Transcript by The Hon Julie Collins MP

National Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children

Subjects: National Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children

E & OE

JULIE COLLINS: It’s great to be here today with the new chair of the National Foundation Natasha Stott Despoja and my Victorian counterpart Mary Wooldridge. Today we’ve launched the National Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children. It’s an initiative that we’ve been working on with the Victorian Government, and it’s a wonderful day, today, to see the Foundation up and running. And, of course, Natasha as the chair. I’m sure she will do a great job in raising awareness in our community about why we need to end violence against women and their children.

The Federal Government has invested over $2 million in the initial phase of the foundation, and then further project funding. And then funding over three years after that. So we’re very committed to this Foundation. It fits in with our National Centre of Excellence and our National Plan to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children, in which we’ve invested $86 million in the first three years and another $87 million to 2017.

The Federal Government is very committed to ending violence against women and their children.

MARY WOOLDRIDGE: The Victorian Government is very proud that this foundation will be located here in Victoria. And it’s a testament to the work that’s been done over many decades by the Victorian community sector, women advocates, and the broader community, to make sure that we lead and innovate in relation to preventing and responding to violence against women.

We believe that the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women will be a lightning rod for change and will lead a national debate in terms of community attitudes, hearts, and minds to make sure that violence against women and children is never acceptable, never supported, and always responded to. And we too are very proud to have worked with the Federal Government to put this foundation into place. And we’re thrilled that Natasha Stott Despoja will be leading the Foundation in its advocacy, in its work and in its leadership on this very important issue.

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA: Thank you both. I’m very honoured to have been asked to share this inaugural Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children. It is a truly national, cross party, cross jurisdictional body that will actually ensure that attitudes and behaviour are tackled in relation to this vexed issue. The statistics are chilling.

Eighty-nine women were killed by their partners between 2008 and 2010. We know a third of women over the age of 15 have experienced some form of physical assault, and we know that almost one in five women over the age of 15 have experienced some form of sexual assault. These statistics are chilling and they’re unacceptable. So what the Foundation has been tasked with doing is addressing the attitudes.

We’re looking at primary prevention. Getting in and looking at how we can prevent violence before it occurs. We look forward to working with the community in general. Not just all those wonderful groups that are advocacy groups and support services, but also with the business community, working with the media as well, and of course with Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments to ensure that we bring about the vision of an Australia free from violence. Particularly violence against women and their children.

QUESTION: A leading doc – this is for everyone really – a leading doctors group is calling for smacking to be banned for children. What do you think about that?

MARY WOOLDRIDGE: I’m happy to start. I read of that, and this has been an ongoing debate in this community, but I also read of respected educator and child psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg’s response to it, which is completely unworkable. I believe, and I think many do, that what we need to do is educate parents in relation to the issue of smacking, the issue of – that there are alternatives to that and that we need to be educating parents on how they can address it.

The Victorian Government will not be changing the laws in relation to smacking, but we take the issue of the safety and protection of children very seriously, and part of that is educating parents about the choices they have.

JULIE COLLINS: Obviously the legislation around this, as Mary’s pointed out, is a state and territory issue. As a commonwealth minister, looking after the national plan to – sorry the national framework for children and protecting children is really, really important. And I think that education is really the key. As Mary has said, education’s really important. Making sure that parents understand the impact of the way that they speak to their children, the way that they treat their children. And what the national framework for the protection of Australia’s children is all about is prevention and ensuring that children and families are safe and that they have the support that they need to build a strong family unit.

QUESTION: Does it perpetuate violence, though, within families or within…

JULIE COLLINS: I think any violence is not okay. I think we all need to stand up and say violence against anybody, violence against children, violence against women, violence against other adults is not okay.

QUESTION: Just a question about the foundation. In a practical way, how is this going to help women and children? How do you hope this foundation helps women and children?

MARY WOOLDRIDGE: Well, as a national body, we will operate on a collaborative basis. So obviously we’re going to learn from some of the best information out there, be it primary prevention information that tells us how we stop the violence occurring in the first place, and I know that’s complex. I know there are interrelated and multi-faceted issues when it comes to stopping people from having these particular attitudes and behaviours to begin with.

But one important aspect is raising awareness. We know that when people are aware of issues, they’re more likely to seek help. That’s one aspect, in terms of, you know, bringing together some of those support and other services.

But the longer-term work, yes, it’s getting people talking about these issues, understanding that it is unacceptable, making sure that there is no stigma, no taboo associated with these issues, so that we can actually prevent violence before it occurs.

So there are a number of projects that we’ll be working on in the foreseeable future. Obviously, our task to begin with is to go around on a national basis and talk with some of the groups, some of whom are represented in there, to work out what has worked and what hasn’t, and bring it together for the first time in a united national body. But again, one of the first times you will have seen primary prevention being given this kind of emphasis and status.

Thanks very much everyone for coming.