House debates

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Constituency Statements

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

10:43 am

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Last Wednesday was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It launched 16 days of activism that will conclude next week. I want to use my time today to talk about two Brisbane women. They didn't know each other. They lived in different suburbs—one amongst the green hills of Brookfield; the other in the leafy eastern suburbs. Both have three children and both have been murdered. Both have been murdered by a person who made a public vow to love and cherish them. Their murderers were their husbands.

All of Australia was shocked in 2012 when Allison Baden-Clay was found dead under the Kholo Creek Bridge in Anstead, 10 days after being reported missing by her husband. That same man has since been convicted of Allison's murder and is in jail for that crime. We were shocked at the time and still are. In 2012, calls for government action to prevent other women being murdered were loud. Fast forward eight years, and the nation was again shocked and appalled when Hannah Clarke and her three young children were murdered on a suburban Brisbane Street by her husband, the children's father, earlier this year. Again the calls were loud for governments to do something—anything—that might make a difference and prevent women from being murdered. Sadly other women had been murdered in equally tragic circumstances in the intervening eight years, but Allison and Hannah's murders in particular received widespread publicity.

Last week the Prime Minister said during his address to the Our Watch webinar to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 'as we seek to deal with this issue.' While the coalition government, now in its eighth year, has had plenty of time, nothing much of substance has changed. So far this year 48 women have died as a result of violence. This week I met with Allison Baden-Clay's cousin Julia McKenna. Julia lives in Moreton, and we spoke about the awful domestic violence and coercive control that Allison endured before she died. Julia and her fellow directors run Friends With Dignity, a volunteer based, not-for-profit that assists survivors of domestic violence nationwide. Allison and Hannah's tragic deaths have left lasting legacies. Their families and friends have each set up foundations to honour these remarkable women. They are ordinary people doing what they can to prevent other women being murdered, while the Morrison government 'seek to deal with the issue.'

I have a private member's bill sitting in this parliament right now. It makes an amendment to the Family Law Act that has been called for by experts, academics and frontline workers for years. It could be done this year, but it takes political will—and it takes bravery, something that both Allison and Hannah had in spades. I call on the Morrison government to act during these 16 days of activism: bring on my private member's bill, debate it, vote on it and change the law. It won't fix everything. People will still be people. Some men and some women will still do the wrong thing. But this small step will save lives.