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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 531

Senator WOODLEY (7.47 p.m.) —I wish to speak for a few moments on the fact that very shortly, from 3 September to 10 September, we will be celebrating once again White Ribbon Week. I think honourable senators would remember that last year many of us wore white ribbons to show our commitment to ending men's violence in the family. It is very appropriate in this year that we should underline this issue. The week coincides with Fathers' Day. Fathers' Day is a time when we all focus on our families and particularly on our fathers. Therefore, White Ribbon Week is a great opportunity for men to take responsibility for ending men's violence in the family.

  Through White Ribbon Week, all men are encouraged to show their concerns about the level of male violence in our society. Wearing a white ribbon allows men to make a personal and public statement about that. There will be marches and rallies around Australia on Saturday, 3 September, to show concern for violence in the family. Marches will be organised in all mainland capital cities. We expect thousands of men to take part.

  There is a problem in Australian society. I do not think any of us would want to deny that. If it were between countries, we would call it war. If it were a disease, we would call it an epidemic. If it were an oil spill, we would call it a disaster. But it is happening to women, and it is just an everyday affair. It is men's violence against women. Forty-two per cent of all female murder victims in Australia in 1990-91 were killed by their husbands. One in 10 families experience chronic domestic violence. One in four girls are sexually assaulted before the age of 18, usually by a family member. Women have a one in three chance of being raped. In 80 per cent of rape cases, the women know their attackers. In more than 95 per cent of all these cases, the offenders—sad to say—are men.

  They come from all social backgrounds—men in business suits, men in blue collars, men who work on the land, men who work in offices; not weirdos, just ordinary men. This week is an awareness week when men are encouraged to take a stand against men's violence—the one thing we can take a stand against—and to challenge the community's acceptance that somehow or other violent behaviour is acceptable. White Ribbon Week will give us an opportunity to make this personal statement, to break the silence about the violence perpetrated against women and to challenge society's widespread acceptance of violence—to encourage men to take responsibility for their own behaviour.

  It is a choice that we have to make. We do not have to condone violent behaviour on our own behalf or on behalf of our colleagues. We encourage individuals and organisations to become involved in White Ribbon Week by distributing ribbons and speaking about the issue. During the week, volunteers around Australia will sell ribbons for $2 each. The money raised will go directly to women's groups and services and to establish ongoing community education programs to help end men's violence.

  The white ribbon campaign hopes to take this work into schools, workplaces, prisons, clubs and associations, places of worship and trade unions. In the International Year of the Family the biggest threat to the family is indeed men's violence. Men collectively must take responsibility for ending this form of violence. White Ribbon Week is a great start to this process.