Senate debates

Thursday, 24 November 2022


International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

3:40 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

Tomorrow is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which also commences 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. It's a time when we come together across the world to call for an end to violence against women, and I thank the Senate for the opportunity for all of us to make contributions today.

Every year we ask the same thing: how do we end violence against women? Like most people, I am sick of asking, sick of having to say, 'Let's not hit women, let's not kill women, let's not accept the all-too-many cases of a woman's partner controlling her movements, bank accounts, work and freedom.' Like so many, I'm sick of asking each year for men to stop being violent to women—something we should never have to ask or demand. As Chief Minister, as a senator and now as Minister for Women, I've heard from too many women about their trauma, their frustration, their fear, the loss of their friends, the loss of their loved ones, and the impact on their lives and their children's. The violence has to end.

We have a lot to be proud of in this country, but the rates of violence against women and children that persist in Australia are our national shame and an uncomfortable truth. It's a national shame that one woman is killed every 10 days in Australia by her former or current partner, that one in three women have experienced violence by an intimate partner, that one in two women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, that 51 per cent of women in their 20s have experienced sexual violence, and who are then 45 per cent more likely to experience high levels of financial stress. It's an uncomfortable reality that if you asked the women in this chamber to put their hands up if they had experienced violence, sexual assault or sexual harassment in their lifetime, how many of us would put our hands up. It's the same in every workplace, every home, every small business, every big business, every educational institution, every nightclub, every restaurant—everywhere. You ask the women how many of them have experienced violence or know someone who has, and all of our hands would go up.

Behind these statistics I just read out are the millions of women in Australia who live with this violence—hundreds of thousands who are living with this violence today, women who carry trauma with them every day, women each year who live with increasingly lower expectations of anything ever changing. There must be an end to women becoming statistics or names on the front page of a newspaper. There's a temporary outcry and calls for change, and then the next day it still goes on. We must have an end to women being subjected to fear and trauma— often in their own homes by men that they love and trust—and an end to men choosing to use violence and control and not being held to account or changing their behaviour.

I acknowledge the statements made yesterday in the other place on this important issue ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, including comments by the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, who is leading our work to end gender-based violence through the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, and by the Shadow Minister for Child Protection and the Prevention of Family Violence, Karen Andrews, who spoke so candidly about the devastating impact of this violence on victims-survivors and those people around them. These statements reinforce the cross-party commitment on this issue, an issue that requires action from all of us—men and women—in this place. This is why we are working with states and territories, through the national plan, to end violence against women and children in a generation. One death is one death is one too many.

The national plan includes a powerful statement from victims-survivors of gender-based violence. It implores us to put their experiences at the core of our policy-making and to truly listen to them. It reminds us that this is a matter of life and death. In that statement it says:

We should not have to die to get your attention.

It's confronting, but it's a message that we must hear. Ending this violence will save lives, because right now women and their children are dying.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the all-too-many women who have experienced domestic, family and sexual violence, the women who relived this experience of trauma in order to advocate for change, the women who live with the enduring emotional, physical and financial impacts of violence and the women who are not here today because their lives have been stolen by the deliberate acts of others—often those that they loved. I acknowledge the activists who have spent years and decades calling for action and the frontline workers who are on the ground supporting those victims-survivors to access help, support and justice. We know we've made a start, with the national plan and the investments to provide consent and respectful relationship education, to provide additional frontline service and community support workers, to prevent violence before it begins and intervene early to support men to change their behaviour, to respond to victims-survivors' needs and support their healing and recovery, and to implement all the recommendations from the Respect@Work report so that women are safe at work.

We're also looking at our investments in relation to housing. We know this is a massive issue for women wanting to escape violent situations with their children and also for older women, who we know are such a significant and growing group of people who are at risk of homelessness in this country. We've passed legislation to provide paid family and domestic violence leave. There is also the important work that's being led by Minister Rishworth and Minister Burney on a standalone First Nations action plan to sit under the national plan. There is work going on there, and from consultations to date we know that it is a national priority to finalise those action plans and get them in place.

We are targeting a key driver of violence against women through our work to advance gender equality. We know that, whilst the statistics remain as they are and the prevalence of violence remains as it is, we will not be able to achieve a country with gender equality at its core. This work includes investments in paid parental leave, early childhood education and our work to develop that national strategy. I know there's a lot of interest in the national strategy and people want the consultation process to get underway, and we welcome all of the input and the support that will be provided there. We are hoping to finalise that national strategy in the first half of next year.

We know that gender inequality is not only a key driver of gender based violence; it's also a result of it, with long-term impacts on women, their economic participation and the economy, and on their children. The cost of violence against women and their children has been estimated to be $26 billion a year, with victims-survivors bearing approximately 50 per cent of that cost. We know that we need to take action, and we'll continue to act, to listen, to consult and to talk with local communities. But we can't do it alone; we must work in partnership with a whole range of stakeholders, including all levels of government.

Every year when we have this day, I always am frustrated at the fact that we have to recognise this day each year because the prevalence of violence remains at this unacceptable level. But I am also optimistic. I believe in the aspiration of the national plan. I believe in the strength and support of the sector in driving to reach that goal—a goal which imagines a society that is free from gender based violence. It is ambitious, but if we work together we can achieve it. We know the importance of achieving it, because lives will be lost if we don't achieve it, and lives depend on us getting this policy response right. I'm proud that so many people in this place share this vision, determination and commitment. I acknowledge the work of Senator Waters, who has consistently and often in this place raised this to remind people of what's happening out there in our country.

Living free from violence is a human right. Women have the right to be safe in their homes, at work, in the community and online. So tomorrow, throughout the 16 days of activism and on all days, I encourage everyone to unite and consider the role they have to play and the actions they can take. Let's imagine a society without violence against women and children and let's commit to achieving an Australia and a world where all women and girls live free from violence and from fear.

3:49 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the government for providing this time for the chamber. As we mark another International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women—acknowledged, around the world, tomorrow—we should commence by remembering, 12 months on since the last day, those women and children across Australia and around the world who have lost their lives due to unacceptable, unforgiveable acts of violence. We should recall and remember those victims-survivors who have felt pain, anguish and loss through that period of time, whose lives have been changed forever as a result of the unacceptable actions of others. We should also recall those who are brave and who drive and work for change. We have come a long way across the globe, but we still have a very long way to go.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women has been observed on 25 November since at least 1981. Activists across the world selected that date to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960. It's been recognised by and at the UN General Assembly since at least 1999 as the official day.

Here in Australia, we have continued to recognise but also, most importantly, continued to do more. I want, early in my remarks, to particularly thank and acknowledge those who have ensured that we all do more and better understand, including men like me. It's important, critical, on occasions like this for men to take responsibility and to speak out too. In contemplating this time for the chamber today, we discussed whether my good friend, Senator Hume or I would lead the debate for the coalition. I decided that I should and that it's appropriate to do so, and it's appropriate for all of us to take and accept the responsibility that comes with doing so. But, with that, I acknowledge it is people like Senator Hume, Senator Payne, Senator Ruston and others across the chamber, on the crossbench, in the other chamber and perhaps even more so in the community, who have helped to educate me, as with many other men, about the responsibilities that we must take and accept to recognise the problems of violence against women, to understand those problems, to speak out and to call them out, and to support action for prevention and for support.

I was pleased last night to join the team and supporters of Our Watch for their annual event, thankfully back in person in this parliament after a couple of years of remote attendance. I was there with Senator Waters and others from around the chamber and across the parliament, as I and others have been before. The work of Our Watch and so many other organisations is crucial too, as their evidence based framework to guide the national approach to preventing violence against women says: 'Change the story. Change the story from one of perpetual death, violence and loss. Change the story to one in which future generations can have the type of hope and opportunity that we expect all to enjoy.'

