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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 176

Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (10:54): I rise today to congratulate Rosie Batty on being named Australian of the Year for 2015. Sadly, her role as a spokesperson has been thrust upon her in the most tragic of circumstances. Through her bravery, Rosie Batty has given a voice to the millions of Australians who have experienced family violence. Her passion and determination to share her story, and to bring an end to family violence, is truly commendable.

The community has reacted strongly to Rosie's story. People are finally beginning to recognise the prevalence of the issue of family violence in our community. The failure of our system to provide Rosie Batty with the assistance that she so clearly needed has strongly affected the Australian public. It is time to take action to protect the women and children who are so desperately in need of support.

At this point it is worth noting, not in a partisan sense, but to put on the record that Rosie Batty has expressed her disappointment with recent cuts to family violence support services. It is not a political issue, but the reality of our job is that what we do in this chamber is about prioritisation. Policy change on this issue, despite having bipartisan support, has been undermined by the recent cuts of $300 million to social services, which mean that women and children will be unable to leave violent relationships, and if they do they will not get the support that they need. We need to recognise that demand for these services is increasing, and in this place in particular, we need to be actively looking to lead change and provide funding to respond effectively to this issue.

Rosie Batty has spoken publicly about the need for long-term approaches to addressing family violence and gender inequality. We know that family violence disproportionately affects women. We know that it affects women's health, financial security and their ability to engage in the workforce. In responding to violence against women, we are not only talking about how to support victims in response to perpetrators of family violence, we are also talking about the need to focus on how to tackle the broader issue of gender inequality so that the root cause of family violence can be addressed.

Rosie Batty is a remarkable woman and we thank her for her strength and courage in coming forward and speaking publicly about her experiences. Sadly, the majority of victims of family violence are either not able to, due to the tragic circumstances of their life, or do not feel empowered to speak up and seek help. Many have suffered from a cycle of abuse to the extent that they lack self-esteem, blame themselves and do not seek assistance. There are millions of Australian women and children who have come to accept control and fear as a way of life. It is not an issue that has a simple solution. Responding to family violence requires a long-term concerted effort towards social and systemic change from all leaders in our community. There is much that still needs to be done. We need to address the widespread damaging effects of family violence across all spheres of Australian life. It is time to make this issue a real priority. It is time for all of us to take Rosie's lead and take action on this important issue that affects millions of Australians every day.

Sitting suspended from 10:57 to 11:31