Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Country Women’s Association of Australia 34th Triennial Conference

Location: Hobart

Good morning everyone.

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting on today, and pay my respects to the Elders, past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge the Lord Mayor of Hobart, Alderman Damon Thomas and the Country Women’s Association of Australia National President, Mrs Heather Wieland AM.

I would like to thank the CWA of Australia for inviting me to open the 34th Triennial Conference on behalf of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in beautiful Hobart this morning.

The Prime Minister has asked me to extend her apologies that she is unable to be here with you today.

And has asked me to pass on the following message to you all:

This year the CWA is 90 years young and it’s a remarkable anniversary for a remarkable organisation.

Every Australian recognises in the name ‘CWA” a tradition of tough country women who’ve brought their signature brand of resilience, good humour and generosity to the service of rural communities.

What you do is deeply valued, not only in the places where you live and work but here in Canberra and right across our land, not least in our kitchens where so many well-thumbed copies of CWA cookbooks have pride of place.

But as you all know so well, your work is about far more than scones and tea.

It’s about the serious business of getting decent facilities and services into country communities, looking after the physical and mental health of those you love, and ensuring that our rural industries get the support and recognition they deserve.

I’m also proud of the contribution the CWA makes to debates about values and policy, and the thoughtful approach you take in response to forces like economic restructuring, the emergence of new technologies and fast moving social change which are so greatly altering the face of our nation.

In this phase of Australia’s journey, your strength and wisdom are needed more than ever, and you have every reason to march confidently toward your centenary, proud of what your predecessors have achieved over ninety years – and determined to do even more in the months and years ahead.

CWA’s contributions

I would like to add to the Prime Minister’s sentiments.

The CWA and its members are the backbone of local communities.

You should be proud of your valuable contribution to the social and economic fabric of communities across our nation.

You run businesses and farms, take on leadership roles, drive sustainability and innovation across primary industry sectors, ensure the wellbeing of families and communities, build strong networks and take part in everything from disaster response to volunteer work.

As you are only too well aware, Australia has been plagued by natural disasters in recent times.

It is in the rural areas that people have really done it tough and you and your fellow members have been on the frontline helping those who have been hit the hardest.

You also lobby Government on issues that affect your community and don’t stop until the message has been heard.

I would like to pay special mention of Heather. As most of you would know, your National President has received the Order of Australia for service to women and their families living in rural and regional areas.

I’m reliably informed that Heather and her team have been working into the early hours to organise this conference while continuing their important work advocating for your causes with Government.

That’s what volunteers do – they work all hours and don’t stop until the work is done.

Heather also continues to sit on the board of the National Rural Women’s Coalition – one of the six National Women’s Alliances, where, until recently, she volunteered two years of tireless service in the role of Chair.

She is a true inspiration.

Government’s commitment to Rural and Regional Australia

Like the CWA and the National Rural Women’s Coalition, the Gillard Government is committed to building resilience in Australian communities.

One way is by advancing women’s gender equality through improving their economic security and promoting leadership.

This commitment to regional Australia is strong and longstanding.

We believe in the power of localism – the knowledge and skills of local communities to decide their priorities and develop their responses to economic, social and environmental challenges.

If we have strong regions, we have a strong nation.

And rural women have a critical role to play and we will continue to support and recognise their ongoing contribution.

Our Government hosted the first National Rural Women’s Summit in 2008 to ensure we understood the needs and priorities of rural women.

We also contributed to global discussions about rural women at the 56th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March.

And we acknowledge the efforts of women leaders through our annual Rural Women of the Year awards.

On behalf of the Prime Minister Julie Gillard and myself, I wish you every success for the 34th Triennial CWA of Australia conference and look forward to hearing about the outcomes in the near future.

Launch of Stopping Violence Before it Happens toolkit

Now, in my capacity as Minister for the Status of Women, I am delighted to officially launch a toolkit – Stopping Violence Before it Happens.

As you may know, the CWA was one of the six founding members of the National Rural Women’s Coalition which has been working with the Australian Government since 2002.

This Coalition continues to advocate on behalf of Australia’s rural and regional women to support communities and to bring their issues to Government.

In 2011, the National Rural Women’s Coalition and the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance – in partnership with the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research – received $50,000 in Australian Government funding to develop the Stopping Violence Before it Happens toolkit.

It will support women from rural, regional and remote Australia to formulate primary prevention strategies identified in the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

The toolkit was designed to meet the specific needs of rural and regional communities by providing straightforward advice and practical resources and ideas for community-led action.

The toolkit can be used by anyone, but has been specifically designed for people working in the community services sector, including social workers, case managers, policy officers, teachers, youth workers, police and community leaders.

The main difference between primary prevention and other types of violence interventions is it aims to prevent violence before it happens.

This involves uncovering and changing the underlying causes and contributors to violence against women, such as gender inequality, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, and behaviours and beliefs about women and relationships.

The toolkit was developed following community consultations in Broken Hill in NSW and in Emerald in Queensland.

These consultations involved talking to ordinary women in rural Australia to find out what kind of support and information they need to undertake violence prevention initiatives in their communities.

In Emerald, the women identified a particularly serious challenge in addressing violence against women in their communities.

They said that there was a pervasive attitude that violence against women ‘didn’t happen’ in rural areas.

This meant that sometimes both men and women were reluctant, or even offended, to discuss the topic.

They also said there was sometimes little empathy for women who experienced violence, especially in communities where everyone was ‘doing it tough’.

Clearly, this is unacceptable.

The Stopping Violence Before it Happens toolkit addresses topics that deal with issues about raising awareness and changing attitudes.

It also talks about encouraging respectful relationships and improving women’s financial independence and leadership.

The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children

The toolkit is one of many resources that support the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

The Gillard Government has invested $86 million in initiatives under the National Plan.

The National Plan is the first plan to coordinate action across all jurisdictions.

And it is the first to focus strongly on prevention.

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

It is also the first to focus on holding perpetrators accountable and encourage changes in violent behaviour.

The National Plan also recognises that factors such as a perceived lack of confidentiality and the stigma often attached to the public disclosure of violence are all factors that keep rural women trapped in violent relationships.

And that women from rural and remote communities may face social isolation and have less opportunity to access services.

This is why the National Plan needs to have targeted responses to address domestic and sexual violence in rural and remote communities.

It recognises that the services responsible for supporting victims of violence must be flexible enough to meet the diverse needs of their clients, in particular women from rural and remote areas.


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.

No government or group can tackle this problem alone.

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

The Stopping Violence Before it Happens toolkit is a great example of what can be done to help communities take action to stop violence against women before it happens.

By working together and challenging the attitudes and behaviours that allow violence to occur, we are all saying a very loud “no” to violence.