which reduce and prevent violence and provide safety for thousands of Australian women are under-resourced. We make choices in this place to under-resource them. With that in mind, I'm just going to say very quickly thank you to the Patricia Giles Centre, one of many centres in my electorate of Perth, and end by paying tribute to the brave women in our communities who have experienced or who are experiencing violence.

Debate adjourned.