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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13204


Mr PASIN (Barker) (11:01): I rise today to support the motion brought by the member for Gellibrand and I congratulate him for his continued efforts to raise the profile of this issue in this place. Australia is the lucky country. Australians enjoy freedoms that people the world over aspire to, yet there is indeed a dark side to this idyllic Australia we all know and love. It is a problem which is, sadly, endemic in each and every one of our communities. If there were some mysterious illness that was claiming the lives of Australians each and every week, if there were some pandemic that was destroying the lives of children or if there were some contagion causing generation after generation of women to suffer needlessly, there would be widespread panic and demands for stronger action—and yet there is such an illness. The plague of domestic and family violence across this nation claims the lives of two women almost every week and ruins countless more, and each of them, of course, is a tragedy.

The figures speak for themselves. We have heard them again in this place, but they bear repeating. One in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence; one in three women have experienced physical violence. Each and every day, the police deal with some 650 domestic violence matters across the nation. Domestic violence costs our economy $13 billion, as if you could even quantify the damage. The sad reality is that domestic violence is pervasive and insidious. It is a scourge which is largely out of sight and often goes unreported. It is an issue squarely situated within a discourse of gender power relations and the vast majority of it is perpetrated by men. Indeed, 95 per cent of all victims of violence in Australia, whether male or female, experience violence at the hands of a male perpetrator.

Domestic violence is symptomatic of broader cultural issues which need to be rectified. Unquestionably, gender inequality fundamentally feeds this cycle of domestic violence. To prevent violence against women, we must account for these gender patterns of violence and address the cultural issues driving this pattern of behaviour. On Friday, 13 November, I was joined by Senator Michaelia Cash—who, of course, has responsibility as the cabinet minister inter alia for women—at a domestic violence forum in Mount Gambier. Seventy members of the community attended that forum.

I convened it in partnership with Soroptimist International of Mount Gambier, the White Ribbon association and service providers, and we had speakers from all those groups, including the local resident magistrate, Teresa Anderson. I must express my thanks to the media, including ABC South East SA, who convened an outside broadcast for the event and have taken the opportunity to effectively replay the whole forum on ABC South East SA over the last week. My thanks go also to Sandra Morello at TheBorderWatch. She, too, has covered that event in some particular detail, such that almost every day last week we had stories which were raising the profile of this issue. Magistrate Teresa Anderson made the point that we need to do something to amend the evidence acts around the country, and Susie Smith, who is a service provider at the front line, shocked the audience when she told the audience that 15 women in Mount Gambier were assessed as 'at an imminent risk of death'. That is my community, and it shook me as did everyone in the crowd.

Thankfully, Australia is squaring up for the fight against domestic violence, because it is a fight we have to win. I refuse to accept domestic violence is a given. I refuse to accept there is any excuse for committing violence against our children, wives, girlfriends or partners. I say that there is no excuse for violence. This is not the first time I have risen in this place to speak on domestic violence. It is an issue which I care deeply about. It is the least I can do as a White Ribbon Ambassador. I welcome the recognition this motion brings to the White Ribbon movement—a movement which I believe is crucial in effecting the long-term cultural change required to remove this scourge from our community.

Wednesday is White Ribbon Day. It is an opportunity to reflect not only on how far we have come in this fight but, most importantly, on how much more we still have to do. I am proud to be part of a movement which is making a difference in this space and I am proud to support this motion. I do not accept that my daughters will grow up in a world where they have a one-in-two chance of being subjected to abuse. Not on my watch.