Most of us lead fortunate lives. Most of us are lucky to avoid this type of violence, but far too many are touched by it. For those who have been so fortunate it is a responsibility for us to work and to do more. There are many causes of violence, but they all begin with disrespect against those that the violence is perpetuated against—disrespect in this case against women, against partners, against family members, against people who are meant to be loved ones—and it is that disrespect that we must work fundamentally to overcome.

One of the fundamental pillars in overcoming that disrespect is to achieve greater equality. Again, Australia and much of the world has made huge steps, but we have many more steps to take. I was proud that during our time in government we were able to see the majority—around 60 per cent—of new jobs created go to women and to see women's workforce participation reach record highs. I was pleased to see the gender pay gap close somewhat, but it still remains unacceptably high. I was pleased to be part of a government that provided funding through significant women's budget statements, particularly in my time as Minister for Finance—some $5.5 billion over the last two women's budget statements—across different spheres in relation to support, for health care, for academic activity and, critically, for women's safety. In the most recent budget there's a further $1.3 billion of support.

Of course, the funding itself is inconsequential without great organisations and successful and effective evidence based programs to help back it up—the work of Our Watch, Stop It at the Start, and Respectful Relationships, and effective education platforms. We're expanding domestic violence alert training. There's support in terms of domestic violence payments, emergency accommodation, legal protections, reforms in relation to cross-examination, frameworks that ensure perpetrators are held to account, and medical programs. There are a whole raft of initiatives that are crucial and are supported across our country, but no doubt they need continued support to help achieve the type of ambition that we have, which under the national plan is to end violence in a generation. It's ambitious and it will be difficult, but it is absolutely worth pursuing. It's a goal that we across all parties should remain sincerely and deeply committed to.

I, and I'm sure all others across the chamber, join in pledging to do what I can do and what we can to help ensure that we eliminate violence against women and children in our country, but we also act as an exemplar and a messenger to the rest of the world, recognising that in many other parts of the world the unacceptable grave statistics that we hear about our country are replicated and are even worse. We have that responsibility in our region, with other partners and in other cultures to do what we respectfully can to educate, support and affect change, be it here across our broad country and the many cultures represented here or elsewhere in many different and diverse circumstances, so that ultimately all women and girls can look to a life of safety, opportunity and equality.

3:57 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I welcome those words from the senators who have spoken so far. I also welcome the fact that we are having this debate in the Senate, as they did in the House yesterday. It's appropriate. I thank the government for that.

Tomorrow marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It also marks the start of the 16 days of activism to end gendered violence globally. As with all international days, it is a reason to pause and reflect, but that cannot be the sum total of our attention on this issue.

Globally one in three women have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. Of those women only one in 10 go to the police for help. Of those who go to the police for help, many never have their complaints taken seriously and properly investigated or their abusers charged, and even fewer than that manage to secure a prosecution.

These statistics are shockingly familiar in Australia. We can't claim to be doing any better than our neighbours. We can't pretend that sexism and disrespect don't underline the culture in many workplaces, clubs and homes in our country. In Australia, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence since they were 15. On average, one woman is killed by a current or former partner every nine days.

This year 40 women have been killed. When we used to have motions I used to recognise the names of the women who had been killed since the last motion. Unfortunately, we've lost the procedural ability to recognise those women, but we won't forget them. We know the figure is at 40 because a volunteer organisation tracks them, not because we have a national toll of women killed, which is something that the Greens have pushed for for years and still think would be a very meritorious idea.

I also want to note that First Nations women experience significantly higher rates of violence throughout their lives and reiterate our support for a standalone national plan to end violence against First Nations women and children that is designed, implemented and evaluated by First Nations women and community controlled organisations. First Nations women know what needs to be done to end violence in their communities, and they need to be empowered to take action. My colleague Senator Cox will speak about the importance of that work in her contribution. She is currently with another colleague, Senator Thorpe, at an event to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the establishment of the inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and the appalling fact that a lot of violence against First Nations women goes unreported.

The last few years in particular have laid bare the pervasive nature of gendered violence across Australia. Brave young women have come forward and forced this conversation onto the national agenda. We've all talked about it many times, but despite this, on a lot of metrics, the first national plan to reduce violence against women and their children failed. Violence against women remains shockingly high. Sexual assault amongst people under 25 has actually increased. Things need to change. I'm very pleased that the second national plan commits to ending gendered violence within a generation. It's an ambitious goal, but it's critical that we all work together to make that happen. We can't just keep coming back and making speeches about how things need to change. Things actually need to change. Many, often survivors themselves, work behind the scenes to support survivors to get justice or just peace and safety to rebuild their lives. We owe it to those women to do everything we can to end gendered violence now.

Stopping this violence starts with believing and listening to survivors and learning from their experience so that others don't have to suffer the same harm. The victim-survivor statement in the national plan is a powerful call to action, to listen, to hear, to act, and the new Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner, Micaela Cronin, has been tasked with ensuring that all actions are grounded in the experience of victims-survivors. It is tough and critical work. We need survivor-centred essential services that understand and respect survivor experiences and don't compound trauma when help is sought. This requires specialist services that understand the specific needs of First Nations women, young women, older women, disabled women, LGBTIQ+ women and women from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Stopping violence against women will take systemic action to tackle root causes, transform harmful social norms and empower women and girls. Gender inequality and gender stereotypes foster disrespect. All of the evidence confirms a correlation between rigid gender stereotypes and rates of violence, so small things like calling out casual sexism will actually help to drive the cultural change that, ultimately, will stop so many women being killed.

Individuals must be held to account, but we have to go beyond individual behaviours, and we have to consider the broader social, political and economic factors that drive violence against women. We must promote the equal distribution of power, resources and opportunities between men and women. We know that you can't be what you can't see and that workplaces like ours should be showing leadership in the representation of women in decision-making roles. We do okay in the Senate, but our friends in the House have a long way to go to reach gender parity.

Critically, stopping gendered violence requires properly funding the organisations that do the work on the front lines of this epidemic. In estimates a few weeks ago we learned that the government doesn't have any data on unmet need, but I hear from services on a very regular basis that every day they have to turn women away from shelters, from calls to support services and from legal services because they don't have enough funding to help everyone who reaches out for help. The sector have repeatedly said that it will take an investment of $1 billion a year to make sure that they're able to help everyone who reaches out for that help. That's the absolute minimum that women should expect from their government, but the government delivered less than half of that amount in the recent budget. What a tragic missed opportunity.

We need to also fund prevention programs. Respectful relationships curriculum needs to be embedded from early education onward. Targeted prevention programs, workplace training to make sure employers can identify and act on abusive behaviour—we must effectively engage men and boys in that prevention work. Some positive men's behaviour change programs were funded in the budget, and we welcome that. Men need to take responsibility, and they need to be better.

We also need proper investment in housing, in crisis accommodation, in transitional housing and in long-term affordable housing options. No woman should have to choose between violence and homelessness, yet that is the consistent evidence that we have received from frontline organisations for years. It's particularly acute for older women. No-one should be turned away because a shelter doesn't have enough beds, but, unless women are confident they've got somewhere to go, too many will stay in dangerous situations. Delays in accessing crisis or social housing can literally cost women their lives. The recent budget allocation of $100 million for 720 homes for DV survivors is a drop in the ocean of what is required.

