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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 13025

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (16:35): We all know that there is evil in the world, but when we confront it face to face we are still shocked, in the literal sense, and disoriented, finding it hard to concentrate on our usual business. This was the feeling of the people of Brunswick in my electorate of Wills after the death of Jill Meagher in Brunswick in September.

For the 30,000 residents who walked down Sydney Road, Brunswick on September 30 as a part of a march in honour of Jill Meagher, it was undoubtedly the last thing we wanted to be doing that day but we did it all the same. We did it because we needed to state clearly and unequivocally that this is not us—that Jill Meagher's violent and senseless death is not what we are as men, as people, as a community. We did it because we needed to say that violence against women is never acceptable, not under any circumstances. We did it to affirm that Jill Meagher and her life mattered, that she and her life were important and meaningful to us. We did it because sometimes grief and sorrow and anger is better shared than borne alone. And we did it to look for answers to that ultimately unanswerable question. Why?

I will be hosting, with the state member for Brunswick, Jane Garrett, a forum about community safety in Brunswick on Monday, 19 November in conjunction with Victoria Police, Moreland City Council, the White Ribbon Foundation and other community leaders.

The intention of the forum will not be to promote fear or hysteria, but neither should it sweep anything under the carpet. It should be a clear-eyed and honest discussion about how we are travelling in terms of public safety, and what positive things we can do to make this community safer. The forum will provide the local community with the opportunity to hear directly from the police, the council and other community leaders about the work being done to improve community safety. This forum will also allow local residents to share their views on possible initiatives relating to addressing violence against women—CCTV cameras, late-night bars and clubs, police visibility, street lighting, taxi services, public transport—and what actions we need to take to make our community a safer place. The Brunswick community has been deeply shocked by the death of Jill Meagher. Building on the tremendous public displays of grief and solidarity, this forum will be an avenue for concerns and ideas to be aired and giving clear feedback for actions required.

I am one of the male parliamentarians for the elimination of violence against women who has taken the white ribbon pledge not to commit, not to condone and not to stay silent about violence against women. One of the things we have committed to do is raise awareness of the issue, and I want to do something about discharging that obligation today. There is much that men can do to help stop sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of violence. Violence against women will only stop when men join with women to put an end to it. And both men and women will benefit from a world free of violence. What can men do? We can listen to women. Who knows better about violence against women than women who experience it? Learn about violence by asking a woman who trusts you how violence has affected her life; and then, if she feels comfortable to talk, sit back and listen.

In campaigning against violence done to women, it is important to remind ourselves of what we are standing for: we want friendships and relationships which are fair, empowering and peaceful; and we want girls and women to grow up free from the threat of violence. Men have much to gain from ending violence. In our relations with women, instead of experiencing distrust and disconnection, we may find closeness and connection. The girls and women we love will lead safer, freer lives. No longer will men be viewed with fear or suspicion because of the threat posed by a minority.

Our hearts go out to Jill Meagher's family at this terrible time, and in particular to her husband Thomas. We can only glimpse the pain, grief, sorrow and anger he must be going through. I also extend my condolences and sympathies to Jill's work colleagues at the ABC. I want to congratulate Victoria Police for their mighty efforts in the days after Jill Meagher went missing and I thank Brunswick Police for the most co-operative way in which they responded to requests for information from Jane Garrett and me. With Jill Meagher's death we are left to reflect on the cruel and capricious nature of life and fate. Why this young woman? And, in asking this question, I am reminded of this from John Donne: 'No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main … Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind … Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.'