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Address to National Family Violence Summit, Canberra

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17 March 2016

Address to National Family Violence Summit Canberra



Well thank you very much for that very kind introduction - and thank you very much Aunty Agnes for your Welcome to Country. It is a real honour for me to open this National Family Violence Summit.

Firstly, I pay tribute to Tara Costigan. Tara died at the hands of her former partner. Her last breath and energy spent trying to protect her little baby as her two young boys watched helplessly.

Tara's story reminds us that behind the headlines and the statistics, the victims of this crime are real.

Loved forever by their families and friends and their absence mourned every day.

Tara's uncle Michael is here and was instrumental in establishing the Tara Costigan Foundation and you saw his eloquence on the video a moment ago. He's brought us all together today and Michael, we pay tribute to you too and your efforts.

We also acknowledge Dr Ann O'Neill who is here today and will speak shortly. Ann is a really resilient woman and an inspirational survivor of domestic violence. I met Ann last year and heard her tragic story of how her estranged husband killed her two children before turning the gun on himself.

These are horrors beyond most of our imagination.

And so we'll never know the true burden of Ann's suffering, nor that of Tara's family. But we do know, however, that you have shown a bravery and a resilience and now a courageous advocacy in the face of incomprehensible loss so that other families may be spared your pain.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, last year marked a turning point in this terrible story of domestic violence in Australia.

Australians spurred on by the leadership of people like Ann and Rosie Batty and many others stood up alongside the victims and their families and said enough, no more.

A cultural shift is underway and its momentum cannot be denied.

We have begun to confront the truth, the fact that society's attitude towards women, the value we place on women, the regard we have for women is, in part, linked to the violence that is committed against them.

We are looking critically at the way we treat women, how we can be better role models, how we can raise our sons to have respect for women and our daughters to have greater self-esteem.

We are talking about respect for women here and gender equality - both provide a strong

defence against domestic violence. Not all disrespect for women ends in violence against women. But, my friends, all violence against women begins with disrespecting women.

So cultural change is just one part of the answer, but it lays the foundations upon which we are determined to build the cultural change that will enable Australia and Australians to be known, remarked upon, for our respect for women.

Now my Government has delivered a series of important measures to address domestic violence and I want to acknowledge Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Women and Christian Porter, the Minister for Social Services and the leadership they have shown driving these reforms on behalf of the Government.

Last year through the Council of Australian Governments, we agreed to national perpetrator intervention standards and are working towards a national domestic violence order scheme.

We will soon launch a national campaign funded by the Commonwealth and the States and Territories that will focus on young people and changing their attitudes towards violence against women.

We will continue to deliver the $100 million Women's Safety Package with practical and immediate measures to keep women safe.

Through that package, we have already provided $15 million to pilot innovative models to help women access legal assistance in safe locations.

Services are being established across Australia in each State and Territory and they will deliver significant benefits to communities.

The first specialist unit was launched in Bankstown earlier this month, delivered by Legal Aid New South Wales and provides targeted assistance to culturally and linguistically diverse women in the south-west Sydney region.

In South Australia, the Legal Services Commission will pilot a model involving a fully mobile legal team assisting women in locations which are easy and safe to access.

These innovative service models will make a real difference to women and their children while building an evidence base for future government service delivery decisions.

Now another focus of our Government has been on measures to deal with technology facilitated violence. Technology - especially the smartphone - offers extraordinary opportunities for human interaction and it is an enormous social benefit.

But, of course, it can be misused and when that happens technology - text messages, GPS tracking, social media - can seriously compound the suffering of domestic violence victims.

Through the Women's Safety Package, we are working with business and the community to provide new smartphones and safe technology information to domestic violence victims.

Now today, I'd like to highlight and congratulate Telstra's commitment to provide 20,000 smartphones over three years through the Women's Services Network.

And I can also announce that the Government will be providing $2.5 million to the Women's Services Network - WESNET - to distribute these smartphones and to provide training to frontline services to help domestic violence victims understand how to use their smartphones safely.

The funding [applause] thank you and that applause should be for Telstra too, it’s a great initiative on behalf of our biggest telco. The fund will allow domestic violence victims to access safe and secure communications at a time when they most need it.

This kind of collaboration with business and the community is critical as we move to the next phase of the battle against domestic violence.

Governments can lead the way - and we will, and we are - but we cannot act alone.

When we all work together, pulling towards our common goal, we can achieve our objective. And that is to create a society to ensure that our society is one where women and children live free from violence, respect it and are safe in their homes and in their communities.

I recommit myself and my Government to this critical clause.

We are in this for the long haul and we are determined to make a difference.

I want to wish you all the best, congratulate you for this very important summit and look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.

Thank you very much. Ends