We also desperately need to lift income support and raise wages so that women have the financial security they need to get free, to seek help, to stay safe and to leave if they need to. We know that it can take 140 hours and at least $18,000, on average, to escape an abusive relationship. That's something that women on low incomes or in insecure work simply don't have. We strongly welcome the introduction of paid family and domestic violence leave just a few weeks ago. That's an important safety net, but more needs to be done. The government's escaping violence payments, which are designed to provide emergency funding to help women escape abuse, are oversubscribed. Women are having to wait 28 business days to access funds. I'm sorry, but that's not good enough.

We need to recognise and understand the insidious forms of violence and abuse, including coercive control and financial abuse. We know that up to 70,000 women were coerced into withdrawing their super early during COVID. Earlier this week, the Centre for Women's Economic Safety shone a light on the role that banks could play in ensuring that financial products like credit cards, mortgage payments and bank transfer descriptions can't be weaponised. We call on the banking industry to do that voluntarily and, if they won't, for government to work to regulate.

We need to address the culture in our policing and legal systems, which have let women down time and time again. The review of the culture within the Queensland Police Service released this week is devastating but, sadly, deeply unsurprising reading. It can't be a mystery to anyone why so many women choose not to report. We need holistic, expert wraparound services and alternative pathways for reporting and addressing violence. We need to understand the experience of victims-survivors who say that the legal process was re-traumatising, and we need to listen to them about what needs to change.

Last night I attended an Our Watch event, and I want to acknowledge the work that they do as the premier experts on prevention. They're an incredible resource, and I urge everyone in this place to take a look at their resources. As for workplaces, I look forward to discussing Respect@Work tonight. I will conclude by saying ending violence against women and children is a job for all of us. We've all got to make this happen within this generation, if not before.

4:07 pm

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tomorrow is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day is a global call to action, when we are being asked to unite in activism to end violence against women and against girls. We know that worldwide one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. These aren't just international statistics, though; these are statistics reflected in the Australian experience. It's one in three here too. We know that on average one woman every 10 days in Australia will be killed by an intimate partner. When we include sexual harassment in the picture, it is even bleaker: 53 per cent of women will have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. These are women we know, women we love—this is us.

Every Australian has the right to live a life free from violence, whether at home, at school, at work or in their community. And violence is not inevitable. We know this. That's why we're taking action as a government to end it. I acknowledge where there has been bipartisan support to do that, and I acknowledge the work of many senators in this place who have made that work part of their core mission and core business in the Senate and in public life.

As a government, we are committed to addressing the underlying factors that drive gender based violence as well as rates of violence, and we've backed this up with a record $1.7 billion worth of investment. As senators here know, in October our government released the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children. This is the national policy framework which will guide our efforts and actions over the next decade. Along with the states and territories, our government has committed to a shared goal of ending gendered violence within one generation. It's an ambitious goal, and for it to be achieved will require tangible actions. The plan outlines actions to address gender discrimination, implement prevention strategies and embed effective early intervention approaches, and importantly it outlines actions that will build the frontline sector workforce to ensure women and children can access tailored and culturally safe support no matter where they live. As Senator Waters said so eloquently, we know that whilst this is an issue which affects all women in our community, it does affect certain women in our community more than others. That includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and that is why there will also be a standalone plan focused on domestic and family violence against First Nations women and children.

The work under this plan is important, but so too are the other policies our government has been working on, including paid family and domestic violence leave, our work and significant and substantial investments in housing and our work in implementing the recommendations of the Respect@Work report. I'm proud of these policies, I'm proud to be part of a government that recognises the fundamental right of women and children to live safely and without fear and I'm proud of the bipartisan efforts to come together on this mission and this goal. This isn't an easy fix; it requires all of us, not just in government but across all parts of our communities, to work together to drive the systemic changes required to stop this type of violence at its core, to stand up and to loudly and fiercely say that we will not stand for domestic and family violence anymore, that we will not stand for violence against women and children, that we will take action, that we will invest the money required to do so and that we won't stop fighting until every single woman and child feels safe in their home, in their school, in their workplace, in their community, in this country, in the world. No lesser goal is worthy of our efforts. No lesser goal will do.

4:11 pm

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise also to lend my contribution to this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, held on 25 November each year. Addressing violence against women remains at the forefront of women's issues right around the world and in Australia as well. I once went to an event to raise money for an organisation that assists women fleeing from domestic violence, and the MC said to the audience, 'Ladies, look into your partner's eyes.' People all dressed up in their ball gowns looked adoringly into their partner's eyes, and then the MC said, 'This is the man whose hands you are most likely to die in.' Of course, there was an uncomfortable titter around the room, but when people thought about what that actually meant it was extraordinarily confronting.

More than half the women killed around the world in 2017 died at the hands of an intimate partner or of a relative. That was around 50,000 women. On average, each week in Australia a woman is killed by a violent or controlling male whom she knows. It's harrowing, it's disturbing and it is totally unacceptable. The figures and statistics don't end there. One in four Australian women have had experiences of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, and in all likelihood we know many of these victim-survivors. Indeed there are likely to be many in here today. Intimate partner violence contributes to more deaths, more disabilities and more illnesses in Australian women aged between 15 and 44 than any other preventable risk factor. That includes smoking. It includes obesity. It includes high blood pressure.

Stories of family and domestic violence are distressing, and they stay with you. From my home state of Victoria I think of Poonam Sharma and her six-year-old daughter, Vanessa, stabbed in their home in Mill Park in January this year by her husband. I think of Kylie Griffiths, a mother of six, whose husband set fire to their home in Albanvale. I think of Shirley Kidd, a grandmother who died of fatal injuries in Bacchus Marsh. Of course, no-one can forget the horrific story of Hannah Clarke and her three children in Queensland. It doesn't bear repeating. There are, unfortunately, so many names across Australia, and we hear these stories constantly from police, from nurses, from doctors, from careworkers, from family and from friends, helpless and grieving. We hear them also from the victims-survivors whose lives will never be the same. These stories remind us that, despite the progress we've made as a society, there is still so much that can and must be done. The dedication of this day gives us an opportunity to reflect on, to confront and to oppose violence towards women—the blight that has transcended time, culture and location. While it is a global issue, that is no excuse for inaction. It must be addressed domestically, it must be addressed locally and it must be addressed culturally as well. All forms of family and domestic violence have their genesis in lack of respect for a partner. We need to change our behaviour, change our thoughts, change our values and change our levels of tolerance for this behaviour.

I was very proud that, in government, the coalition committed a total of $2 billion since 2013 to address family and domestic violence through programs that focused on prevention, early intervention, response and recovery. We funded initiatives like Our Watch and 'Stop it at the Start' which was an extraordinarily successful campaign around changing attitudes. It was recognised by three in five adults, encouraging action towards more respectful relationships. We expanded DV-alert training. The escaping violence payment, which was a new initiative, delivered tailored assistance to victims-survivors who were escaping relationships, providing wraparound services to those who wanted to flee a dangerous home. Other initiatives included maintaining protection against cross-examination by family violence perpetrators and increasing legal assistance, including family advocacy support services, children's contact services and the very well-known—in fact, part of the vernacular now—1800RESPECT service.

It's so important that we continue a bipartisan response to this. Women must feel safe, free from violence and free from fear in order to be equal. The responsibility for this lies with us all.

4:16 pm

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Gallagher for her statement about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Sadly, many people have become numb to the shocking global statistics on violence against women and children. More than a billion women worldwide—or around one in three—have experienced physical or sexual violence. Some of the most shocking forms of abuse include child sexual abuse, child marriage, human trafficking and slavery, and female genital mutilation. Of course, we know that violence around the world isn't perpetrated exclusively against women and girls, but women and girls are overwhelmingly and disproportionately the victims of it. Many proud Australians would like to think of our country as being the envy of the world and much more enlightened. In many respects we are. We are a wealthy, peaceful, democratic country that values freedom and the rule of law. But, when it comes to violence against women and children, this is one area where, to our great shame, we have made far less progress than we should have.

