It is certainly very, very true that all women in this great country of ours have every right to feel safe at all times. Whether walking down the street or in the safety of their own homes, all women should feel 100 per cent safe all the time. The coalition government has long been very proud of their stance of zero tolerance towards any violence against any woman. White Ribbon Day is the opportunity for those of us in positions of leadership to actually stand strong, stand tall and loudly decry any sense of normality about domestic violence. We understand that it’s out there. We understand it’s in the community. One of Victoria’s leading policemen, once he retired, described domestic violence as Victoria’s and Australia’s dirty little secret.
The fact that it is so common is quite disgusting. We understand that one in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15, and one in two women have experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime. On average, one woman per week is murdered by either their current partner or a former partner, and 40 per cent of women continue to experience violence from their partner while temporarily separated. The statistics are quite horrifying.
What we have to understand is that we need to have these conversations. This is a male problem. This is a problem that men in Australia have to face up to and acknowledge and accept. Men have to be the proponents of the push to stop domestic violence. We need to have the conversations with our children, and certainly by that I mean our sons and our grandsons. It’s not just a matter of having the conversation at one stage or one point in their careers or lives; it’s a matter of continually reinforcing to them that there are no circumstances in which it is okay to physically strike a woman. The more we can bring this issue out into the open and the more we can decry the fact that this is still an ongoing issue, the more we can live in hope that eventually we will get on top of this and, in years to come, be able to look back into the past and say, ‘Those statistics used to be horrendous and now they’re considerably better.’
We understand there was an enormous financial commitment by this government in the 2018-19 budget to create a range of initiatives. Over $300 million has previously been spent on women’s safety. This new package of $100 million is additional funding in relation to safety, housing services and educational services. There has been more money spent in relation to preventive strategies and cultural change and money spent on services like housing and financial support to keep women safe so they can in fact leave a violent situation. There’s $10 million to prevent forms of sexual violence, including non-consensual sharing of intimate images. There is $30 million for frontline legal services. There’s $30 million for three years for a national campaign called ‘Stop it at the Start’ to target the influencers of young people””parents, friends, teachers and sports coaches””to help them change their actions and attitudes towards violence against women. In the previous budget, there was an additional $55.7 million for legal assistance to, again, help women who are in the process of separating from a violent situation.
As I said earlier, this is a male issue. All the money in the world is not going to help stop this unless we can change attitudes and unless we can get to our young sons, our young grandsons, our nephews, unless we can get to young boys, to make sure that they understand that there is no situation anywhere in their lives where it’s going to be okay for them to physically strike a woman.