Hon Judi Moylan


Mrs MOYLAN (Pearce) (19:15): I am very grateful to the member for Fowler for bringing this motion today. I feel enormously proud that so many men in this parliament have taken a lead in speaking on this issue. I think it is really fantastic. I listened with great interest to the passionate speech given by my colleague the member for Macarthur.

I had the privilege of being the minister for women under the Howard government and working with the then Prime Minister to highlight the need for the violence against women to stop in this country. And the Prime Minister took a leading role and garnered the support of every state minister in the country. We met here in Canberra and together the Prime Minister and the state leaders sent out a very strong message that violence against women simply has to stop. They recognised that it is not just a problem for women but is also a problem for men, and that if we were going to succeed in stopping violence against women we would have to get men to take a leading role in talking to other men about it.

And one of the major thrusts of that campaign—I had the responsibility to roll out a national campaign—was to break the cycle of violence. Children are too often the innocent victims of domestic violence in particular. On 2 December 1989, 12 women were killed at Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Canada. And this shocking event brought the subject of violence against women to the forefront of the public consciousness. Two years afterwards a handful of men decided to mark the anniversary of this tragedy by starting White Ribbon Day. That is why we are wearing the white ribbons today. I am glad to see mine is still on because I think it has lost the pin.

This has become a worldwide movement and it is marvellous to see our men taking such a key role here in Australia. A unique part of White Ribbon Day is that it is led by men to stamp out violence against women. Men swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. Its initiative asked men to challenge stereotypes and speak out, reinforcing that it is simply not good enough for society to condone violence through silence.

It is an unfortunate reality that in Australia one women is killed every week by a current or former partner, and one in three women over the age of 15 will report violence against them at some point in their lives. These confronting statistics are compounded by the fact that society has been apprehensive in dealing with domestic violence. This is all too common a complaint and was exemplified in a short clip shown on Channel 10's The Project last night. For the benefit of the chamber, I can tell you that it focused on the experience of a women who, after a turbulent relationship, wished to leave her partner. After confronting her partner she was drugged and raped. She complained to the authorities, but the response received was tepid at best, with the woman being steered away from pursuing an official complaint because of the timidity at the time in confronting domestic violence. Five years after the incident she finally brought proceedings against her former partner, who was recently jailed for seven years. These incidents reinforce that society must not remain silent in the face of violence. We must change the social conditions that lead to violence and teach our children from a young age that respect is not dependent on a person's gender.

The myths surrounding violence and women must also be demystified. It is simply untrue that certain socioeconomic groups experience more domestic violence than others. Unfortunately, it is a problem that cuts across all society, regardless of background. Violence is also not necessarily related to drunkenness or substance abuse. Studies have shown that there are even numbers of incidents perpetrated by drunken and sober men. Also, violence is not experienced by a small number of women. A report by VicHealth in 2004, entitled Health costs of violence: measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence, found that violence is the biggest cause of injury or death for women between 18 and 45.

In the face of these alarming findings, it is critical that the campaign to stop violence against women remains strong. We can do that by urging everyone to visit the White Ribbon Day website and challenge what you think you know about violence against women and to learn more about the positive role models that are making a difference in local communities right across Australia.


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