Speech by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Remarks at the launch of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children

Location: Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Sydney

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Today we are here to announce the endorsement of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022.

Alarmingly, one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.

Almost one in five has experienced sexual violence.

These figures are staggering. they are deeply disturbing.

All forms of violence against women are unacceptable, in any community and in any culture and it is everyone’s responsibility to reject and prevent violence.

Today is a historic day.

Today, we come together as governments and as a community to say that these figures are not good enough – to say that it is time for a combined, strategic and sustained effort to reduce the terrible prevalence of violence against women.

This National Plan follows the receipt by Australian governments of a report called the Time for Action.

The Time for Action put forward a vision that sustained action across generations and on multiple levels is what was most likely to achieve long term change.

In other words – it is time to end the ad hoc and generalised solutions – it is time for us to work together, to share our best practices and to make a real difference for Australian women.

The National Plan brings governments of all persuasions together, in a combined effort to reduce this violence against women.

It is a single unified strategy aimed at combating the problems of domestic and sexual violence.

Today we are committing to:

  • reduce the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault;
  • to increase the proportion of women who feel safe in their communities;
  • to reduce deaths related to domestic violence and sexual assault; and
  • to reduce proportion of children exposed to their mother’s or carer’s experience of domestic violence.

And we are committing to achieve these real changes in the next 12 years.

The National Plan will be driven by a series of four three-year Action Plans, the first of which is contained in the document you have with you today.

The action plans have been designed in three-year cycles so governments can review the strategies and actions once they are implemented and design future government efforts to be as effective as possible.

This series of plans will allow governments to respond to emerging priorities as new evidence becomes available and circumstances change.

The National Plan brings with it a lot of ‘firsts’.

It is the first plan of its kind to coordinate action across jurisdictions.

It is the first to focus so strongly on prevention.

It is the first to look to the long term – building respectful relationships and working to increase gender equality to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.

And it is the first to focus on holding perpetrators accountable and encourage behaviour change for the future.

Since April 2009, the Australian Government has committed over $86 million to initiatives under the National Plan – initiatives to improve the lives of women who have experienced violence and most importantly to stop violence from occurring in the first place.

We have established a 24 hour telephone counselling hotline 1800 RESPECT, to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

We are increasing support for frontline workers and rewarding States and Territories when they promote best practice perpetrator interventions.

We launched a social marketing campaign, the Line, which encourages young people to develop healthy, respectful relationships.

We are improving services for victims of domestic violence through reform projects and we are funding a new National Centre of Excellence for research into sexual assault and family and domestic violence.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children who presented this Government with Time for Action.

Most particularly I would like to thank the brave 2000 women and men around Australia who told their stories to the National Council and informed the development of Time for Action.

My thanks also go to the Violence Against Women Advisory Group, appointed in 2009 to respond to Time for Action and the many, many women’s organisations who contributed to the Plan. You have done an extraordinary job.

The expertise of these groups has assisted Government to develop a national policy agenda to reduce violence against women in the long term.

I hope that in 12 years time we are able to demonstrate that your work has made a real difference to the lives of Australian women and their children.

The National Plan is underpinned by the belief that involving all governments and the wider community is necessary to reducing violence in the short and longer terms.

We recognise that no government or group can tackle this problem alone.

While living free from violence is everyone’s right – reducing violence is everyone’s responsibility.