In Australia, one woman is killed by a current or former intimate partner every 10 days. Almost 10 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner. Police are called to a domestic or family violence matter every two minutes. One in three women has experienced physical violence and one in five women has experienced sexual violence, from the age of 15. A little over half—53 per cent—of women, have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. We all know that the situation is worse for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. For example, in 2018-19, Indigenous women were 29 times as likely as non-Indigenous women to be hospitalised as a result of non-fatal family violence assaults.

Violence against women and/or children is estimated to cost Australia $26 billion a year, but that dollar figure doesn't account for the enormous physical, emotional and psychological costs that victims experience. As has been said, tomorrow is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the theme for this year is 'UNiTE: Activism to end violence against women and girls'. A global campaign of 16 days of activism starts tomorrow and concludes on 10 December, or international Human Rights Day. We cannot underestimate the value and the power of awareness of this issue as just a first step to eliminating violence. Much of the problem of violence against women happens behind closed doors, and so raising awareness helps to bring it out in the open. The Me Too movement has been instrumental in showing the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment. It has empowered victims-survivors to speak out and to show others that they are not alone.

For many years, I worked as an early childhood educator. As one of the co-chairs of Australian Parliamentarians for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, APPCAN, I want to highlight the impact the culture of violence against women and children actually has on children. It manifests in the violence against girls perpetuated by adult men. It manifests in the sexual harassment experienced by girls in school, in sport, in day-to-day living. It manifests in boys who have grown up in a culture of toxic masculinity and who have not learnt how to have healthy, respectful relationships. It manifests in the trauma experienced by children—boys and girls—when they witness family violence at home.

Protecting children from this violence takes on a particular significance, not just because of the vulnerability of children but because of the effects it has on them later in life. If gender based violence is normalised for children, boys who grow to become men will often learn it is acceptable to treat women that way, and girls who grow to become women will not be empowered to escape the violence. Protecting children is key to preventing the violence experienced by and perpetuated against women in adulthood.

I commend the work that has gone into the Australian government's 10-year National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, released on 17 October this year. This plan is the national policy framework that will guide the government's actions over the next decade to eliminate violence against women and their children. I am proud to be part of a government that has committed $1.7 billion to fighting gender based violence in our recent budget. We heard Senator Gallagher outline some of those initiatives in question time, but government alone cannot fix this problem, so I encourage everyone in the community to work together to end gender based violence. We have to do this because, as we have heard, one death is one death too many.

4:22 pm

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to again congratulate the government on the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children and I acknowledge the work of the former government on this too. I thank the many members of this Senate who have worked tirelessly on this.

One in six women in Australia have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. The elimination of violence against women and children before 2032 is a bold plan. This work and this cultural change is clearly urgent. The target is very ambitious, and the achievement of this target is contingent on a cultural shift, a mindset shift, amongst Australians. This shift requires individuals, families and communities across Australia to challenge much of our ingrained patriarchal thinking that normalises male domination and power. It requires us to rethink the normalcy of violent actions which are so prevalent in our modern society. This is uncomfortable and challenging work, but we all stand to gain from this. It's an uncomfortable thing to challenge our ingrained attitudes—things that we learn growing up and just take as the way things are. Cultural change is hard, but it can be done.

We have heard much about toxic masculinity. I have a concern that this is not often the most helpful way to talk about it to drive change. As the late author bell hooks put it:

The crisis facing men is not the crisis of masculinity, it is the crisis of patriarchal masculinity. Until we make this distinction clear, men will continue to fear that any critique of patriarchy represents a threat.

Clearly, this is something we need to be able to talk about more as men. Violence against women needs to become a men's issue. We all need to stand up on this issue, and we all stand to gain as we are part of this shift in thinking and our culture. Clearly, this is up to all of us, not just women. We need men to stand up and speak out, to call out sexism, to have the difficult conversations with our friends in our peer groups about the things that we've learnt—about what it means to be a man and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to seek help and support when we need it, rather than believing that to be a man is to be tough and not show weakness. This shift needs to come from every person in Australia, regardless of gender and age. We all have a role to play.

Now is a fitting time to be talking about this, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women tomorrow. I'd like to note that, to mark this day, the Zonta Club of Canberra will be lighting Canberra orange. This is something Zonta do each year as part of their 16 days of activism to keep raising attention to this matter. The Malcolm Fraser Bridge will glow, so too will each of our light-rail stops, the National Carillon and, importantly, this building, which is a focal point of both Canberra and the nation, in recognition of the decisions that get made here on behalf of Australians.

I hope that this small gesture at Parliament House, supporting Zonta and their efforts, goes some way to highlighting the support and the work that is being done across parliament to further this issue. I invite senators who will be in Canberra tomorrow night to come and speak with Zonta at 7.30, just after the sun sets, out the front of Parliament House. For those who can't make it, we all have a role to play in this: start to have those conversations; start to speak to loved ones and to friends about how we shift this. It is an ambitious plan. It is a worthy goal. It is something that is possible. There are so many people who have dedicated their lives and are working tirelessly to make this happen.

Just to finish, I want to give a shout out to some of our local organisations who are working on the front line here in the ACT dealing with the impacts of domestic and family violence every day. That includes the YWCA, the DVCS, and the Beryl and Doris women's refuges. Thank you for all you do for our community.

4:27 pm

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (NT, Country Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to express my support for the government leading the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, and I'd also like to begin by recognising the work of my own mother, the first Warlpiri speaking, the first language speaking, minister in the Northern Territory government, of the former Country Liberal Party, Bess Nungarrayi Price. She was integral in the establishment of the very first national action plan to reduce domestic violence, and she worked closely with my now colleague Senator Michaelia Cash.

It was very difficult for her, but this is an issue that is very close to our hearts, both my mother and I being survivors. We have also seen violence played out within our immediate family over the years and have experienced the challenges of being Aboriginal women in a traditional Aboriginal context. We talk about culture, and today we are bringing to light the traditional cultural impacts that immediately affect our family. When I hear my colleagues speak of the rates of violence against Aboriginal women in this country, they're speaking about the women in my family. There's a lack of understanding or want of understanding to understand those cultural impacts of when young girls are promised to older men and are forced to be in outstations, where, like my aunt, they go missing for decades. They are forced into those circumstances. When these circumstances are supported by family members, it makes it even it harder for Aboriginal women. It makes it harder when Aboriginal women try to get up and talk about these circumstances and we're immediately affected by our own traditional culture. Others call you a sellout; others call you many different names but don't want to recognise the pressures that we come under as those who live under the confines of traditional Aboriginal culture.

If we were to address this correctly, we would see rates of incarceration drop dramatically. We would see children being able to live in homes free of violence. We would start to see the sort of equality that we want in this country if we could actually recognise those elements that are most destructive, those elements that have taken away the lives of many of my family members, those elements that led to the death of Candy Napaljarri; Marion Napurrurla, her daughter; Kayleen Nungarrayi, another mother to me; Linda Nangala, my niece, who was stabbed in a town camp and killed, who left two children behind; Rita Penangke, my aunt, who left my little cousin behind; Rosalie Nungarrayi, my mother's sister, who was stabbed and killed in a town camp in Katherine; Caroline Napaljarri, my cousin; and, Stephanie Napaljarri, my cousin whose body I had to ID in a morgue.

