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Monday, 2 March 2020
Page: 2090


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (10:45): In the few minutes that it takes for me to deliver this speech, the police will have attended three separate calls in relation to family violence. By the time all speakers on this motion have concluded, that number will have grown to 30 separate calls for family violence related incidents. By the end of today, the figures will have grown to 723 separate calls—if not more, given that we know incidents of family violence spike following natural disasters and given that we know not all women report.

Imagine if these were reports of suspected coronavirus infections. Would we as individuals, as a society and as a parliament respond differently? Ugly violence against women is far more deadly than the disease. A 2016 ANROWS study found intimate partner violence contributes to more illness, disability and premature death than any other risk factor in women aged 18 to 44, with an average of eight women hospitalised each day due to family violence. Arguably, the economic impact of family violence is equal to if not greater than the coronavirus too, with a 2016 KPMG report estimating $26 billion is lost each year as a consequence of violence against women and their children. Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty issued a statement following the death of Hannah Clarke and her children in which she called on political leaders to think deeply about their leadership on this epidemic.

In 2010, the then Julia Gillard government created the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. It was a historic moment that brought together state, territory and Commonwealth governments to address the scourge of family and sexual violence against women. The national plan was a clear demonstration of Australia's commitment to uphold the human rights of women, and that there can be no greater right than to feel safe and to be free from violence in all forms.

But for our regional and rural communities feeling safe and free can be a challenge. Twenty-one per cent of women in rural and regional areas have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner, compared to 15 per cent of their urban counterparts. The problem is further compounded by the fact that women are unable to reach services due to a lack of both private and public transport options, and the closest services and support may be hundreds of kilometres away. In some communities, there is a view that family problems, such as domestic violence, should not be talked about outside of the home. This is perhaps reflected in some of the more disturbing statistics arising from the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey, which show that many in our community still hold attitudes and beliefs that tolerate or excuse violence. Two in five Australians believe gender inequality is exaggerated and no longer a problem, and one in five Australians believe domestic violence is a normal reaction to stress and that sometimes a woman can make a man so angry he hits her without meaning to.

Government alone cannot stop violence against women, but it can put in place the necessary frameworks to ensure that every single member of the public has the tools they need to uphold the fundamental human right to feel safe and to be free from violence. The national plan and accompanying action plan strive to do that. I want to acknowledge the extraordinary work of ANROWS, the national centre for excellence and Our Watch, but we as individuals must acknowledge that everybody in our society has responsibility to tackle the attitudes and beliefs that give rise to violence against women and that we have a role to play in advancing gender equality and respect for women, because women will never be safe if they are not viewed as equals. As Rosie Batty said, this is a serious abuse of human rights in our advanced and privileged culture and must continue to be addressed as an absolute priority by both federal and state governments.

So this Sunday we will recognise International Women's Day. I ask all in this chamber to pause and reflect and to think about the women who are not here to celebrate this day this year. Let us think about what we can do as a parliament collectively, all together, to bring change to this very important and concerning issue.