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Monday, 23 October 2017
Page: 11469

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (10:56): White Ribbon Day is held each year on 25 November to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. And in marking White Ribbon Day it is important to note the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women because that really goes to the heart of what is driving so much of the public response to White Ribbon Day—genuine concern about the prevalence of family violence in our country.

I have listened to some of the other speakers in this debate, and I note that they have been talking about the importance of men treating women with respect and as equals. It's important to make those comments because it's not just a lack of respect that is the source of family violence and domestic violence; it is gender inequality. That's what the research says, that's what the work that has been done in relation to preventing family violence says—that the heart of family violence is gender inequality. Therefore, when we look at White Ribbon Day, it is important to acknowledge that men have a role, as the predominant perpetrators of family and domestic violence, in ending family and domestic violence. That's why men's based organisations like White Ribbon and men's behavioural change programs are important in the struggle to reduce and ultimately eliminate violence against women. And that means we require recognition from this place that gender inequality is something that requires concentrated effort to ameliorate and ultimately end.

You can't stop domestic violence without dealing with gender inequality, and that is why policies and programs aimed at increasing and enhancing the status of women remain so important in discussing domestic and family violence. When the other speakers in this debate quite rightly talk about respect for women, they need to acknowledge that that respect has to come from an acceptance and acknowledgement that women and men are equal. It's not enough to treat women as equal as a form of discretion; you have to genuinely believe that women are equal to men in order to have meaningful action in relation to family and domestic violence.

I commend White Ribbon for the work that it does to engage with men in corporate Australia, in sporting organisations and elsewhere to raise awareness in respect of family violence and the unacceptability of using family violence and of committing violent acts against women and children. I think the work they're doing has been recognised as being incredibly important, and it's part of a much broader movement across our nation to respond to family violence. Of course, government has an important role to play in reducing and ultimately eliminating family violence and domestic violence.

It's worth noting that this month is Sexual Violence Awareness Month—and, of course, sexual violence and domestic violence do tend to go hand in hand. As the previous speaker mentioned, so many of us have been touched by the scandal that's currently enveloping Hollywood in relation to sexual harassment and sexual assault by people with power in that particular industry and area. So many of us have been seeing stories crop up in our Facebook posts from friends who have been the subject of sexual harassment and sexual assault. It's quite wearing, isn't it, Mr Deputy Speaker? It's quite grating on the soul to be constantly bombarded with the sense that every woman you know has been the subject of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

But let's take that feeling of weariness and turn it into action. Don't be sceptical about the idea that every woman you know has been the subject of sexual harassment or sexual assault. There is a great deal of prevalence. It is unsurprising to me to see how many of my friends are joining #MeToo and saying that they have been the subject of it. What also needs to happen is that the men in our lives need to talk about their role in ending sexual harassment, sexual assault and, of course, domestic violence. That comes back to the issue of equality, of understanding and believing that women are equal to men.

So much more needs to be done and said in relation to family and domestic violence. I hope that the government will ensure that domestic violence is back on the COAG agenda as soon as possible. I look forward to seeing much more work being done to respond to and reduce and ultimately eliminate family violence in Australia.