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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13355


Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (19:06): Violence against women is a very serious issue, and the horrifying statistics speak for themselves. One Australian woman is killed every week by a current or former partner; one in three women over the age 15 report physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives; one in four young people have witnessed violence against their mother or stepmother; and domestic and family violence is the major cause of homelessness for Australian women and their children.

As a former police officer for 25 years, I have seen many examples of violence against women firsthand. As a husband and a father of two beautiful daughters, I found it very difficult to understand how these violent acts could occur, especially when they were instigated by those closest to the victims themselves. Throughout my time in the New South Wales Police Force I was faced with many acts of violence against women, including domestic violence, family violence, wife bashing, sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, emotional abuse and forced isolation from friends and family. It was heartbreaking to see these actions occurring against women of all ages and cultures—and it is even more disturbing to see so many people sit on the sidelines refusing to stand up for what is right while those they love come to harm. This is why White Ribbon Day is so important. It encourages violence against women to stop and asks those who witness such violence to take a stand for these women and make it clear that it will no longer be tolerated in our communities.

In my electorate there are still too many examples of domestic violence against women, both emotionally and physically, but there are also some great initiatives as part of the White Ribbon program taking place to stop this behaviour and encourage others to stand up against it. Each year the Campbelltown Domestic Violence Liaison Committee, which includes the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Campbelltown City Council and UnitingCare Burnside, conducts an event to help raise awareness in the local community for White Ribbon Day. Last year they painted a 30-metre white ribbon on the grass hill at the University of Western Sydney, which could be seen from Narellan Road. They also sent out posters to local businesses so that they could display and sell white ribbons at Macarthur Square and Glenquarie Shopping Centre.

The Campbelltown police, together with members of the Campbelltown Domestic Violence Liaison Committee, held a free barbecue in Mawson park last Friday. The barbecue included information stalls, kids activities and a visit from the New South Wales Police safety mascot, Constable Charlie. Businesses and organisations from the Macarthur community also supported the event, including Tim's Garden Centre Park, the Paul Wakeling Motor Group, Campbelltown City Council, W.I.L.M.A. Women's Health Centre, Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, the Benevolent Society, Campbelltown Fire Brigade, UnitingCare Burnside, the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Campbelltown Lions Club, who manned the barbecue on the day. It was great to see so many people from my community attend to support the barbecue on Friday. Just by doing so, they have taken a stand against violence against women—and for that they should all be very proud of themselves.

The people who took part in these events in Macarthur are helping to strengthen the White Ribbon campaign, which began in Australia in 2003. It was initially part of UN Women and formally became a foundation in 2007. It is now Australia's only national male-led campaign to prevent violence against women. White Ribbon believes in the goodness of most men and it believes that good men reject violence against women and are willing to act to prevent it. White Ribbon believes in the capacity of the individual to change and encourage change in others. I think it is a fantastic program, which is why I signed up to be a White Ribbon Ambassador last year. I believe in everything the campaign stands for, especially its primary focus on prevention.

The White Ribbon Foundation works to change our culture to stop violence before it occurs with activities in schools, workplaces and the broader community. As an ambassador, I have made a commitment to take an active role in any violence against women. I join many men from all walks of life who are passionate advocates for social change. White Ribbon now has 1,900 active ambassadors promoting the campaign in the Australian community. These men share the White Ribbon message within their networks and, through social media, highlight the importance of respect for women and encourage community groups, local councils, workplaces, men's organisations, sports and services clubs to get involved in the White Ribbon campaign.

Today I would like to congratulate all of the people in my community who have signed up to be a White Ribbon Ambassador and those who support the cause throughout the year. Most importantly, I would like to thank every man who has ever intervened or stood up against violence towards women. It is these men who are leading by example and breaking the silence from the front line. They are the greatest ambassadors for the cause, and it is thanks to them that we are moving closer to a society where such behaviour is not tolerated and that is the way it should be.