Domestic and Family Violence

I appreciate the opportunity to make a few comments in this debate today. It is the case that a year ago, almost exactly to the day, I was standing in this same place talking about White Ribbon Day. On that occasion, I was reflecting on 40 years previously—that is, 1975—which was International Women's Year—and the events that I remember happening when I was much younger woman than I am now, such as when my mum and a group of women in our local community decided to establish a women's refuge in the area. Great work was done by the public school mother's group, who were the driving force behind that. They were supported by the local council, a group of nuns from Warrawong, local unions and some businesses who provided equipment and paint and so forth. They established the first women's refuge in our area. I am fairly sure that those women then, and my young self at the time, would have hoped that 41 years later-if they could have imagined that I would end up in this place representing the community—it would not be an issue that we had to keep talking about. But we do, and that is why I want to again say how important this issue is, and we can hope that in another 40 years, our successors in this place will not have to have these conversations. Each and every one of us are working towards making that future a reality, in whatever way we can with whatever power we have.

There have been some amazing contributions across the parliament on this and I want to acknowledge my colleague Emma Husar and her powerful, personal testimony. It brought home to many of us the far-reaching affects that family and domestic violence has on people's lives. It is sadly the case that it permeates throughout families. You clearly have those who are the direct victims of this sort of behaviour, most often women and too often children—and often men too. I think it is important that we have acknowledged that there is an issue with violence being perpetrated against men; though it is predominantly women and children who are the target. But it affects the whole family and that is the reality. That terrible abuse and disrespect of each other plays out through the whole family.

 

I was at a forum on the weekend where we talked about homelessness. Many teenagers, boys and girls, are homeless because they are fleeing violence within the home. The world is a tough place. The one place where you should be able to go to and feel supported, loved and safe is your home. The fact is that too many people do not have that as their day-to-day experience and that is something that should never, ever walk away from taking action on. Whether that is supporting health services, legal services, programs and housing for those who find themselves homeless, the actions of governments can make a great difference. But at the end of the day, it is actions that we take as individuals that are so important. I am a mother of two sons. It is important that we raise the next generation to have respect not only for each other but for themselves. Too much disrespect for others comes from a lack of respect for yourself.

We need to raise a generation who understand that you are strong and powerful because you are respectful, because you are confident in yourself and you do not have to take that power from someone else to be powerful. These are very strong messages to raise our children and nieces and nephews with. I do sometimes worry about the pop culture view that comes through to young women that looks are everything, that popularity is everything—putting a picture on Facebook and seeing how many people like you then determines how good your day is. I do worry that some of that increasing trend is not giving the young women of today a strength within themselves, a strength to value themselves for who they are. We need to have these conversations.

 

The activities of community groups in particular are important here. We have a great Reclaim the Night group in Wollongong. I went to their rally in October in the mall. They have been working and gathering petitions on actions we can take. And there are the activities of many groups in this parliament. On Monday morning, as the member for Lingiari reported, we participated in a wonderful cultural event by the Indigenous community about saying no to violence. These are all important things. We need to do them as groups and communities and a society, and we also need to individually ensure that we are giving to the next generation strong and powerful messages of restraint, dignity and care and concern for each other that we can hope plant the seed, so that in 40 years time this is not a conversation that we will need to continue having. I commend both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition's statements on this and I add my voice to that call.

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