White Ribbon Day

This year on average more than one woman a week has died due to domestic violence. A woman is most likely to be killed by her male partner at home and domestic and family violence is the principal cause of homelessness for women and children. Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill health in Australian women aged 15 to 44. Violence and abuse against women and girls is the endpoint of disrespecting women. That does not mean that all acts of disrespect against women will lead to violence but all violence against women begins there.

It is the responsibility of men and boys to make the social changes to end the violence against women. If little boys see their dads disrespect their mums, they grow up to disrespect their partners. If they see their mother is respected, they will grow to respect the women in their lives. But men are not just fathers; they are not just sons and brothers. They do not belong to just one cultural community. They are also members of other social and cultural groups, including workplaces, school and communities.

White Ribbon Day on 25 November is the world's largest movement of men and boys working to end men's violence towards women and girls and to promote gender equality, healthy relationships and a new version of masculinity. I extend sincere and deep thanks to every member of this place who turned up to the Speaker's Garden today in support of White Ribbon. I urge every male member who turned up to that event to take the White Ribbon Day oath and I would like every female member to become an ambassador because we need to change attitudes towards women in this place and we need to change attitudes towards women in the community.

Part of my work as Chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and as Deputy Chair of the national steering committee will be around respecting women and around violence against women, not just in their homes but at all levels of society. In fact, when the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meets later this year in London it will be discussing violence against women at all levels, particularly in the political field. We will remember people like Jo Cox, who on 16 June 2016 died as a result of violence against her. As women, we face violence in all aspects of our lives—in our homes as children, wives, partners and loved ones, in our workplaces and on the street. This is entirely wrong.

There are amazing women in our community like Mariam Veuszadeh, Van Badam, Clementine Ford, Caroline Wilson and many others who are high profile women in our community. Thanks to the keyboard warriors, the people who perpetrate violence on computers, they are also at risk. Violence against women needs to be addressed at every level. I challenge every man in this place and every man in our State that when they think about making a joke about a woman, they should think about how they would feel if that joke was made about them. Would that belittle them or give permission to someone else to take that a step further towards violence because violence is a continuum? It starts with power and control and extends to economic, psychological, social and then physical and sometimes sexual violence against women.

We must be vigilant in every aspect of our interactions as human beings to not perpetrate violence against anyone in our community, particularly women. People say to me that this is not a gendered situation; that violence against women is not really real; domestic violence is the issue. I want to know why it is that we do not see the same numbers of women in our community dying from violence as we see men. We know women are the targets of this kind of abuse so again I thank all members of this House for their personal work on this issue and urge them to make greater efforts in the future.

In reply: I thank the member for Fairfield for his heartfelt contribution. I thank the member for Heathcote and the Deputy Speaker for their comments. As chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and in conjunction with Parliamentary Friends for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault the White Ribbon morning tea was held in this place. It set a tone in this place to commemorate the day and to start making a plan for a stronger commitment to reduce violence against women. I thank the Minister for her contribution to that discussion. I thank the Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones, chair of the Parliamentary Friends for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

I thank Mr Raj Kumar. His generosity and courage in sharing his story of multigenerational family violence gave members the opportunity to reflect on the complexity of this situation. Often these incidents happen close to us without our awareness that we are next door to or related to a victim of family violence. I congratulate Raj Kumar for the White Rahki event held at the University of Technology, Sydney. It focused on combining the cultural event, where sisters give brothers a bracelet to protect them as they meet challenges in life, with the White Ribbon event. That was a hopeful moment and experience for me to see young people from migrant communities taking on the tradition and giving it a deeper meaning.

We need to talk about the victims as well as the perpetrators. I met earlier today with Dr Simon Hackett, a world expert on sexual abuse of children by children. He highlighted to me the issue of child perpetrators as victims. It is important that we give support to victims of child sexual assault and other forms of abuse. Often without adequate help and support through those traumatic experiences they go on to be perpetrators. The earliest intervention that we can provide to perpetrators is to see them as victims and offer help to deal with the trauma so that they can improve their behaviour. I thank everyone for their contribution to the debate concerning White Ribbon Day.

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