‘TIME FOR ALL OF US TO ACT’ -NATIONAL PRESS CLUB ADDRESS FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB – CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 04 MARCH 2015
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Thanks very much, Virginia and congratulations to you and to UN Women for organising this lunch. It's a very important event.
It would be remiss of me, however, as we meet here today, not to acknowledge the shadow which overhangs and of course I refer to the fact that two young men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, have been transported to the jail of their proposed execution. I'm sure I speak for this event and all of Australia, our thoughts are with them and their families.
I want to acknowledge my colleagues here - and so many of them. I'm really pleased to see you here. We understand that an event like today, that sometimes annual events can bring with them the temptation of the familiar. Reciting the ritual words and reworking the same sentiments. I acknowledge Michaelia Cash's comments which were not just the familiar.
Today I too want to offer more: a way forward on family violence.
Just consider this: tens of thousands of women flee their homes in fear, yet cannot find safe accommodation when they escape.
You don't need me to rehash the numbers. They are shameful.
You don't need me to tell you about fractured communities, broken homes, the hidden bruises, the scarred childhoods, the late-night police visits.
You know the reality of family violence.
You understand the price our nation pays: homelessness, poverty, trauma, injury and indeed worse.
And it's been this way for far too long.
Today I've asked our Prime Minister to convene a national crisis summit on family violence.
If he believes this is unnecessary, I promise that within 100 days of a Shorten Labor Government getting elected we will convene this summit.
It will not be a government talkfest.
We will listen to people who have endured the faults and failings of our system.
The cracks you can only witness by falling through them.
The voices of the survivors.
It will be an assembly of the front line: community legal centres, researchers, academics, advocates.
The summit would involve State and Territory leaders but it would stand alone from COAG.
We would build upon and extend the national plan to reduce violence against women and their children.
The first national approach to family violence, homelessness and legal services, started by our previous Labor Government.
We understand that too often the first public warning sign that a woman is in danger is a report of her injury, or death.
Too little has changed, too slowly.
We need a national summit.
We need it to capture the remarkable momentum which is moving at last and is a credit to many in this room and many, many more beyond.
To continue the work of ANROWS, the Victorian Royal Commission, the South Australian parliamentary inquiry, the landmark Queensland report, just released, Not Now, Not Ever, which found that “listening, sharing and understanding” the experience of those affected by family violence, is the key to a solution.
And I believe we need a national summit because too many victims of family violence are at the mercy of a postcode lottery.
Right now, if you're a woman at risk, the quality of support you receive will depend upon where you live.
Every woman is entitled to feel safe at home, secure in her community. And those who cannot find safety at home must be supported by the systems that governments establish.
Because family violence can happen to anyone.
Therefore, the right help must be available to everyone.
Today I offer Labor's agenda for this summit and our immediate funding priorities. Housing, legal services and perpetrator accountability.
We'd welcome the government taking up these ideas and we will talk to them about them.
But Labor will fulfil these commitments in government.
On average, women affected by family violence move three times - three upheavals - away from your support network, your family, your friends, your community, your job.
Sometimes women are still paying the mortgage when the abuser is sitting in the family home.
As a starting point, Labor will invest $15 million in a Safe at Home grants program so that the abuser is not rewarded and that the survivor can stay.
Better security systems, alarms, locks and CCTV allow women to be safe in their home and children to sleep in their own bedrooms and not have to be moved from their schools and the dislocation that creates.
And when women seek legal protection from their abusers our court processes can be an emotional and financial gauntlet, intimidating, complex and slow.
Our systems should be built upon one fundamental principle: when forced to court seeking protection from family violence, you and your children should never walk alone.
To begin this process, we'll invest $42 million in front-line community legal services.
And because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women suffer the highest rates of family violence, we'll initially invest $4.5 million in building the capacity of the family violence prevention legal services.
Security for our women in our courts and training for our magistrate, judges, court officials and police officers has improved, but there's a long way to go.
And no act of family violence ever occurs in isolation. Each one is marked on an escalating continuum.
We must get better at spotting the patterns of dangerous behaviour, the perpetrators who abuse drug and alcohol, moving through our law enforcement, justice and child protection system.
As a first step, Labor will provide $8.4 million to develop this research and divert perpetrators from this path.
But prevention really begins with the fundamental question of gender equality.
Insisting on teaching respect in our schools, our sporting clubs, our military, our workplaces.
Family violence is an ongoing national tragedy.
And much of it is fostered in our broader Australian culture, including our media.
If leaders in business and politics and sport can play a role in changing this culture, then we can do so with the media.
Complaining about ‘political correctness’ is easy.
Dismissing offensive and outdated attitudes to women as ‘harmless fun’ is easy, but sexism and misogyny carries consequences for people, for women and children.
The struggle against family violence has been left too long for the women's movement alone.
It is time for all men to admit it is men's behaviour which is the problem, and that men have to change their behaviour.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are Labor's immediate funding priorities, and they're part of our agenda for a national crisis summit on family violence.
The summit isn't about validating our views or supporting our choices.
Yes, we want immediate action.
We want to be guided by the people who've been disempowered through the acts of family violence.
The voices of survivors must be heard at our summit and in the media, I'm sure this can be a bipartisan commitment.
The women of Australia have waited long enough. It is time for all of us to act.
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