Transcript by Senator the Hon Anne Ruston

Minister Ruston doorstop – Our Watch, Melbourne


Minister Ruston:

Thank you very much for being here today and I’m really pleased to be here today with Patty Kinnersly, the CEO of Our Watch to make this announcement about the Morrison Government’s commitment to make Australia a country where everybody lives free from fear of violence and free from violence. Today, we are making an $189 million announcement in relation to the very, very important issue of prevention and early intervention and the Commonwealth Government wants to make an absolute commitment about the strength of its leadership and the leadership role it wishes to play in prevention and early intervention. Because we believe every Australian needs to live free from violence.

Today we say that if you want to end violence against women and children in Australia you must prevent it from happening in the first place.

Today we are making an announcement in relation to two campaigns. The first one is a consent campaign where we wanted to support young people to understand what a respectful relationship is and what is appropriate when it comes to consent, but we also want to have a conversation with the significant adults in their lives so that they have the tools and understanding of how they can undertake those conversations.

Today we will be releasing the research that underpins this consent campaign and what it found is that whilst nine out of 10 Australians believe that they should be having conversations with young people around consent, over half of them found it confusing or were unsure about how they should go about it. This campaign seeks to be able to provide those tools to support young people and the adults in their lives to understand respect and consent.

I would like to also make a really big shout out to Chanel Contos, because Chanel has been an extraordinary advocate in this space, promoting the need for consent education in the national curriculum and also promoting the need to make sure we are having conversations with young Australians about the issues of consent. Because if we are going to end violence against women and children in this country, this is a conversation that we must be having. Today we are also making the announcement to fund a survey of secondary school-age students so that we can understand what are the issues that they are confronted with as they make their journey through life and to make sure that they have a better understanding of consent so that we can build a body of evidence that will inform this consent campaign based on the experiences and understanding of young Australians.We also today make a $104 million commitment to Our Watch.

On top of this, we are making a commitment to an early intervention program and campaign so that we are talking to Australia’s men and boys around the behaviours and attitudes that drive disrespect so that we can hopefully work with them so that their behaviours and attitudes are changed to be more respectful. At the end of the day whilst we know that not all disrespect ends in violence we know for sure that all violence starts with disrespect.

But back to the $104 million that we are committing today to Our Watch to continue the great work that they are doing as Australia’s leading primary prevention organisation. This will give them the additional resources so that as they go forward they can build on the great work that they have done, undertake new initiatives, support us in backing in these really important campaigns that we are announcing today so that we end up with a country that if free of all gender based violence, where everyone can live free of violence.

I’d like to invite Patty to say a few words.

Patty Kinnersly: Thanks Minister.

I think we would all agree that every woman and girl in Australia has the right to be safe and free from violence. Whether that’s in her home, in her school, in her workplace or certainly in her community more broadly. Today’s announcement by the Morrison Government of a funding injection into primary prevention is one of the most significant in our history because we know that if we are going to prevent violence against women and children in this country then we must work together to prevent it.

This funding to Our Watch will help us lead and coordinate efforts to prevent violence against women and children in partnership with people right across our community – with schools, with universities, in our sporting organisations, in partnership with the media and in partnership with governments. In order for us to prevent violence against women we need everyone to be building a community that is safe and equal for all women. It’s a really long term role and job and it’s difficult but what we are finding is that most people agree with the shared vision to prevent violence against women and their children, they are just not sure how to do that. With this additional funding we will reach more communities and will go further into the Australian community to help them understand what is driving violence against women and how to prevent it and we will support them to take action in their school and in their workplace, in their place of faith, whether they are in the media or in government, so we can work together to prevent violence against women and children.


Journalist: Minister, I know you touched on it briefly, but if I could just get you to talk us through some of the key findings in relation to consent?

Minister Ruston: Unfortunately when we went out and did this research in relation to consent we found that there are a number of attitudes that are widely held in the community that, to some degree, not only excuse or ignore non-consensual behaviour and disrespectful behaviour but in some instances actually condones it. What we’re seeking to do with the research is to get a body of evidence on which to build the consent campaign. And as I said there seems to be an overwhelming desire amongst the Australian public to actually have these difficult conversations. The problem is that they don’t know how to go about them. And, as a mother, I know it it’s tough sometimes having conversations with your children, they don’t want to have the conversations with you but we must have these conversations if we are going to change the dial.

Journalist: With the campaign over in Scotland, obviously that’s what you’re basing it, how successful was it in Scotland? Can you talk us through that?