If we are serious in this nation about lowering the rates of domestic violence for Aboriginal women, we have to listen to the voices of the women who are prepared to speak up. One of those voices is Cheron Long, who I brought to this parliament last year, and her sister, Meescha. Her sister was found hanged from a boab tree in a Territory community, but they believe she was murdered. The investigation didn't find that. These are injustices that need to be followed up in this country. These voices, those ones that are rarely heard, need to be heard in this conversation. Otherwise, we'll continue to see the rates of deaths of Indigenous women remain at critically high levels. These deaths are due to family and domestic violence and sexual abuse that are experienced in places that are out of sight and out of mind to the rest of this country. It must be understood. We talk about culture and toxic masculinity. It occurs in traditional Aboriginal culture as well. I know because my family have been subjected to it, and we need to start taking this seriously.

4:33 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Tomorrow is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, another day of significance in our calendars where we as First Nations women try desperately to have our stories heard, heard here in this place, heard in the media and heard in the courtroom. It's a day where a lot of us can only hope that our blak lives and our blak bodies matter, too.

I pay my respects and I honour our women and the struggles and the trauma we face every day. I particularly honour those who have lost their lives. First Nations women are the backbone of our communities—strong, staunch and loyal. Our women care and fight for country, keep our families together and keep our communities grounded and strong. First Nations women bear the brunt of colonisation in a way like no other. We face a greater risk of domestic and family violence in this country. The statistics paint a heartbreaking image. That image like a mirror, really.

When I see the statistics, I think of the physical violence, the broken teeth, the bruised blak bodies and the sexual violence and harassment. I think of those calls all blak women know too well, of our sister girls wailing down the other end of the phone. I think of the mattress coming into the lounge room, for the woman who is now homeless. I think of our women being demonised by child protection services. I think of our babies being removed, torn from their mothers' arms. I think of the police not viewing us as the 'right type' of domestic violence victim. And I think of our women sitting in intimidating courtrooms, seeking safety from the same system that on every other day is violent and unjust towards our blak bodies. We know that violence against our women continues after the assault, through systemic racism. Domestic violence is crippling for all victims-survivors, and I acknowledge this. The sad reality is that our voices, our pain and our solutions are not heard or taken as seriously as those of white women.

We need a holistic approach that addresses not only the immediate problem we face but also the historic, political and socioeconomic factors which we did not cause but which contribute to this violence. We need a self-determined, standalone plan designed and delivered by First Nations women. First Nations women have cared for and sustained this country for thousands of generations. Our leadership will only strengthen this country for all.

The Albanese government have said that they support a standalone plan to end violence against First Nations women in this country, but they haven't given us any detail or funding commitments to get this critical work done. This is urgent and overdue. We need to work together to make it happen. Today and every day I will fight for the lives of black women in this country. I will not allow our pain, our struggle and our survival to go by the wayside.

4:37 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senators, we are at our best when we speak from the heart and we speak about domestic violence. I want to say how moved I've been today by the contributions thus far about one of the most uncomfortable of topics. It is, in fact, one of the most important topics, where we can actually demonstrate to the community that it is a topic that affects each and every one of us in our communities, because there's no discrimination when it comes to domestic violence, and if you've never walked the walk, it's not so easy to talk the truth.

We in our society need to educate the men and the women, the girls and the boys about respect—and respect for one another. That's why I'm proud to be in the Senate today: it does demonstrate that, as senators, we can be respectful to each other and listen to one another when we're talking about a topic that has touched too many of us and our families. In Australia, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. One in three Australian women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by a man they know. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner since age 15.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls around the world. But we in our own communities should be the leaders. We should speak up. As many here have acknowledged, community leaders and people in this place, the other place and state parliaments have the aim, as one of their main aims as public figures, of changing the attitudes of too many who turn a blind eye to what is happening to their neighbours and families and, in fact, what is happening in their own homes. We need to be open. We need to show compassion in relation to domestic violence. Too often, when a woman is in a violent situation, people ask, 'Why doesn't she just leave?' What we should be asking is, 'Who could she turn to and where will she go?' We need to remove the burden from victims and provide an opportunity for them to have a safe place to land. It takes enormous courage for a woman to pack up her children and leave a violent situation.

I'm proud of the Albanese Labor government because we are acting, and I know from the debate today that we have the support of those who have spoken and those who won't get the opportunity to speak today. Women who escape this violent, intense situation need to have somewhere to go. We need to provide affordable housing for these women and children. If you're a child raised in a home where there is domestic violence and coercion, you're more likely to stay in that type of relationship in adulthood. We must break down the barriers.

It has been fantastic to have some of our male senators make a contribution today and to hear that they have been educated by not only women in this chamber but also in the other place and by leaders in our community. It's a huge task and we know it's huge, but we have to start. Domestic violence is everyone's business, not just those in this chamber. It's not the police force that has to enforce the law. It is the responsibility of all of us. That's why we have to encourage men in the community to step in and tell their mates, 'That's enough. You're going too far.'

Whatever circumstances you're in, every young girl, every young boy, every male and every female deserves to be treated with respect and protected from any type of violence in this country—because one death is one too many.

4:42 pm

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

PAYNE () (): I acknowledge and thank my colleagues for their indulgence. This is a very important day not just here but across Australia and our region. I want to record the strong support of the opposition, in this place, for the statement and initiative of this debate.

Our focus as a government on women's safety was a strong one, as demonstrated in the budget of 2022-23. We clearly said that we wanted to create an Australia that is free from violence against women and children, and where women are safe and respected, by focusing on the four pillars of prevention, early intervention, response and recovery. Our policies and funding followed that focus. We had a specific Minister for Women's Safety in our government. My friend and colleague Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston is unable to be here this afternoon and I want to acknowledge her contribution.

I had the extraordinary privilege of hosting, chairing perhaps, a significant number of women's round tables in my previous ministerial role. They were held in Australian capital cities and regional areas across the states and territories, some of them forced online by the invidious nature of COVID. It was an extraordinary privilege to hear dozens and dozens of Australian women. These were immensely powerful opportunities for them to share their views and experiences from vastly different walks of life across our country. More times than I care to remember, disclosures were made, at those round tables, of individual and family experiences and, inevitably, sometimes for the first time. Everybody would stop in their tracks and realise that we all know someone who has experienced family and domestic violence in their lives. For many, that is a confronting fact to accept.

Today is an opportunity for me to thank the people who participated in those round tables, who were so open and frank with us, who challenged me and those who attended. It's also an opportunity to thank those who work to support women and their children across Australia and victims-survivors across this country, as Senator Pocock did in his remarks. I also thank the many frontline workers and organisations that do everything and anything they can to support and protect women and their children and to prevent violence. Many of us here work with them and support them in our communities. Their work is often not acknowledged, and I want to do that now.

Across New South Wales and as a minister, I have met so many people whose lives are committed to this issue. I know Patty Kinnersly and Moo Baulch were here in parliament this week, and I want to acknowledge them and their work with Our Watch and the previous chair, Natasha Stott Despoja, for what they do. I want to acknowledge ANROWS for their vital research and I want to acknowledge the refuges that exist across our communities to protect women who have nowhere else to go. In New South Wales and perhaps elsewhere—I'm not sure how far they have spread—there's the organisation Women's Community Shelters, the initiative of Annabelle Daniel and so many others, including people like Yvonne Keane in Western Sydney.

There are refuges like The Haven in Penrith, such an important service in our community. I acknowledge one member of the board, my very good friend who is actually the mayor of Penrith, Tricia Hitchen. She has gone from police inspector in Western Sydney to a board member of a refuge. She has gone from pursuing perpetrators to ensure that they paid the price for their attacks on vulnerable women and children to being able to support women and children who have nowhere else to go. Tricia doesn't turn a hair at the thought that she needs to pick up the toilet paper supplies or the cereal or whatever it might on any day be for The Haven. That is nothing to her because it delivers for those women and children, and I'm immensely proud of what she does in my community.

