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Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Page: 677

Ms PARKE (3:15 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women. What support is the government providing to women who have been subjected to violence?

Ms KATE ELLIS (Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women) —The horrific facts are that one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence and that one in five Australian women will be the victim of sexual assault. These figures mean that each and every year almost half a million Australian women experience physical or sexual violence, yet sadly we know that fewer than one in 10 of these women who experience sexual assault will seek professional assistance and support. We know that the sooner these women can talk to a professional and get that help, that advice, that support, the sooner and the more effectively they can commence their journey to recovery. That is why the government has acted and has launched a new national telephone counselling service, 1800RESPECT, for Australians who have experienced or are in danger of experiencing physical or sexual violence. It is also why I am calling on all members of this parliament to make sure that they can help distribute this information amongst their communities and neighbourhoods, in their local newsletters and the like. We know that for far too long Australians, and particularly those living in rural and remote communities, might not have had access to professional support. They will now have that access as close as their telephones.

Importantly, this service is far more than just the referral system which has operated in the past. When an individual calls 1800RESPECT—or, in the old style, 1800737732—they will have immediate access to a professional counsellor and professional support provided through the truly remarkable staff from the New South Wales Rape Crisis Centre. This free service is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and in the coming months we will be expanding the service to include new technologies and to offer online supports as well.

The Gillard government have a zero tolerance approach to all forms of violence in our community. We are committed to working in partnership with women’s organisations, state and territory governments and the community to deliver a national plan to reduce violence against women and children. However, we know that the best efforts to reduce the occurrence of violence must be coupled with work to deliver justice for victims and to improve the support services which are available in our community. I am sure that all members in this place would agree with the importance of ensuring that Australians have access to these very important support services when they have experienced violence or when they are in danger of experiencing violence. I hope that all members of this House will provide this information to their communities so that we can get support to those who need it most and not let this huge number of Australians continue to suffer in silence.