Minister Ruston: Well certainly the Don’t Be That Guy campaign in Scotland has been particularly successful which is why we’ve sought to have a look at that campaign to see how we can actually taper it to better fit the Australian public and the issues we face here in Australia. So over the coming months, with the help of Our Watch, we’ll be looking at developing research that will sit behind the Australian version of Don’t Be That Guy because, I think, once again, that a lot of people in Australian perhaps don’t realise that some of their actions and some of their comments may be actually having a quite significant detrimental impacts on others. All we want to do is to actually show people that sometimes when you think you’re being funny, sometimes when you’re saying things that you don’t really consider it actually can be very hurtful to people. This campaign, the Don’t Be That Guy campaign, has been successful in Scotland and we’re hoping that we will be able to redesign it so it’s fit for purpose in the Australian context and have that conversation with men and boys about how we can be better Australians.

Journalist: You’re spending almost $50 million on this campaign to change male behaviour, from past experience how successful have these types of campaigns been?

Minister Ruston: Obviously this campaign will be a new campaign to Australia but at the end of the day if we really are going to end gender based violence against all Australians we actually have to first of all stop it from happening in the first place but we also need to make sure that we’re intervening early on so that it doesn’t escalate into greater levels of violence. We’ve seen some quite successful results in early intervention programs, we’ve also seen some quite interesting results from using technology, as an example, around making sure we actually stop bad behaviour from continuing. As an example, Tasmania has a program they have been running around using home detention bracelets to be able to identify where perpetrators are and be able to give advice to the victim if that person is getting within close contact of them. So there are many programs that have been very successful but the one thing we know we have to do if we are actually going to end violence once and for all in this country we actually have to change attitudes and we have to change behaviours and that is why these two campaigns are so important.

Journalist: You touched on it before, but how important is it for parents and carers in their role (inaudible)

Minister Ruston: I think the message we want every Australian to hear today is that everybody has a role to play when it comes to ending gender-based violence in this country. It is not simply an issue for women, it is not simply an issue for those people who are victims or those people who are perpetrators, every Australian has a role to play if we are going to make that behavioural change and that cultural change in Australia so that we actually have a respectful community where people understand what is expected of them. And so I think it is tremendously important that we have the conversation in the wider community and what we’re seeking to do with the next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children is to make sure every Australian can see something in that plan where they can play a role in making a difference.

Journalist: How important are these campaigns and how successful do you think they will be?

Patty Kinnersly: What’s really important is what the Minister is touching on is that we need every Australian to be engaged in this conversation and to understand what role they play in preventing violence against women. Sometimes it feels so overwhelming and that it’s not a part of my life or your life, as it were, whereas we know everyone has a role to play. So if you’re a CEO of an organisation you must create an organisation that’s safe and respectful, if you’re a sporting organisation is it welcoming for women, are our education settings places where respectful relationships are being spoken about. So the importance of the campaigns is that it reaches every Australian. Every Australian watches television or engages with social media and sees those campaigns and they hear those messages which are underpinned by a really strong evidence base, as the Minister said, and then they go to work and they’re also hearing about equality and respect in the workplace, and then they go to sport and they’re also hearing about how we make this a safe environment for women and girls. So what we’re trying to do through these multi-pronged and mutually reinforcing campaigns, some led by Government, some led by organisations such as Our Watch and some led by workplaces and sporting organisations and faith communities, is that everywhere we look across our community we are hearing that women need to be valued as equal because women need to be safe and valued as equal if we are going to reduce violence against women. So the importance is that we are all telling the same story, all working from the same evidence base and together we have created an environment where women and safe and equal in the community and, not only that, they’re able to thrive and contribute in a way that means we are getting the best from everyone in the community.

Journalist: From your organisation’s perspective, have you seen much change in behaviour and what has that been?

Patty Kinnersly: We know that primary prevention, where we’re changing long-term attitudes and behaviours, can be slow to bear out in the data. There is some evidence that people are starting to change their attitudes already, for example, more people accept that women will be in the workplace, but there are some attitudes which are not yet changing. We know that this long-term investment, which is why we’re so grateful to the Morrison Government for saying primary prevention is at the heart of this work and we will continue to invest in it. What I am hearing though as I work with sporting organisations and big corporates and everyday Australians on the street is that the community sentiment is changing. We are now talking about consent, we are now talking about violence against women being in the public domain, we are now giving people in the community to be bystanders and not let the sexist joke go past. So I feel like the community attitudes and the sentiment is changing for us to say this isn’t good enough and I have a role to play.

Journalist: Do you think that during the pandemic that it played any part as well?

Patty Kinnersly: Certainly, the evidence is that during the pandemic the existing disadvantage, that gap was widened. And for women, they were disadvantaged disproportionately in the rates and severity of violence against them but also in other opportunities, for example, in part time work in the workforce and in education settings and so forth. So we know now is the time to double down and for us to now have the biggest investment ever in this country and possibly worldwide into saying we will as a community work together to prevent violence against women, through promoting equality and respect for women and girls, it’s the right time for us to do that.

Journalist: If the Thomm Report cleared Alan Tudge of any wrong doing then why is he not returning to the frontbench?

Minister Ruston: I think Mr Tudge has made a statement around this and I would prefer leave any commentary around this particular issue to Mr Tudge.