As human services minister I initiated a program in the Department of Human Services in relation to the prevention of family and domestic violence and support for victims and perpetrators, called Enough. I was very proud of that. At the moment I'm the deputy chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Parliamentary Standards, and I serve on that committee with my colleagues Senator Chandler, Nola Marino and others. The committee is chaired by Sharon Claydon. After we finish with our parliamentary standards report, I want to make sure that we take steps to address support for people in this place that experience family and domestic violence: the workers, the staff, the contractors and others. (Time expired)

4:47 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The 16 days of activism against gender based violence is an annual international campaign that starts on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Violence against women does not happen in a vacuum; it is most often perpetrated by men, and it is time to seriously reckon with that fact and how we change it. A whole-of-society approach that tackles the root cause of the problem that is patriarchy and the power imbalance it creates is really the way forward. This means recognising the systemic ways that women's inequality is linked to violence and how violence and abuse is sustained through this inequality. Women continue to be underemployed and underpaid and they represent the vast majority of workers in precarious and undervalued work, such as in the care economy. Violence against women is preventable, and greater gender equity is at the heart of the solution.

We know that First Nations women as well as women of colour are far more likely to face domestic and family violence. The fact is that Aboriginal women and women of colour also face many extra barriers trying to access services. Systemic racism is part and parcel of our institutions, such as health, law enforcement and justice. There is a complete and utter lack of investment in Aboriginal community controlled organisations that specialise in providing culturally safe family violence services. Similarly, there are very few services funded especially for women of colour or trans women or women with disability. This is an unacceptable situation. We know that family violence increased during COVID, but let's be frank here, let's look at the truth: violence against women was at epidemic levels in this country even before the pandemic began, and the lack of support services and women's refuges has meant that women have always been trapped in homes with their abusers because they simply have nowhere to go.

Every year we count the numbers and every year they are distressingly high. Politicians in this place on days like today say how shocked they are and how terrible it is, yet governments are still unwilling to take the necessary steps and to invest at the large scale needed to tackle violence and abuse. Counting Dead Women Australia—who have taken on the heartbreaking and difficult work of doing just that: counting how many women we lose to violence every year—say that, as of this week, we have lost 40 women in Australia this year.

A case that really broke my heart is that of Arnima Hayat, a 19-year-old medical student who was found dead in a bathtub full of acid in her North Parramatta home in early February. Her new husband was later charged with murder after handing himself in. Her young life was cut short. Her family said she'd aspired to be a surgeon. Arnima was just a teenager.

This story, and others like it, can't be 'just another story', and then we move on. We know what needs to be done and we must do it now. We know that at the heart of violence against women is control, misogyny and sexism and a culture that continues to endorse these. This kind of violence happens repeatedly because there are apologists for toxic masculinity in society. It's plainly and painfully obvious that we need to do much more. Governments need to do more; society needs to do more. Victim survivors who do reach out rely on a system that is desperately underfunded and overstretched. There is a dangerous shortage of services for survivors of domestic violence all over the country. When women, some with children in tow, have taken the brave step to walk away from violence, there is nowhere to go—no safe place to go to.

Our goal should be to prevent and end domestic violence. To do that, we can't have bandaid solutions. It can't be one size fits all or something based on administrative rationalism. It has to be holistic—an all-encompassing approach that actually changes culture and systems, at the same time as it provides the best possible care and services for victims and survivors.

4:52 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Trade) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to use the few minutes that I have to speak directly to men and boys who might be listening. Violence against women—the violence so regularly perpetrated against women and girls—is an issue for you. It affects women, sure—in small ways and in big ways. Sometimes it's the immediate trauma; sometimes it reverberates in the months and years to follow. It does affect women, sure. But it is perpetrated by men against women and girls. Of course it's a human rights issue. It really is, though, I think, a men's issue. It is men who perpetrate the violence, after all.

Why should women and girls bear the burden of dealing with the violence that is perpetrated against them? Individual women and girls bear that burden, of course, when they speak up about the violence that is perpetrated against them, or against their friends or their daughters; when they speak to the police, or to their parents; or when they go through the long and difficult, unlikely and often fruitless process of seeking justice or just trying to stop it happening again.

Imagine then—consider, for a moment—the courage and determination of young women like Chanel Contos or Saxon Mullins. What courage, what determination, what decency—to put aside their own interests, to put themselves into the public, in the interests of all Australian women and girls. And the hundreds of young women with whom they spoke, who spoke up themselves to policy-makers about their experience—that, I think, is real courage. We should celebrate their courage, their resilience and the dignity with which they spoke. And we should listen.

I don't know if you know, but so often, when women get together, if you overhear, they talk about this violence. It's violence perpetrated against them at home, at work, at school, at university, at their friends' homes—in so many public and private settings. Mostly what men should do is listen, reflect, act and lead, because the burden of acting on violence against women should fall on men—all of us. If so many women are the victims of intimate-partner violence or of sexual assaults in the home, in social settings or in public or if they are subjected to sexual harassment at work, then an awful lot of men are engaged in violence. That means that the problem is wide and deep in Australian culture.

From brutal, catastrophic assaults to the accumulation of small, daily, physical or verbal assaults and intimidations that leach the joy and confidence away from so many women—it's the boys at high school, the men at the pub or the club or the BBQ, the male students and lecturers at uni or TAFE, the workmates and the supervisors who need to show the same courage and the same decency that all those women like Ms Mullins and Ms Contos have shown to stand up to take the wind out of the sails of men who say things that denigrate women, make light of violence or commit violence.

Culture is critical. It doesn't remove individual responsibility or agency, but leadership matters and so does culture and behaviour at work, school, uni and TAFE. Workplace sexual harassment is violence perpetrated against women in their workplace. Again, it's women who have provided leadership here. I saw that the Attorney-General made some appointments today to the Respect@Work Council, and I want to recognise some of the women who I know who have been appointed to that council. I congratulate everyone who has been appointed to that council, but Emeline Gaske, Julia Fox, Jo Schofield, Mel Donnelly and Abbey Kendall are women in the trade union movement who have led the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace. I congratulate them in anticipation of all the leadership that they are going to show again.

Violence against women and girls happens everywhere—in families, at school, at work, in political parties and parliaments, in the street, in our clubs, in our organisations and in our unions. When men see it, they must act. Call out thuggishness, violence, misogyny, whether it is deliberate and calculated or careless or reckless. That's my message to men and boys. Stand up with the courage of the women and girls in our lives.

4:57 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There are few issues that unite everyone in this place more than this issue. I commend Senator Ayres and the other men who have spoken on this issue here today.

While International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is one day, we have to find in this place a way to make it every single day that we stand up in this place, lead by example and do everything we can to eliminate violence against women. This unites us as women, as senators and as human beings. All of us in this place know somebody who is the victim of coercion, domestic violence, physical violence or sexual violence, and some, as we heard so poignantly. have multiple members, in the case of Senator Nampijinpa Price, whose female relatives and friends have been murdered.

We all need to stand up and say very clearly that there is no such thing as family violence and there is no such thing as domestic abuse. It is violence, it is murder and it is a crime. The diminishing of this as family violence or as things that are acceptable to remain hidden in plain sight, behind closed doors, has to end. We are in such a great position to do that because it does unite each and everyone of us.

I was very, very proud to be a member of the cabinet task force on women's safety and economic security with my other cabinet colleagues who put so much work and passion into the women's budget statements and into the many programs that we initiated with great passion for women's safety and women's economic security. Because there can be no safety without economic security.

