White Ribbon Day 2016

  • November 29, 2016


Mr Deputy Speaker,

I want to join those Australians who have come together today and last week to condemn violence against women and to stand up and act against crimes that can never be tolerated in our society.

On Friday Australians marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which is now better known as White Ribbon Day.

Across the world, White Ribbon Day is an opportunity for all of us – but men in particular – to recognise that too many women experience physical, mental and sexual abuse.

And today, this parliament recognised our own challenge in reducing domestic violence in indigenous communities as part of the No More campaign.

This is an issue that is above politics – as it should be.

The parliament has seen a unity of purpose to tackle a problem that, at its heart, deprives women of the dignity and safety that should be an undisputed right.

In public life, we often talk of striving for equality of opportunity for Australians.

That equality, those opportunities we want for all our fellow citizens, cannot exist if you live in fear for your own physical and mental well-being. Even more so if that fear is found in what should be a sanctuary – our own homes and within our own families.

Most of us will never witness violence in our own homes against the women we love – be it mothers, siblings or partners.

And most of us are repulsed with the very thought that any person would be subjected to this kind of abuse.

Yet we know that so many women – even in modern Australia – are not so fortunate.

And let us have no doubt that violence, particularly in relationships and at home, is overwhelmingly a crime perpetrated against women. The statistics tell the story:

One in four women in Australia has experienced some form of physical violence from an intimate partner.

  • 20 per cent of women – one in five – have suffered sexual
  • And today we heard that indigenous women are hospitalised for domestic violence incidents at 30 times the rate for non-indigenous
  • Most tragically of all, on average one woman is murdered each week by a partner or former
  • Despite all our efforts, this number is increasing. In my own state, NSW police have reported a 40 per cent jump in domestic violence related

It’s why strong action by government remains so important.

At the Commonwealth level our $100 million domestic violence strategy – announced by the Prime Minister as one of his first acts – is well underway and making inroads.

But ultimately, this is a problem that needs to be tackled by all of us. And its why days like White Ribbon Day are just so important.

Each and every one of us needs to be ambassadors for the message of White Ribbon Day – that violence against women is never justified or acceptable. And men need to be at the forefront of delivering that message to their peers.

Importantly, all of us must be prepared to act rather than turning a blind eye if we know of domestic violence. If we saw someone being assaulted in the street, we would call the police.

Yet too often many are reluctant to act if they suspect domestic violence because somehow it is considered a private matter. We need to be clear: domestic violence is crime that must be reported.  The consequences of not doing so are simply too great.

Mr Deputy Speaker, domestic violence knows no boundaries. Affluence, education or geography does not define its occurrence. Support for the victims of domestic violence therefore needs to be available across our cities and towns.

In my own electorate, I know there is a critical need for crisis support for women and children fleeing abusive domestic circumstances. There are too few women’s refuges north of the Harbour Bridge – less than can be counted on one hand.  There is the need for many more.

In one positive development, earlier this month a new women’s refuge opened in our region.

Mary’s House has come about through the work of the North Sydney Women’s Benevolent Association with the support of our local Jesuit parish. It will provide physical shelter, as well as support services, to women and their children fleeing domestic violence.

I want to acknowledge the incredible volunteer efforts of its organising committee, with the financial and in-kind support of so many individuals and businesses – from the Mater Hospital to groups like the North Sydney Sunrise Rotary Club. I am also pleased that the federal government was able to contribute towards the costs of security.

Safe places like Marys House can make the difference. They can save lives and assist women when they are most vulnerable. But they help treat the symptoms and not the causes of domestic violence. Which is why I hope that all Australians will spend some time thinking about how they can stand up, or speak out and act to end violence against women.