09 August 2023

The statistics that I'm about to read out are not easy to hear. They paint a stark picture of the often hidden but insidious act of domestic violence and its pervasive and indiscriminate spread in homes across our nation. Here are the ugly facts of domestic violence: one in four women have experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15; one in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15; one in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15; one in six women and one in nine men have experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 15. This year alone, we've already seen too many lives lost to family and domestic violence. We can no longer ignore the brutal reality of domestic violence. That's why our Albanese Labor government has legislated groundbreaking reform: 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave for all Australian workers. It's why we are committed to ending violence against women and children, violence that is often hidden in plain sight.

In my electorate of Corangamite in Victoria, we've seen a growing number of family violence cases reported over the past five years. It is encouraging that these cases are being reported, but it reveals just how systemic family violence is. Statistics from the Victoria Police show that just last year there were approximately 4,800 cases of domestic violence in local government areas across my electorate alone. This is unacceptable. These women come from all walks of life—different ages, cultures, professions and backgrounds. They share a heartbreaking story—their lives and their children's lives tragically cut short or brutally upended at the hands of a current or former partner. These women are aunties, sisters, daughters, friends and colleagues. They are women we have loved and women we have lost too soon. Of course, we know that it's not just women and children facing injury and losing their lives to violence; it's also women and children living every day in fear because of the violence they are experiencing. It's women who find tracking devices in their children's toys, who field abusive calls at their workplace every day and who wake up to hundreds of abusive calls on their phones. It's women who make the brave choice to leave, bundling their children into the car, and then are forced to couch-surf and give up their jobs because they have no secure place to call home. This must change, and the perception of family violence must change.

It's revealing that the 2021 national community attitudes surveyfound that, while many Australians—91 per cent—recognise that violence against women is a problem in Australia, only 47 per cent recognise that this is a problem in their own suburb or town. We need to shatter the perception that family violence happens elsewhere and not in your own backyard. Ten days of paid family violence leave is the Albanese government's first step in supporting women and men experiencing domestic violence. I am proud that, when I was mayor of the Surf Coast Shire, we were the first employer in the world to introduce this reform. I'd like to recognise the member for Cooper, who, in her former role as the ACTU president, helped to achieve this groundbreaking reform. Now it's enshrined in our nation's federal legislation.

But there's so much more to do and the Albanese government understands this. That's where our National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children comes in. It provides a blueprint for the whole of society and an all-levels-of-government approach to end violence against women and children in just one generation. In rolling out this plan, I am proud that in the two successive budgets the Albanese government has made is a record investment of $2.3 billion for a range of initiatives to end violence against women and children. These include investments in prevention, because we know that prevention is the key to generational change. And so we have legislated for a positive duty on employers to take a proactive role in ensuring their workplaces are free of harassment.

We're investing in consent and respectful relationships education in schools and communities across the nation. We're also investing in early intervention and responses to domestic violence because we know they're so important to prevent violence from occurring and escalating. We're improving access and quality of support to those seeking urgent help via the family and domestic violence helpline, the 1800RESPECT line. And we're providing support to small businesses through the Small Business, Big Impact podcast released last week, to give them the skill set to support employees who may be suffering from family violence. I strongly encourage all my local small business owners to listen to this podcast. The other area which we're investing in is healing and recovery, because healing and recovery lead to breaking the cycle of ongoing violence, supporting women so they do not return to a violent situation and giving them the tools to move on with their lives.

I would like to acknowledge our unions, which have fought so hard for paid family and domestic violence leave through the Fair Work Commission. And I would like to acknowledge the amazing work done in this space by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and by the Minister for Social Services. Finally, I would like to acknowledge all the victim-survivors who have raised their voices to inform government, educate community and empower our institutions to do better. Our government recognises that elevating the voices of victims and survivors is a key driver to changing our nation's culture and the perception of domestic and family violence.

The Albanese government is committed to a country free of gender based violence, where all people can live free from fear and violence and be safe at home, at work, at school, in the community and, of course, online. We acknowledge the lives of those lost to gender based violence and we commit to working to create an Australia where women and children can live their lives freely and safely in all environments. We must all commit to the view that women should not experience violence—that it is not inevitable and it is not acceptable.

Finally, I would like to share some of the words of those victim-survivors contained in the opening statement of our national plan:

Abuse and violence is a problem for victims, but it is not the victims' problem. Genuine change begins with a willingness to listen. We must stop protecting perpetrators with our silence, and through inaction. We must be willing to sit in discomfort. It is time to be brave.

It is time to act.