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Men and Relationships Forum, The Hyatt, Canberra, 4.15pm, 11 June 1998: closing address.



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The Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP

Attorney- General

 

Closing Address by the Federal Attorney-General

The Hon. Daryl Williams AM QC MP

Men & Relationships Forum

4.15 pm, 11 June 1998

The Hyatt

Canberra

 

Introduction

Dr Swan, speakers and participants, I am delighted to have the chance to make some comments to conclude this landmark forum.

 

You have had a very full couple of days sharing your collective wisdom on Men and Relationships and I thank you for your energy and good humour in grappling with the issues that the many (65 in all) presentations have raised. I will be most interested to consider carefully the ideas and strategies you have been discussing and sharing.

 

We have come here with a common goal and I am heartened by the enthusiasm and goodwill that has been displayed by all participants in reaching that goal. We are all striving to reach a situation where men are just as likely as women to access relationship support services.

 

We want to ensure that men are confident and willing to communicate and to seek assistance when they experience relationship problems. We want men not to be fearful of seeking support when they need it. I am confident that your input will be instrumental in achieving that goal.

 

We have collected here a great resource upon which we can all draw. We will be publishing all the papers presented throughout the Forum, and we are already in the process of putting them onto the internet.

 

A short report will be prepared on the workshop activities you have been undertaking with Norman Swan and Colin Pidd.

 

I hope it will capture the essence of your answers to the questions you have been considering and provide a record of ideas and aspirations.

 

I will be interested to read the report and urge you all to read it and share it with your colleagues.

 

We are also preparing a short video aimed at capturing the themes of the Forum. Those of you who wish to share your experience of this Forum with others, will find the video a useful way of doing so.

 

I am sure the Family Relationship Services Program have learned much from the combined knowledge of you all and that this initiative will be very useful for future direction and policy formulation.

 

But the changes we all aspire to can really only happen if we all work constructively.

 

Business Support

Late last year when the Prime Minister announced the Partnerships against Domestic Violence initiative he included reference to a partnership opportunity for business in the form of the Business against Domestic Violence Trust.

The trust has been chaired by prominent leaders in the business community, Mr Robert Champion de Crespigny and Ms Paula Gerber.

 

It has become an opportunity for companies with the foresight to follow the lead of corporations internationally to invest in a more productive work culture and to strengthen links with the community.

 

Businesses around the world recognise the value of good corporate citizenship. Supporters include major organisations with diverse backgrounds.

 

The idea of this initiative is to encourage not just donations but active partnerships with community organisations to make a real difference. Business leaders are well placed to lead cultural and attitudinal change.

 

By linking with the corporate sector and building on the commitment of churches and community organisations, partnerships between Government and the community can benefit us all.

 

I am confident that by drawing on this initiative, we can work towards broad ranging community involvement to promote attitudinal changes which will have lasting benefits.

 

Through this initiative the Government is challenging you all to assist us adapt your services to meet the needs of men.

 

National Men’s Access Line

The Prime Minister’s Partnerships Against Domestic Violence package outlined the Government’s blueprint for new initiatives designed to address the problem of domestic violence.

 

This initiative is only one of a number of innovative programs and is consistent with the approach we have taken to encourage preventative, behavioural programs.

 

The overwhelmingly positive response that this initiative has attracted from all sectors of society, is extremely encouraging and is indicative of the need within the community.

 

Over the past few months many men and many service providers have told us they believe that, in addition to all the other sorts of services which might be possible, an easy to access phone line is a service which must be established so that men anywhere a cross the nation can make contact quickly and economically to find assistance when they require it.

 

Men’s Access Line Trust fund

I am very pleased to announce on behalf of the Prime Minister that $1m is being made available for the Men and Family relationships initiative to contribute to a trust fund, we are calling Men’s Access Line Trust fund.

 

The fund will act as a catalyst for a men’s phone line to provide access to advice and assistance with family issues and relationship problems like marriage breakdown.

 

The contribution will form a strong basis upon which a true partnership initiative can be built with business and peak organisations and will complement the Prime Minister’s Business Against Domestic Violence Trust.

 

This initiative contributes “seed funding” into the trust fund, to establish national access to telephone and interactive internet support for men across Australia.

 

Ongoing partnerships between businesses, churches, community organisations and governments are needed to realise the potential of this very significant initiative.

 

The Prime Minister’ s personal commitment to the Business against Domestic Violence Trust towards this very practical service will be of benefit to many men who are troubled by their family situation, by their parenting skills, by their feelings of frustration at not having someone to talk openly with, or their fear of expressing anger and aggression towards those they care about.

 

It is hoped that the business sector of the community will respond by supporting the lead which the Government has taken.

 

I am confident that contributions will come in many forms, be they in kind, pro-bono, through sponsorship, or through direct donation.

 

Importantly, the ongoing viability of this partnership initiative depends on major and growing private sector contributions and cooperation.

 

The national Men’s Access Line will be easy to locate and will respect privacy. There will be only one phone number to call, no matter where in Australia the call is from.

 

And we envisage that there will also be an interactive internet site and email access.

 

I believe this phone line and internet site will promote a strong sense of self worth and self control in callers, providing worthwhile and encouraging responses that focus on solutions for men in crisis.

 

This proposal for a sponsored national Men’s Access Line will ideally provide a non-threatening, anonymous opportunity for men to discuss and seek solutions to problems, to access the information required when choosing pathways or making decisions or simply to locate a particular type of assistance or service.

 

Shortly we will be establishing a Men’s Access Line Task Group to research and develop this proposal and liaise with the private sector, community organisations and State governments.

 

We know that there are a lot of good ideas around about how this sort of service should be run and we want to consider the options available so we develop an effective service.

 

Many individuals and service providers have said to us that they think that an easy to access phone line is important.

 

We know that some already exist in various forms.

 

Indeed I know that some of the people at this forum are involved in running phone services.

 

We want to hear your ideas and to learn from your experiences.

 

In the near future we will be inviting a small group of highly committed and talented people to help this initiative grow.

 

I believe the expertise of these people will contribute to the creative development of this vital service.

 

A fresh and innovative approach will be essential to the successful implementation of the initiative.

 

This project is a call to action to all sectors of the Australian community to become partners in achievement.

 

We must all inject energy and effort into a simple concept which will make a difference.

 

I intend that the task group will help us to coordinate effectively and liaise with the private and community sectors and with state governments.

 

It is my hope that services such as this national Men’s access line and others which result from this initia tive will bring about a cultural change and reverse the perception that needing, or seeking, assistance is an indication of weakness.

 

In reality, seeking to resolve issues and address our problems is a true sign of strength.

 

A sign of strength that is to be applauded.

 

Conclusion

Don Edgar proposed that we should have a Charter of Care.

 

I believe that this is an opportunity to show we all care, to contribute and to share in a men supporting men initiative.

 

I trust you have found this forum constructive and exciting and that you will take what you have learned to your own practices in the future.

 

The onus is on all of us to strive to ensure that the momentum is not lost and that we utilise the collective knowledge and ideas that have been advanced.

 

In concluding I wish to express my gratitude and thanks to the dedication and hard work of those in my Department who have assisted in making this all happen.

 

In particular, my thanks to Helen Hambling, Helen Eastburn, Michelle Whitters, Gerry Orkin and all the team.

 

I also wish to thank Dr Norman Swan who has Chaired this Forum with distinction and who has been of real assistance to us all. Finally, I wish to thank the speakers and presenters and all of you for your enthusiasm, and for your outstanding contribution which has made this landmark Forum an overwhelming success.

 

 

KD