Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Official Launch of the Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children

Location: Melbourne

Thank you Michael for your kind introduction and good morning everyone.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on today – the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation – and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

Violence against women: an unacceptable cost

Earlier this week, here in Victoria, we saw the launch of a new campaign saying
no to violence against women.

Like our national White Ribbon Day in November, the Take a Stand campaign is the reflection of an unacceptable truth.

And that is …

In Australia, one in three women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.

And almost one in five has experienced sexual violence.

We know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls are 35 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family related violence as other Australian women and girls.

We know women with disability and women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities can be especially vulnerable to both domestic violence and sexual assault.

We know too that violence doesn’t happen in isolation, and that children – girls and boys alike – are affected when there is violence at home.

The statistics make it pretty clear – the degree of separation is minimal.

Odds are that all of us know women who have been subject to violence.

The impacts of domestic violence and sexual assault are far reaching and long term.

They have devastating impacts on a woman’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Domestic violence is also the major cause of homelessness among women and children.

And on top of the significant personal cost, domestic violence and sexual assault also have an economic cost.

A study commissioned by the Australian Government in 2009 shows domestic violence and sexual assault perpetrated against women costs the nation $13.6 billion each year.

That cost is set to rise by a further $2 billion by 2021 if we don’t take more action.

On every level, the cost of violence against Australian women is unacceptable.

A common goal, a common responsibility

Living free of violence is everyone’s right and reducing violence is everyone’s responsibility.

Research tells us that to stop violence against women, we need first to address the attitudes and beliefs that help sustain it.

And we have made progress.

A recent survey of community attitudes showed an increased awareness about the issue, with 98 per cent of people recognising that violence against women is a crime.

But some very troubling attitudes and beliefs still persist.

The survey revealed 34 per cent of people believed that “rape resulted from men being unable to control their need for sex”.

And roughly one in six agreed that a woman is “partly responsible if she is raped when drunk or drug-affected”.

Clearly we still have work to do.

A national foundation

At the White Ribbon International Conference in May this year I announced new Commonwealth funding to establish a new body to undertake primary prevention activities.

Today, I am pleased to tell you that the Commonwealth and Victorian governments have partnered on this very important initiative.

Today, we are here to officially launch the national Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children.

The primary role of the Foundation will be to advocate and engage with the community about preventing this violence.

The Foundation will be an independent company, managed by its own Board of Directors, and will help deliver on the goals laid out in our National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children.

This 12-year plan is underpinned by the belief that all governments and the wider community have a role to play in ending violence against women.

That is something this Government takes very seriously.

That is why we invested more than $86 million in the first three years of the National Plan, with a strong focus on prevention.

That is why we will invest a further $84 million in the National Plan through to 2017.

The Victorian Government has a great track record in primary prevention and community engagement – that’s one of the reasons why the Foundation will be based in Melbourne, drawing on this expertise to create a national presence.

The Foundation will work with the National Centre of Excellence which has been established to build a much-needed and long overdue evidence base around violence against women and their children.

It will collaborate with, and learn from, organisations already delivering best practise primary prevention work across Australia.

The Foundation will support and bring together all of the important work already being done in the community and strengthen engagement across Australia.

I am pleased today to announce an additional $1million funding from the Commonwealth for some initial projects aimed at understanding the impact of advertising and creating a stronger and more positive portrayal of women in the media.

This is in addition to the funding provided by the Commonwealth and Victorian State Government who are each providing $2 million over two years.

Working together: past, present and future

This is an important day and an important step for Australia.

But I do want to make the point that our work and our efforts are very much part of an ongoing battle to end violence against women.

It is a struggle with no geographical borders and a long history.

In Australia, in recent years, we have seen DV refuges, rape crisis centres and other women’s organisations celebrate their 20th, 30th and even 40th anniversaries.

Some of the women who helped set up these ground breaking organisations continue to work in the sector – sometimes even in the centre they set up.

They are a wealth of feminist knowledge that should not be overlooked.

Today I think it is fitting that we acknowledge the pioneering work these women did in the 1970s and 1980s in particular.

In a very real sense they built the foundations that underpin this new national venture.

I know one of the Foundation’s priorities is to draw on community expertise.

That’s why a range of stakeholders from the non-government sector, as well as business and all state and territory governments, have been invited to contribute to a national consultation process which will start next week.

Consultations will be held in each state and territory with online submissions and webinars also available to those who want to contribute.

There’s no question we will get the best results from working together.

The amazing video that we saw earlier is testament to the diverse range of people who care – and care deeply – about this issue.

In closing: a policy of zero tolerance

In closing, I’d really like to thank you for taking the time to be here today.

We may have a way to go but I, for one, am proud to be part of a Government – and to live in a country – that advocates zero tolerance for violence against women.

I look forward to continuing this important work with many of you.

And beyond that, I look forward to a time when our nation has no need for a White Ribbon Day or a Take A Stand campaign.