Press conference, Sydney
It’s great to be here with the Relationships Australia team, and John Alexander in this hub and while there is great innovation which we see around this area, whether it’s in the corporate sector or the education sector more generally, the innovation in social services is also a critical part of what is happening here in Macquarie Park, in John’s electorate in Bennelong. I want to pay tribute to Relationships Australia who are increasingly a bigger and bigger partner of the Commonwealth Government in delivering frontline social services right across the community whether it’s the recent Neighbour Day where they were the drivers of that programme and we all had the opportunity to experience that a few weeks ago, or through to the programmes which I’m here to announce today.
I congratulate them on these wonderful new premises because in consolidating their back office, they improve what they can do in their front office. This facility does both of those things, whether it’s training support or directly dealing with people through the services that Relationships Australia provide. So I want to congratulate them on the great work they are doing under your leadership Frank and working with your colleagues all around the country, as I said, who are becoming very, very important partners with the Commonwealth Government for the delivery of these very important services.
Today, it is my pleasant duty to advise that the Commonwealth Government will be over the next three years, including this one, extending $3.9 million for support services for forced adoption. On 21 March 2013 there was the ground-breaking apology to those who were affected by forced adoptions. One of my closest colleagues in the Federal Parliament, Steve Irons, was one such person who experienced that, and I know that that is an issue that is very dear to Steve’s heart. I know he would be pleased also that the government, of which he forms a part as a Member, is here today making that announcement for the continuation for those services.
Those services will be delivered right across the country in partnership with Relationships Australia and Jigsaw Queensland. Those services provide a range of support including the national telephone support line, which I note the number is 1800 21 03 13, which is the date of the national apology which was so ground-breaking and so moving at that time in the Parliament. These initiatives, I believe, have great support right across the Parliament, from all areas and all political backgrounds and we want to do all we can to ensure that those who still struggle every single day with what they experienced at that time, have the support they need to be able to work through those issues.
The support also includes, I should stress, guidance and referrals, access to personalised services and information on records tracing and local support needs as well. So this is a way for us to continue to reach out and extend that hand to a group of people in Australia who have suffered a great deal and have felt, I think, very isolated for a very long period of time and we cannot allow the momentum that was established from that national apology to drift, and this government is certainly making sure we continue that momentum and so we’re very pleased to ensure that those support services will continue. We want to thank Relationships Australia and Jigsaw Queensland for them engaging with us as we provide this hand of support but it’s also a willing ear of support as well, I think listening and understanding and being there just to basically work through issues that people have who have had this terrible experience is a very positive thing.
But there are also great success stories amongst this incredible group of people who have been able to overcome these issues and to thrive regardless and we want to help more and more be able to achieve that and for those who still struggle, to always be there for them.
The other announcement that I make today, with John, is that $15 million will be provided in support to community service organisations in relation to specialised family violence services. This $15 million is provided over the next two years, $15.7 million in total, for the delivery of specialist family services that support children and parents experiencing family violence, alcohol and drug issues.
This funding comes at the same time as today, in Canberra, States and Territories gather with the Prime Minister to continue a focus on domestic family violence. This is an issue that has a top national priority. It is an issue that I think enjoys the broad support not just of our Parliament across the country, and particularly in Canberra, but I think from stakeholder organisations and community groups all around the country. What we see exhibited as a result of domestic family violence is people struggling with any number of issues, whether it’s to do with homelessness or any other area and that’s why more recently I was very pleased to announce that the Commonwealth has extended funding for support of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which will be $230 million over two years. That is in addition to the funding I announced today of $15.7 million targeting domestic family violence support services. That funding has a top priority of addressing the consequences and issues relating to domestic family violence as far as homelessness is concerned.
So the government is committed to ensuring that we are doing what we need to do to ensure the support services are in place. When it comes to domestic family violence, yes it is an issue for governments, and it must be a top priority for governments and we must continue to be innovative in how we’re addressing these issues, and tailored and specific in how we’re delivering these services. Doing what we’ve always done clearly hasn’t worked and the statistics are simply appalling. As a father of two daughters, the idea of the deaths that occur to women every week is just something that is unbearable to contemplate but it is a reality and it is important that not only government’s do their things, but communities need to do their thing, families need to do their thing and every single one of us as citizens of this incredible country need to do our thing to ensure that we put an end to this scourge, this very dark place in our country and to shine a light on it and to ensure that the young girls growing up today don’t grow up in a country where the statistics about domestic family violence that we all know too well of today, are not part of our future.
