Domestic Violence

Family Violence Contribution

26 November 2015

Today all members of this house have been challenged – we have been challenged to take a stand, to challenge cultural norms and, as community leaders, to lead attitudinal change.

Challenged, Speaker, not to look away from what is not just a state problem and not just a national emergency – but a global shame.

I want to thank those who came to share their stories with us today – they represent countless others – the survivors, the social workers and our emergency services.

But the responsibility doesn’t just lie with them. It lies with all of us.

Early last year, the Federal Member for MacMillan Russell Broadbent raised this issue in Federal Parliament and his words have stuck with me ever since. It is a sentiment echoed that was echoed by The Leader of the Nationals in his contribution today.

Russell said:

Violence is a considered act. It is not something that just springs out of nowhere, because I think the males that I know do not resort to violence. I have been tempted plenty of times in my life, but not in regards to women. I have been angry, but that is not where my guilt lies.

My guilt lies with every other male in Australia who at some point has remained silent. At some point on that sliding scale that I talked about—of sexism, racism and other remarks—he has remained silent instead of pulling the person up and saying, 'Not on my watch, not in my area, not in my football club and not in my family. We do not do that. We do not do it. Not in our community; that is not our way.'

I am ashamed to say, that – judged by that sliding scale – I too have been complicit in remaining silent, for not wanting to cause a scene or offence.

Family violence is a gendered issue and the statistics are horrific.

· Globally, one in three women experience partner violence.

· One woman is being killed nearly every week in Australia as a result of family violence.

· Children are present in one out of every three family violence cases reported to police.

· Women and girls with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violence as those without.

Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity today to mention a very dear friend of mine Katie Dunlop.

Katie has worked with women fleeing abusive relationships in every job she has had – in hospitals, early parenting and child protection intervention, sexual health work and housing services.

These are her experiences:

Late night calls, always concerned about security, not always an ideal environment for children, women and children displaced from their communities arriving with nothing, volunteers and workers on low wages scrabbling to make it all work on minimal budgets, passionate and brave staff, safe havens of hope, women feeling like they don’t know where to begin, workers helping them to breathe and work that out, difficulty moving from a refuge to a home, no housing and so many waiting lists.

Katie’s last piece of advice to me? Don’t forget the children. The impact on children is profound.

I mention Katie not because she is exceptional –although she certainly is to me – but because she is not.

Her experiences – like those of Rosie, Christie and the support and emergency workers we have heard from today – are the same as thousands of others.

We know that this issue is not tied to one level of society or one socioeconomic group.

It happens behind closed doors no matter your age, race, religion, your wealth and indeed, while the statistics show that that the overwhelming majority of family violence is at the hands of male perpetrators, your gender.

In rural and regional communities, however, the toll is particularly high.

Those living in regional Victoria are more likely to experience family violence than those living in Melbourne.

The shire of Campaspe has the worst rate of reported family violence in Victoria. For every 100,000 people, there are 4285 incidents.

In Shepparton there are 2,215 reported incidents of family violence for every 100,000 people.

And Benalla is the ninth worst with the second highest number of family violence incidents where children are present. In the past 12 months, there have been close to 1,000 callouts.

The statistics are depressing. They feel overwhelming.

But there is also an amazing amount of work going on to locally to address these statistics and I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of those organisations.

Organisations such as the Benalla Family Violence Prevention Network which is led by Benalla Health and the Rural City of Benalla.

Yesterday, the network had its sixth annual march against family violence.  It also runs a White Ribbon Day Supporters Program to which 18 agencies and businesses have signed.

There are other agencies also, like Berry Street and Family Care who are working with limited resources and limited budgets to tackle this complex problem.

As the Chief Commissioner of Police reiterated to this House today, the Royal Commission is only the beginning.

The former Coalition Government made a record investment of more than $200 million to address family violence and I would like to particularly acknowledge the efforts of both our former Premier Ted Baillieu but also Mary Wooldridge as Minister.

We also dramatically increased police numbers to ensure the police force is better equipped to deal with incidents of family violence.

But this is not just a government problem or a policing problem.

As a community we must reinforce the message around our sporting clubs, community groups and in our own homes that gender inequality, inappropriate jobs and sexist comments are not ok.

They are, in fact, part of a continuum that leads to bruises, broken bones and sometimes death.

My commitment is to join those voices who are speaking out and taking a stand against such behaviour.

As other speakers in this house have pointed out today, if we improve the lives of women, we improve society as a whole.



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