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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13206

Mr GILES (Scullin) (11:06): I am pleased to rise in support of this very important motion moved by the member for Gellibrand. In doing so, I think it is important to reflect on two things. I acknowledge the incredibly significant work that has been done by White Ribbon, an organisation that I am very proud to be an ambassador for, in raising awareness of family violence and, in particular, in putting squarely at issue in the national conversation men's responsibility to end family violence. It is also incumbent on all of us in this place and in the communities we represent to reflect on the fact that, at the same time that we have seen an increased awareness of family violence in the national conversation, we continue to see family violence, violence against women, at unacceptable levels—at frightening and shocking levels. In particular, I have been concerned, from the moment I was elected to this place, about the incidence of violence against women in the communities I represent.

Much of the electorate of Scullin is comprised of the city of Whittlesea, which has one of the highest reported rates of family violence in Victoria. In the city of Whittlesea in the last year there were 2,359 family violence incidents reported to Victoria Police. Children were present at nearly 900 of those incidents. An average of 45 instances of family violence in the municipality are reported to the police every week. Family violence is the context for 31 per cent of all rapes and 34 per cent of other sexual offences. Further, 82 per cent of victims in the city of Whittlesea were female, and 100 per cent of the alleged offenders were male. There is no greater issue confronting the communities I represent than the scourge that is family violence. It is an issue that is of increasing concern in growth areas, where connections to community have not been well formed and where access to services are not as they should be. I have addressed this parliament on this matter before, and I will continue to advocate for the needs of women and children in growth areas to access support services at these times of crisis.

This motion is also about leadership in this place, and I acknowledge my great friend the member for Gellibrand for the work that he has done as an advocate for his community and as a leader in this parliament and in the Labor Party in putting issues of violence against women firmly at the centre of the national conversation through his work in the party but also through his work in convening the multipartisan parliamentary friendship group that has done so much to raise awareness of this issue. As a Victorian, I acknowledge the leadership that Daniel Andrews, as leader of the opposition and now as Premier, has shown in making the fight against family violence an absolute priority for his government and in agreeing to implement every recommendation of the Victorian royal commission, no matter how difficult those recommendations may be to implement. That shows the strength of his resolve, and I think the resolve of the Victorian people, to eliminate family violence. Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Labor Party in this place, made family violence a priority from the moment he became leader. Indeed, his first announcement was in support of the work of community legal centres, which play such a critical role in supporting victims of family violence. This is a matter where there has been a strong level of bipartisanship, and I acknowledge the recent announcement and commitments of the government in this regard.

Other speakers have touched upon the Change the story framework, which was launched in this place in the last sitting week. It is an interesting document in many respects but a very challenging one for every policymaker, because what it tells us is this: we have the evidence base; we know what to do; we must go ahead and do it. In acknowledging the announcements of the government, I think we need to think about what more there is to be done. There are a range of policy interventions that could do so much. I think about paid domestic violence leave, a matter that needs further consideration. I think about many other legal interventions that can assist and ameliorate the circumstances of victims. In looking at these individual interventions, which we must do, we should also never, ever lose sight of the critical question here, which is gender inequality.

Violence against women is a creature of an unequal society. The member for Gellibrand's motion acknowledges this, and we must all acknowledge this. I was pleased to be in the chamber for the member for Barker's comments and to see that this is a matter that is acknowledged not only on this side of the chamber but right across the House.

Ultimately, as we look at the evidence, as we build a broad-based policy response that includes making prevention of violence against women an absolute national priority, we must remember this: if we are to be serious about preventing family violence, we must be more serious about striving for gender equality in Australia.