We know, and I think we all know here today, that no matter how many policies you have and how much money we throw at this issue—as important as those things both are—nothing will change if we do not change the attitudes of all Australians. Fifty per cent of Australians don't know what to look for, they don't know what it looks like and they certainly do not know how to call it out. Not only do we have the responsibility to set the example here—to make sure we support the best possible budget statements, the best possible policies and the government of the day to implement them—but we also have to do more in our own communities and in our own families to call it out for what it is. Whether you are in an Aboriginal community in Alice Springs, or our neighbours next door, this is happening.

I want to quote from the United Nations Secretary General, who said:

Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time …

How right he is, because this is not just an issue for women in other nations; it is as much of a problem in our own societies, as much as we try not to accept that this is the case.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating breaches of human rights in our own nation. Clearly, this is a problem for us as much as it is for anywhere else, whether it's in this nation that you are vulnerable, or overseas, whether from war, famine or the many other factors that make people vulnerable—you can be just as vulnerable in the house next door to us in all of our suburbs all around our nation. Having a look at this and accepting that this is a problem for us, and having so many men in this chamber today calling it out, is a great, great next step. Let's do what we can in this place on a multipartisan basis to make every single day a day where we work together to eliminate violence in all its forms against women and girls.

5:02 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Violence against women and children is not inevitable. It does not have to be the standard we set for ourselves as a nation. It does not have to take the toll that it does on women and children our world. Too many women and children experience gender-based violence. I have experienced it as a child, and I know the lifelong psychological damage that it can do. We know that one woman dies every 10 days at the hands of her former or current partner. Thirty per cent of women have experienced violence by a partner, another known person or a stranger since the age of 15. We all know it needs to stop.

I note that we need to talk deeply about these issues. People say it is a crime—yes, it is a crime, but not every child will want to send their father to jail, for example. It's really important that we know how to stop this abuse while supporting families, whether they choose to stay together or separate through that journey in a way that keeps everybody safe. Every Australian should have the right to live a life free from violence. I'm proud of what our government is doing in partnership with state and territory governments, and that is indeed about addressing underlying factors that drive gender-based violence—underlying factors that we can change, and that relate to cultural and gender norms. We know that men experience gender-based violence, too. They can experience family and domestic violence, but it doesn't happen at the same rate as it does to women. One in 13 men has experienced this, according to the data. I recognise that there may be more men in this context. But it does not detract from the fact that it is often gender norms that underlie the nature of gender based domestic violence and are part of generating that violence to start with. When we have debates in this chamber where we talk about violence against men being under-recognised, but do it in a way that exacerbates restrictive gender norms and continues to put people in very, very narrow boxes, we're not going to fix anyone's domestic or gender based violence issues.

In that context of addressing these issues of family and domestic violence, we can talk about ending violence against women and children, but that is not to make it as if we are deprioritising men. When we value people's ability to live freely, to express their gender identity, to exhibit feminine characteristics without being seen as weak—we know, for example, that men don't speak up about violence because it can be seen as a weakness. When we liberate ourselves from restrictive notions of gender and who is safe and who is not and how and why, we can recognise where gender based violence comes from. We know, of course, that women and children are more likely to experience domestic violence, and that is because of the shape of those gender norms that can make men victims too.

In this context, it's really important we have a strong national plan that unpacks cultural factors as well as practical ones: housing to flee violence, new frontline workers, positive duties on employers— (Time expired)

5:07 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Senate and I thank all colleagues for their contributions to this debate today. I especially want to thank those senators who have suffered violence for sharing their very powerful stories. It's been a difficult debate to sit here and listen to, as someone who has experienced family violence, but it's an important debate. Sometimes, when senators and MPs bear too much of ourselves for the sake of breaking the convention of speeches in this place that are very matter of fact, we can often feel like we've said too much. This is a debate when not enough can be said, and not enough can be said from personal reflections. It supports and helps women in the community to hear these very personal and deeply powerful stories being said here in our most powerful place. There are women on every side of this chamber who can speak from personal experience, and that speaks to the prevalence of this issue in our society. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's a situation that allows us to talk frankly and quite personally today.

I'm very thankful for the work that has been undertaken by senators in this chamber over many years, and I do want to acknowledge that work. There have been calls for funding strategies and efforts to highlight the importance of this issue. Perhaps one piece of this puzzle seems insignificant against the huge, insurmountable problem we face, but I think when you put those things together they actually have delivered strategies that can work and a discussion in this country that has changed. So I thank Senator Waters for her continued support of women and for always making sure that this is on the agenda. I thank Senator Payne, who worked very hard in the previous parliament; Senator McAllister obviously, my friend, who always gives me a pat on the back after these speeches; and Senator Gallagher, our current Minister for Women. When I was growing up and I didn't really know much about politics I knew that Senator Gallagher was a boss and I knew that she was the kind of woman that would get things done. I'm really pleased and proud that she is our Minister for Women. I know she really cares about this issue.

I thank those women and the chamber for this discussion today. I also want to thank one of the women who are here in the chamber today—Helena Brunker. She is an ANU intern. She has been working in my office on some work around the operation and efficacy of Australian consent laws, which is part of the discussion that we need to have around ending gender based violence in this country. It's really tough work. For such a young woman she has taken on this work with skill and without being daunted by the task ahead of her.

In contributing to this debate today I want to speak to Helena, her friends and her generation and to acknowledge that this is an opportunity for us to talk about the work that we're doing and the work we've done. I'd like to think that when your generation gets the opportunity to sit in these seats we're not talking about this issue in the same way anymore and we're not talking about these things from personal experience, because we've put an end to domestic violence, to gender based violence and to sexual assault that isn't able to be rectified through any form of justice for victims. That's a tall ask, but we take that on. We thank you and your generation for giving us something to work towards and giving us something to deliver.

Finally, I thank my family. My mum doesn't talk very much about this issue and about the past, but she is very special to me. I thank her.

5:12 pm

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is very significant, but I don't think we should confine talking about this issue to one day. We have heard today about its prevalence; this issue touches every woman, every family and every community across Australia. Before I entered this place I worked in the family and domestic violence sector for nearly two decades. It's something that I have spoken about at length, written about and researched. I have worked in front-line services, with the police and in refuges. I have packed Christmas gifts and put teddy bears on the beds of kids in refuges. Those kids had been separated because of violence that had happened in their household. It is heartbreaking when you have to do that work.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Our Watch event held here at Parliament House. I acknowledge my colleague Senator Waters, the Leader of the Australian Greens in the Senate, for her work on the parliamentary friends group alongside Bridget Archer and Alicia Payne. I had a great time catching up with colleagues and reflecting on the time that I was on the Our Watch board. Before this I also worked with then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to develop the blueprint to the first national plan in this country. I was the only First Nations woman on that committee. I was a lone voice speaking to the Prime Minister. I also want to acknowledge the work of the then Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, who's part of the Labor Party. During that time, the Time for action report was handed down into this place. I was honoured to be part of some of those key recommendations that recommended Our Watch and ANROWS, as Senator Payne reflected, as being developed during that time.

Last night was a reflection of how far those organisations have come, when I hear about the work that they've done in this space, but also how far we have to go. When I think about the prevalence and I think about the stories and I think about all of the things that are still happening across Australia, I know that there is so much work for us to do collectively, especially in regard to violence against First Nations women and their children.

I saw the recent announcement of the government's ambitious plan to end violence against women in a generation. A key part of that was the standalone plan. I have relentlessly advocated for a standalone plan for more than a decade, and I'm glad to see this government taking it on board. It's a plan that has got to be created by mob for mob, and it has to be designed to give communities the support they need and to take into consideration some of those cultural factors that are unique and solutions that are unique, in fact, across this country.

