Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


White Ribbon Day

8:27 pm

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

This morning in this place Minister Cash moved a motion, co-signed by Senator Rhiannon and myself, about White Ribbon Day. I think it is important that we make further acknowledgement in this place about the importance of White Ribbon Day, which is celebrated on 25 November, and also the ongoing consideration around the issues of violence in our community that culminates in this period of action with Human Rights Day on 10 December. Through that period we are able to work with our community to listen to the stories of people who have the power to tell them and to ensure that women and men acknowledge that there is no place for violence in our community. Indeed, White Ribbon Day is acknowledged by its pledge, and I think it is appropriate that I make it here tonight because it applies to men and women. Particularly in the white ribbon campaign it focuses on the role of men. It says:

I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

This pledge reverberated around our country on 25 November because what we have seen over the last few years is a blooming of acknowledgement of the role of White Ribbon Day and also through our communities local groups taking their own actions and making their own commitment. In fact, 25 November was a really important time to stop for a minute and just know that all across our nation, from small local communities to the larger social occasions that we have now to celebrate the issue, men and women were sharing a public commitment that they would not tolerate violence in our community, and more so that they would listen to and understand people who had been the victims of this violence. This was not saying that being a victim was something of which to be ashamed, to hide or to feel discriminated against; rather, it was a statement to say that they had survived the horrors of domestic violence.

Last year, I was really fortunate to go to a small regional centre just outside my home town. My home town is Toowoomba, as everybody in this chamber knows. I was lucky to go and visit a small regional community just outside Toowoomba, Oakey—famous as an Army-Air Force base. In that community a young woman had made a personal decision that she wanted to ensure that her community understood the issues around White Ribbon Day and would be involved in a campaign to identify and see that violence existed in the community and to be champions to ensure that it was seen and challenged every time.

Emma Ziebell made this decision because of tragedy within her own family. In June 2011, Emma's aunt became a victim of domestic violence. The pain that it caused that family generated her interest to ensure that the community would become engaged in the issues about standing up against violence. Last year, I was lucky enough to go to the first annual Butterfly Ball, and I went back this year to the second annual Butterfly Ball. Emma, her family and her community are committed to ensuring that there will be Butterfly Balls in Oakey every November to acknowledge the loss that their family suffered and to ensure that the public message that violence cannot be and will not be tolerated again reverberates around Oakey.

The butterfly was particularly chosen because it signifies beauty and new beginnings. In September 2012, the White Ribbon Butterfly Ball and Charity Auction raised over $11,000 to go back into the community to have people know about the issues of domestic violence and seek help. This year's ball had two organisations to which money was given. One was the Toowoomba Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Service and the other was Oakey State High School's NAPCAN LOVE BiTES program. At the forum, we were able to meet with teachers and students from Oakey State High who came out to tell their stories about being involved in the LOVE BiTES program. LOVE BiTES is a school based program that engages with the community to talk about respectful relationships, to have young people identify their own feelings and fears and to see what contributes to a relationship which is based on respect and where women and men can feel safe and share their emotional feelings.

On the evening of the Butterfly Ball, we were able to see the hall decorated by artwork which the students had produced and then hear the students and one of their teachers talk about what their LOVE BiTES program meant to their school. They also told us that one of the reasons they needed the funding from the ball was that there was not sufficient funding to provide the resources to each school to allow them to partake in the program. The local community decided that this program was worth having. The reason they knew that was that students and teachers told them it was worth having. The money was needed to provide a trained resource in the school to run the specialised programs. As you would know, Mr Acting Deputy President, when talking about emotion, safety and violence you need special training, particularly to work with young people in that area. So one of the beneficiaries of this year's Oakey Butterfly Ball is the LOVE BiTES program at Oakey State High. I am looking forward to going back and visiting again—I had the joy of opening their BER program a number of years ago—and see how the next generation of students are engaging in the LOVE BiTES program.

The other beneficiary was the Toowoomba Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Service. This service covers an enormous area. As we know, in regional Australia, you need to cover a large geographic area. The Toowoomba service covers—I will list them because I know these areas well and you will get a sense of the geographic challenges—Toowoomba, Warwick, Goondiwindi, Oakey, Pittsworth, Stanthorpe, Dalby, Chinchilla, Kingaroy, Nanango, Murgon and Cherbourg. This is a massive geographic area, which is not unusual, but it is one where there is a particular need for education and support because the Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Service offers crisis support, counselling, court support and assistance with DV protection orders. This service is incredibly busy because there have been many cases of domestic violence in the regions and there is such a need for this professional support service. Again, the work that Emma has generated because of her own dedication and commitment will now lead to support for the domestic violence service which covers the area where her family lives.

One of the exciting things about the Butterfly Ball is the fact that Emma has drawn her whole community along with her to make sure that this occasion is well known, successful and keeps the message about White Ribbon Day and antiviolence alive in the community. There is a range of local sponsors that get on board. I am not going to read them all out, but they need to be acknowledged because this kind of event relies on the local people getting involved. Certainly, one of the real strengths of the area is that the local regional council is a very strong supporter of the White Ribbon program and is a strong activist in the CEO Challenge program, which challenges organisations to take the message into their workforce and the wider community that violence will not be tolerated.

One of the true strengths of the White Ribbon program is that every time there is an event or a program people who have not felt the strength before know that their community is beside them, behind them and around them making sure that people will be safe and understand the message. When all of us in this parliament share in the oath, and I repeat:

I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

That message is much greater than just in the location where it is made. The message goes out and the women, men and children who are caught up in the horrors of violence know that the White Ribbon message is not just something you read about, is not just an event you attend—rather, it is a personal and community commitment to say that violence is wrong and all of us, men and women, must take our responsibility to ensure that we have a safe and supportive community.