Senate debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021


International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

9:33 am

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate:

(a) notes that—

(1) today, 25 November 2021, marks the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, beginning the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, and

(2) in Australia, on average, a woman is killed by a partner every 11 days, and one in five women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15;

(b) commends the joint efforts made by governments, stakeholders and providers under the current National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children;

(c) acknowledges that the next national plan must be an ambitious blueprint to end family, domestic and sexual violence in all forms; and

(d) recognises that ending violence against women requires a national effort by all governments, workplaces, schools, communities and individuals.

As we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I would like to take a moment to remember and to pay our respects to the women and children who are victims and survivors of violence. There are the names and the faces that we do know; however, there are many, many more who have endured, over many years, great pain in the shadows and in the silence iolence against women and children is never acceptable. It is a global issue that affects everyone, everywhere. Too many women and children are not safe at home, in the workplace, at school or online. We know gender inequality is the root cause of violence against women and we must work across our society, including with men and boys, to change social norms, attitudes and behaviours to eliminate gender inequality. Globally, the statistics tell us that one in three women aged 15 or older have experienced sexual or physical violence, and we know the figures in Australia that are recorded in the motion. The statistics, though, can't tell us the true stories of the pain, the fear, the anguish and the suffering that led to the derivation of such numbers, and it must stop.

We know the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted progress on gender equality here and around the world, both in women's economic empowerment and in women's safety. Over the course of the pandemic violence against women and girls has increased. Physical distancing and lockdowns have made it harder for many to seek and to receive help. The government has during the course of this pandemic delivered very significant levels of resources towards Australian women's safety and then further delivered resources on economic security, on health and wellbeing and to support women to realise their full potential. In our 2021-2022 Women's Budget Statement we invested a record $1.1 billion in women's safety, in part in partnership with the states and territories because it included $260 million for new national partnership agreements with state and territory jurisdictions to increase the capacity of frontline support in crisis services.

We are now developing the next national plan to end violence against women and children as a blueprint to end violence in all forms. Minister Ruston and I continue to work with the state and territory governments to drive that change in women's safety through the National Federation Reform Council's Taskforce on Women's Safety. A key focus of that work is the next national plan. The first national plan was formed in a non-partisan way through this parliament and the work of governments and oppositions in the states and territories. Shifting the dial on violence requires a national effort by all governments—indeed, I would say all parliaments—workplaces, schools, communities and individuals. The government is committed to ensuring that Australian workplaces are safe and free from sexual harassment. We commissioned the Respect@Work report, and the government's Roadmap for Respect responds to the recommendations in the Respect@Work report. We've committed over $66 million in the last two budgets for the implementation of the road map.

As I've said in this place and elsewhere, a number of the events of this year have been disturbing and distressing not just to me or the people in this place but to many Australians, and most particularly to those who have suffered. Stories of violence against women and children are always hard to hear. But we have to listen particularly to victims-survivors to inform our way forward. In our jobs as elected representatives in particular very few of us after a period of time would be in a position where we had not heard from someone, somewhere their own disturbing experience or the experience of their family member or friend—too many stories. On this day I invite us to consider the significant challenges in our region, which has some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the world and some of the most horrific stories I have ever heard in my life. Sixty-eight per cent of women in the Pacific and 40 per cent of women in South-East Asia had experienced violence by an intimate partner before the pandemic. Addressing gender based violence is a key priority for Australia's aid and humanitarian programs.

We've provided UN Women with $10 million in funding to support essential services for survivors and to deliver prevention activities. We're contributing to the UN Population Fund to conduct studies on tackling violence against women as well. We're working alongside, for example, the government of Timor-Leste, through the Nabilan program, on prevention activities to stop violence before it starts. This is an area in which I have had some association since the ballot for Timor-Leste's independence in 1999, where these issues were prevalent, disturbing and a significant challenge for those communities.

In the Pacific, Australia supports 15 crisis centres across eight countries, providing safe accommodation, counselling, and medical and legal support. Last week Australia joined the United Kingdom—and I acknowledge the work of my friend and colleague the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Liz Truss—in condemning the use of sexual violence and rape as weapons of war, and we strongly support the important work of the UN representative for sexual violence in conflict.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand together to address and to prevent gender based violence in Australia and worldwide. This year, and every year, we remember those we have lost—victim-survivors and those working to end violence against women and girls, particularly those on the front line.


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