So it’s a challenge to us all, the Federal Government is doing its bit, we’ll continue to work with the State and Territory governments, and I would hope that there would be a strong focus there in Canberra today. I know that is certainly the Prime Minister’s intention and we look forward to further cooperative arrangements with the states and territories. Today with Relationships Australia, we want to thank them for their partnership and congratulate them on these great new premises. Are there any questions?
Do you expect the states and territories to come up with a package for domestic violence today, to announce a package?
Well there are a range of issues that are coming through today in Canberra, one is of course is the advisory group that the Prime Minister has been establishing and of course we had the announcement earlier in the year about Rosie Batty and I think Rosie Batty’s announcement and appointment as Australian of the Year has been a real touchstone and a real point of focus and I commend Rosie for not only her own personal strength and courage, but the way that she has guided and focused all of our attention, as was needed, and she’s done so in a way which has been forthright but in a way that has also enabled us to come to the table. Look, I think something has begun here which won’t be stopped and I think there’s a real compulsion now on all levels of government to turn up, to put aside any political differences that may be there on other issues and work to deliver the funding in the area it needs to.
For example, on the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, I’m looking for innovative proposals coming out of the states, I’m particularly dealing with this, but also on youth homelessness where we can add value, not just supplement or subsidise existing services that are happening, this is about adding to the level of services. Today’s announcement which will see the specialised family violence support service through community organisations continue, I note that there were some who were commentating that they’d been cut, that’s absolutely nonsense, it’s not true, they haven’t been cut, they’ve been supported and that support will continue.
You mentioned that domestic violence is a top priority, or reducing domestic violence is top priority for the government, are you disappointed that the COAG meeting seems to have been overshadowed by this GST carve-up discussion?
Well I think there is a lot of focus on that, I mean there’s the old statement about buckets of money and States, when it comes to these meetings I have no doubt given the seriousness of issues about the carve up of the GST monies, which is fundamentally a matter for States and Territories to resolve – they are the Federation together with the Commonwealth. It relates as the Prime Minister said to funds that are for their purposes that are raised from their States. It really does fall to States and Territories to rise above the slanging to try to come to a more cooperative and fair result here but we will leave that to them. I would hope and I am quite confident that despite the focus on those issues today there would be no pulling back in terms of the need to get the policies and funding support right for addressing domestic violence in Australia. I am sure that will take place and it will do so under the strong leadership of the Prime Minister.
Do you maybe have a personal message to these victims and families of forced adoption?
We are here and we will continue to be here for you is our message to those affected by forced adoption. The national apology and what they saw on that day continues today in terms of the resolve and strength of support not just from the government but I would say right across not only the federal Parliament but every Parliament in the country. From Relationships Australia the message is they are right here and that number is there for you to contact and for you to engage in their services.
Why do you think we still have this problem with domestic violence in a modern Australia, what is it about the culture that says to some men that it is still ok to behave this way?
It has been with us for centuries, domestic violence, and I don’t think we can be so naive to think that it can be so easily remedied. It exists not only in western culture it exists in every culture on the planet. It is an evil and a cancer on all of our societies that we all must work hard to address. The reason of addressing behavioural issues and cultural issues is why the government has put $30 million into a community awareness campaign. That is money very well spent. Recently I was on the Central Coast of NSW and we were talking about this issue with a team of people involved in addressing domestic violence there on the Central Coast up through to Newcastle and there are services there that are dealing directly with men and challenging some of the ideas but as men we have got to challenge each other’s ideas around this. We have to confront each other around this about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. We are a fairly iconic laid back society but we can’t be iconic and laid back when it comes to domestic violence. We have to have a zero tolerance on it. I think there is a building and growing and very strong resolve which I think will carry us through. I hope a generation from now that we will be in a very different place and I would hope in years and indeed weeks from now I would hope we would be in better places because our daughters, and our wives, and our sisters, and our mothers deserve it.