IDEVAW address, Senate

  • Speech, check against delivery
25 November 2021

Mr President, as we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I would like to take a moment to remember and to pay our respects to women and to children who are victims and survivors of violence.

There are the names and the faces that we do know.

However, there are many, many more who have endured over many years, great pain in the shadows and in the silence.

Violence against women and children is never acceptable.

It is a global issue that affects everyone, everywhere.

Too many women and children are not safe at home, in the workplace, at school or online.

We know gender inequality is the root cause of violence against women and we must work across our society, including with men and boys, to change social norms and attitudes and behaviours to eliminate gender inequality.

Globally, the statistics tell us that one in three women aged 15 or older have experienced sexual or physical violence and in Australia we know the figures recorded in the motion.

The statistics, though, can't tell us the true stories of the pain and the fear and the anguish and the suffering that leads to the derivation of such numbers. And it must stop.

We know the COVID 19 pandemic has also impacted progress on gender equality here and around the world, both in women's economic empowerment and in women's safety.

Over the course of the pandemic, violence against women and girls has increased.

Physical distancing, lockdowns, have for many, made it harder to seek and to receive help.

The government has during the course of this pandemic delivered very significant levels of resources towards Australian women's safety. And then further delivered resources on economic security, on health and wellbeing and to support women to realise their full potential.

In our 2021-22 Women's budget statement, we invested a record $1.1 billion in women's safety.

In part, in partnership with the States and Territories because it included $260 million for new national partnership agreements with the state and territory jurisdictions to increase the capacity of frontline support and crisis services.

We are now developing the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children as a blueprint to end violence in all forms.

Minister Ruston and I continue to work with the state and territory governments to drive that change in women's safety through the National Federation Reform Council's Taskforce on Women's Safety.

A key focus of that work is the next National Plan.

The first national plan was formed in a nonpartisan way through this parliament and the work of governments and oppositions here, and with the states and territories.

Shifting the dial on violence requires a national effort by all governments. Indeed, I would say, all parliaments, workplaces, schools, communities and individuals.

The government is committed to ensuring that Australian workplaces are safe and free from sexual harassment.

We commissioned the Respect at Work Report.

And the Government's Roadmap for Respect responds to the recommendations in the Respect at Work report.

We've committed over $66 million in the last two budgets for the implementation of the roadmap.

As I've said before, in this place and elsewhere, a number of the events of this year have been disturbing and distressing, not just to me, not just to the people in this place, but to many Australians.

But most particularly to those who have suffered.

Stories of violence against women and children are always hard to hear. But we have to listen, particularly to victim survivors, to inform our way forward.

I think in our jobs in particular, that very few of us would be, after a period of time as elected representatives, would be in a position where we have not from someone somewhere, heard their own disturbing experience or that of a member of their family or a friend.

Too many stories.

On this day, I would also invite us to consider the significant challenges in our own region, which has some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the world.

And some of the most horrific stories I have ever heard in my life.

68% of women in the Pacific and 40% of women in Southeast Asia had experienced violence by an intimate partner before the pandemic.

Addressing gender-based violence is a key priority for Australia's aid and humanitarian programs.

We've provided UN Women with $10 million in funding to support essential services for survivors and to deliver prevention activities.

We're contributing to the UN Population Fund to conduct studies on tackling violence against women as well.

We're working alongside, for example, the Government of Timor-Leste through the Nabilan Program on Prevention Activities to stop violence before it starts.

This is an area in which I have had some association since the ballot for Timor-Leste’s independence in 1999 where these issues were prevalent, disturbing and a significant challenge for those communities in the Pacific.

Australia supports 15 crisis centres across eight countries, providing safe accommodation, counselling and medical and legal support.

Last week Australia joined the United Kingdom and I acknowledge the work of my friend and colleague, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Liz Truss in condemning the use of sexual violence and rape as weapons of war.

And we strongly support the important work of the UN Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Now more than ever, we need to stand together to address and to prevent gender-based violence in Australia and worldwide.

This year and every year, we remember those we have lost, victim survivors and those working to end violence against women and girls, particularly those on the frontline.

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