Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Opening of the White Ribbon International Conference

Location: Sydney, NSW

Good afternoon

Thank you Andrew O’Keefe your warm welcome.

And thank you to Donna for welcoming us all to Country.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on, the Cadigal people and pay respect to their Elders, past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge Pru Goward, NSW Minister for Community Services and Women and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Michaelia Cash.

The Prime Minister has asked me to convey her sincere apologies for not being able to make it here personally to open the White Ribbon International Conference, Global to Local: Preventing Men’s Violence against Women – Research, Policy and Practice in One Space.

The Prime Minister has asked me to read you this message:

It is with great pleasure that I send my best wishes to all those participating in the inaugural White Ribbon Conference and I extend an especial welcome to Dr Michael Kaufman, co-founder of the White Ribbon movement.

Since the White Ribbon movement first appeared in this country, more than 70,000 Australian men have sworn ‘never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women’. Alongside these personal commitments is White Ribbon’s tireless advocacy and education work. By engaging with workplaces, community groups and individuals, White Ribbon has already done much to challenge attitudes and behaviours.

Today, at its inaugural conference, White Ribbon is taking the next step in the road to preventing violence against women.

By bringing together world-leading researchers, policy makers and practitioners in this field, White Ribbon is helping to create a strong base upon which best practice initiatives and public policy can be made.

The Australian Government stands with White Ribbon in its endeavour. The recently established National Centre of Excellence to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children will lead a national research agenda and provide evidence-based responses to reducing family and domestic violence.

I am confident that the outcomes from this conference will inform future initiatives, services and policy responses. Together, we can build a safer society for all Australians.

Preventing violence – a national priority

As the Prime Minister acknowledges, research and evidence based responses are crucial if we are to make more progress in preventing and reducing violence against women and their children.

And I will have more to say on a significant new research initiative shortly.

This conference turns the spotlight on a shattering issue for our society – one with devastating costs to individuals, our communities and the nation.

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

I know it’s a priority of all governments in Australia and we are committed to working with the non-government sector to prevent violence against women.

At the last Select Council on Women’s Issues in Canberra 10 days ago, Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers agreed on launching new work to prevent perpetrators of violence against women from reoffending.

The Australian Government will provide funding of $3 million over three years to this initiative as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

We want to know the best way to prevent perpetrators from reoffending and there’s little evidence about what is effective-either here or internationally.

The Ministers agreed to two areas of work – to build the evidence base for perpetrator interventions and to prevent repeat offending and ultimately reduce violence against women.

This research will be carried out through the National Centre of Excellence.

Commission on the Status of Women

In March this year, I had the privilege to lead Australia’s delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Over the week I was able to share some of the leading work being done in Australia, to hear from delegates from around the world and to discuss the challenges we are confronting.

Especially pleasing was the landmark agreement on preventing violence against women and girls reached at this meeting after the deadlock of the previous commission.

The countries at the Commission signed up to historic firsts in committing to drive global action to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls.

The key breakthrough was the recognition that custom, tradition or religious consideration should play no part in denying women equal rights or justifying violence against them.

The conclusions also highlighted the importance of engaging with men and boys and their role in preventing violence from occurring in the first place.

As I said in delivering Australia’s Country Statement to CSW, our message to the world is simple: violence, in all its forms – physical, sexual or psychological – is unacceptable.

We can now build on this agreement and link international efforts on primary prevention.

National links

Here at home there are strong links already to address the devastating personal, social and economic costs of violence against women.

The Australian Government is working with the states and territories and the White Ribbon Foundation and other members of the non-government sector to implement the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The National Plan is the first in Australia to look to the long term, building respectful relationships and working to increase gender equality to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.

Long before the CSW conclusions, the National Plan recognised the critical role of men and boys in eliminating violence against women and girls.

Since 2009, the Australian Government has invested $86 million on National Plan initiatives, with a strong focus on prevention.

Increasing resources

To prevent violence against women and their children, attitudes around gender equality and violence need to change.

Under the National Plan, governments in Australia have led some highly successful primary prevention initiatives focused on doing just this.

Initiatives like ‘The Line’ social marketing campaign, which encourages young people to develop respectful relationships and has around 70,000 Facebook followers.

The national plan has delivered 32 Respectful Relationships projects across Australia and we are committed to include respectful relationships in the national curriculum.

And, of course, there is wonderful work being done by the non-government sector to prevent violence.

This includes the White Ribbon campaign, as well as dozens of community and locally based primary prevention activities.

It is clear increasing numbers of people – men and women, boys and girls – are rejecting violence against women.

We have seen this through the reaction of the community and media to recent incidents in Australia and overseas.

It is time to harness this energy, drive an even greater change in attitudes and, ultimately, stop violence from happening in the first place.

At a national level, we now need to bring together all of the important work being done, strengthen engagement across the broader Australian community, and provide opportunities for community leadership in preventing violence.

Only then will we start to see real change.

In tomorrow’s Budget, the Australian Government will be allocating $1 million a year to fund a new body to undertake primary prevention activities.

White Ribbon Australia will be closely involved in the establishment and ongoing work of this organisation – I look forward to carrying out this important work with White Ribbon.

This organisation will also work with the National Centre of Excellence, which we have recently established under the National Plan to build the evidence base around violence against women and their children.

We will be consulting with the non-government sector, with governments and with other experts across Australia about the work of this foundation.

We want to make sure that, from the outset, the community takes ownership of this initiative and of preventing violence against women.

I look forward to announcing further details about this in the near future.


Sustained, collective efforts are needed to bring lasting change to the lives of all women.

As your conference title suggests, this means collective action in research, policy and practice.

Like you, we know that engaging men and boys is key to eradicating violence.

I commend all of you here today for your dedication to this critically important issue.

And I look forward to reading and hearing about the outcomes of your conference.

Thank you.