In the 46th Parliament, I co-signed a motion, alongside Senator Thorpe, to trigger an inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children in this country. Tomorrow it will commemorate its one-year anniversary. I'm really proud to say that Senator Green and Senator Scarr, in their stewardship of the Senate committee, have been very mindful of the issues and the stories that will be told in this committee. We know the unacceptable rates for First Nations women compared to non-First-Nations women. They are up to 12 times more likely to be murdered. I want to acknowledge also the other First Nations senators in this place and the other place, who have those stories, as well, that reverberate across our families and communities. These are unacceptable and disproportional rates.

Regardless of numbers, we know that far too many of our women are dying and that not enough is being done to stop this from happening. It's no surprise to those who have worked in this area, who have been affected by it, that this hurt, this grief, this trauma is still reverberating across our communities. The truth is we still don't know the true extent of that, and that's because some of these cases are unreported and the data is inconsistent. In fact, even today the media didn't show up to talk about the inquiry. That's telling. That's why we're having this inquiry in the first place. We sent out a media alert and asked them to come, and they didn't turn up. We see the 60 Minutes coverage and we see the vigils and the rallies, but we also hear the reverberating silence. In the next 16 days, I want everyone to remember that as we move forward it's about action. Your activism matters, and here in the federal parliament is where it starts. (Time expired)

5:17 pm

Fatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This Friday 25 November marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It starts the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which concludes on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. Around the world, there has been an explosion of activism responding to violence against women and girls. Since the #MeToo movement gained international attention five years ago, the momentum has continued. I want to acknowledge the ongoing grassroots activism from women defending their own human rights, whether it's here in Australia with women such as the formidable Grace Tame or elsewhere across the world, such as with the women in Iran. It is important for us to acknowledge one of the most widespread human rights abuses in the world.

I'm a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade subcommittee on human rights. In light of the recent inquiry into rights of women and children, yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Emma Macey-Storch, the director and producer of a documentary called Geeta. This film, set in the urban slums of Agra in India, tells the story of Geeta Mahor, a mother of three daughters, whose husband tried to kill her and her daughters in their sleep by maliciously throwing acid on them. The incident resulted in Geeta being badly injured. The two daughters were severely scarred, and the baby, tragically, passed away. The reason for this atrocious act of violence stemmed from the husband's frustration of having three daughters and no sons, but no reason will ever warrant or justify domestic and family violence.

Despite permanent disfigurement caused by the burns, Geeta and her daughters have become loud activists, calling for an end to gender based violence and criminalising acid attacks. Geeta's story shows the power of everyday heroism that creates grassroots change, change we desperately need.

Worldwide, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. In Australia, one woman dies every 10 days at the hands of her former or current partner. Family and domestic violence continues to be a scourge on our society, and we must do everything to end it. Family and domestic violence is experienced at disproportionately high rates by First Nations women, as we've heard already today; culturally and linguistically diverse women and children; people with disability; and people who identify as LGBTQI+. It is on every person to change this. We must do better.

Not only does family violence have a human cost; it has an economic cost. This issue continues to drive gender inequality in the areas of employment participation and financial security and is the leading cause of homelessness in women and children. In WA, taking inspiration from the global 16 Days of Activism, we have the 16 Days in WA campaign. Western Australians are encouraged to create change to educate, motivate and advocate in their own communities and stand up to stop violence against women. I want to acknowledge the tireless work of WA Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Simone McGurk. She's an incredible leader for my home state on this issue. but this work is not for any one minister or person; it is a shared mission. It is everybody's responsibility and everybody's business.

At the federal level we have a lot of work to do in this space, but we have started. I'm proud to be part of the Albanese Labor government, as we have legislated to provide 10 days of paid family domestic violence leave. Economic security is a key factor determining whether a person can escape a violent relationship, so this will save lives. We all need to stand up and do our bit, because ending violence against women is everybody's business. I commend every senator, every colleague, in this chamber for their efforts and contributions today. On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women we need to work together to ensure a safer Australia for all.

Penny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Rice, you have the call.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Excuse me.

Penny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, Senator Hanson.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am asking for the call, as a party leader. Also the Greens have already had a few speakers on this issue. I believe One Nation should have the chance to add to this discussion, considering debate will finish at 5.30.

Penny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hanson, you have the call.

5:24 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women—we know what has happened is horrific: the death of women and the impost it's had on children. But, as I keep saying all the time, it's also about domestic violence against men. I've been listening to the speeches here in this chamber and I have not heard anyone refer to the domestic violence that is carried out against men. Twenty-five per cent of domestic violence in this country is attributed to women. If you want to stamp out domestic violence, you must speak about it truthfully, instead of coming in here and beating your chest about it. I've spoken about domestic violence. I never grew up with domestic violence in my own household—I was very, very fortunate—but I had a husband who was domestically violent. So I know what it's about. But the fact is that you women who have stood up here today—

Penny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hanson, please direct your comments through the chair and do not refer to people as 'you' across this chamber.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To the women in this chamber, the senators: you have sons, husbands, brothers and uncles as well—people who are not domestic violence perpetrators. This is not what you should be pushing. Push right across the board and look at the problems that we have. If you look at our Family Court system, that's where a lot of problems are happening, because men—and some women—are absolutely frustrated that they don't have the opportunity to spend time with their children. They are denied that right. If you go to the guts of the problem, you will solve a lot of the problems. If you deal with the family law courts issues and then allow parents to see their children, you might stop half the problems that are going on. It is a very important issue.

This was my time to actually debate my bill on the Voice to Parliament, but then you actually denied me that right and took away my time, which a senator only has twice a year, to debate this. Therefore, you've taken away from that time. Why? It was because you didn't want to debate on the Voice to Parliament. But we are here discussing this because you didn't want it to go to the vote, so you denied me the right to put that up.

But you need to address domestic violence and acknowledge that it is also women that are murdering men. It is women that are responsible for a lot of the problems as well. You need to address the problem and ask why it is happening. Don't go around beating your chest here and saying, 'Well, how are you going to deal with it?' I've just told you: the biggest problem is coming from the family law courts. Start addressing those problems in the family law courts and let parents be parents to their children. You'll get rid of a lot of the angst that is happening. There are fathers who go through it; they're thrown out of their homes with their children. The fact is that there's nowhere for them to go. I've championed that fact and pushed for them. They must be looked after as well, so that they have refuge and can get the assistance and help that they need.

But it's all about women. Yes, men are the main perpetrators, but they are not the sole perpetrators. What about the woman who threw cooking oil all over her husband or the woman who stabbed her husband to death? Don't you care about that? What about the women who try to run over their husbands? Don't you care about that? They are still people who need fair representation across the board and who need to have it discussed in a fair and honest way.

Another thing that needs to be addressed is parental alienation; that is not being addressed either. Until we address that, you're going to have domestic violence. I'll be honest with you—I'll tell you what happened. My husband was giving me a hard time. I cooked dinner for him and said, 'Your dinner is ready.' He never came up for his dinner, so I took it down after saying it a third time. He was standing across the pool table, and I said, 'Your dinner is ready.' He said, 'I'll come up when I'm ready.' You know what? I said, 'You're ready now,' and threw that plate full of dinner across the table at him, and it smashed against the wall. So I admit to the fact that you can both have your agreements and disagreements and get into arguments and debates in the household. Don't make out that it's just purely men who are responsible for this, because women can instigate it and cause problems in the household as well.

The sheer fact is: don't put up ads that say men should get counselling to do with domestic violence. Women need to be told where to go too, because women are responsible and can instigate domestic violence in the household. But let's look at it fairly, right across the board, and treat everyone equally, rather than by what sex you are. It's alright to call a person a woman now when you're talking on this topic, but any other time there's no male or female. It's like we don't have a sex or an identity. You use the sex when it suits you.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The time for statements has now expired.