Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

White Ribbon Day, Launch of the third phase of The Line campaign, Hobart

Location: Hobart

Good morning.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

White Ribbon Day is a time to remember those people whose lives have been affected by violence and a chance for us to commit to ways we can work together as a community to reduce violence against women.

Today we are here in beautiful Hobart, proudly wearing our White Ribbons, joining the global chorus of people – most importantly men – who say that violence against women is never OK.

A number of prominent Australians have made the pledge and become White Ribbon Ambassadors, joining more than 55,000 every-day Australian men who have sworn never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

White Ribbon works to develop a culture of equality and respect, where attitudes and behaviours that support the use of violence are no longer tolerated.

It is every women’s right to live a life free of violence.

Costs of violence against women

The personal and social costs of violence against women are extraordinarily wide ranging.

Violence not only affects the women themselves, but the children who are exposed to it, their extended families, their friends, their work colleagues and ultimately the broader community.

Economic cost

The economic costs, in medical and legal services, time off work and lost productivity is enormous.

KPMG has estimated the cost of domestic violence to the Australian economy at more than $13.6 billion, with that figure likely to rise to $15.6 billion by 2021.

Last Tuesday, I launched here in Hobart an important toolkit called Safe at Home, Safe at Work?

The initiative aims to improve the capacity of unions, employers and employer organisations to support employees experiencing domestic or family violence and help them remain in work.

Almost two thirds of women who report domestic violence are in paid employment.

Women who are experiencing domestic violence may find it hard to concentrate at work, or they may take a lot of time off, or often be late to work.

The perpetrator may also be harassing them while they are in the workplace.

It is vitally important that these women are supported in the workplace.

Returning to or staying at work is critical to women finding safe pathways towards exiting a violent relationship – a job provides them financial security and a safe haven.

Human costs

Far too many Australian women today are experiencing violence – one in three will have experienced physical violence from the time they were 15 years old.

One in five will have experienced sexual violence – according to these same figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

What is more, we know that a woman living in this country is more likely to be killed in her home by her male partner than anywhere else or by anyone else.

The most recent available homicide statistics, found almost 8 out of 10 female murder victims in Australia were killed by someone with whom they shared a domestic relationship. [1]

Indigenous women are over-represented in these figures -Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are more likely than non-Indigenous women to be murdered by their male partner.

The figures for men show 84 per cent of those murdered were killed by an acquaintance or a stranger.

It’s a similar picture for assault.

In Tasmania, in 2008, there were slightly more men who were victims of assault than women – 1,860 men and 1,833 women.

But the women were more likely have known the offender – 82 per cent of assaults on women were perpetrated by someone known to them compared to 50 per cent of male assaults.

Around half – 47.1 per cent – of these women reported they were assaulted by their partner or ex-partner.

Research also tells us that a large proportion of violence against women in the home goes unreported.

Police response

It’s critical that, when reported, the police response is appropriate to the seriousness of the crime.

An immediate response is vital for the safety of the victim.

A strong and immediate response also sends an important message to the perpetrator and to wider society about the seriousness of crimes of violence against women and their children.

Safe at Home, the Tasmanian Government’s response to family violence, represented ground-breaking reform when it was initiated in 2004.

It is an integrated criminal justice response to family violence where the safety of the victim is considered paramount.

The ‘Safe at Home’ statistics for 2011-12 from the Tasmanian Department of Justice show there was a 24.2% increase in the number of persons taken into custody as a result of family violence matters.

There was a 28% increase in the number of applications for Family Violence Orders dealt with by the Magistrates Court.

Violence against women and their children is a crime and the improved police response of recent years to incidents of family violence is encouraging.

National Plan

In this same way, we need to change attitudes and behaviours towards women, in particular among Australian men.

This is why the Australian Government has teamed up with all State and Territory governments to bring about sustained and coordinated action through our National Plan to reduce Violence Against Women and their Children (2010-2022).

It is the first of its kind to work across jurisdictions.

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

It is the first to focus on holding perpetrators accountable and encouraging behavioural change.

Since 2009, as part of this National Plan, the Australian Government has provided over $86 million to a range of initiatives to improve the lives of women who have experienced violence and to prevent violence in the first place.

We are providing telephone and online counselling, not just for women who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, but also to people working with victims of violence.

We expanded the Domestic Violence Response Training to include allied health workers.

We have improved the legal framework and practice of workers who support people exposed to family violence, with Parliament passing the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011.

This will provide better protection for children and families at risk of abuse.

Respectful Relationships education projects are being implemented across all states and territories. Work is progressing to build this into the National Curriculum.

We have also provided Community Action Grants to 14 community organisations and three national sporting organisations to support community action that encourages and promotes zero tolerance to violence against women.

The Line

The White Ribbon campaign aims to end violence against women by encouraging men and boys to take positive action to create change.

In our work to break the cycle of violence, we have engaged with youth in an innovative social media campaign called The Line.

It encourages young people to foster respectful relationships and to change attitudes and behaviours that may lead to violence.

The Line encourages young people to think about what part of their behaviour “crosses the line”.

It does this through discussions on a dedicated website, www.theline.gov.au, and on Facebook, and other youth-based media.

The campaign is making a positive impact, particularly during early relationships when young people rely heavily on advice from their peers about what is right and wrong.

The most recent wave of tracking research, based on feedback from The Line users, found:

  • 84 per cent who recognise The Line campaign claim it has improved their understanding of behaviour that could be “crossing the line”.
  • 81 per cent have done something positive as a result of the campaign.
  • 78 per cent intended to change their behaviour in the next six months.
  • 84 per cent of 12 to 24 year olds intended to change their behaviour in the next six months as a result of the campaign.

The next – and third – phase of the campaign which I am launching today draws on the rich and engaging content on The Line website and Facebook page.

There will be new partnerships – with music festivals and music ambassadors and engagement with more social media on this important issue.


The aim of all this work is to strengthen the ability of communities to discuss the problem of violence against women and take responsibility for the solutions

All Australian men can play a vital role to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

White Ribbon Day reminds us of this.

Thank you.


[1] Homicide in Australia: 2007-08 National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report, see http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/mr/1-20/13.aspx