Speech by The Hon Sussan Ley MP

Address at the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence Showcasing Seminar

Location: Brisbane


I would like to begin by acknowledging and thanking the elders and traditional Aboriginal owners of this land for allowing us to meet at this place today.

I would also like to welcome you all today at this significant conference, which will discuss the findings of the Australian Government’s Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (PADV) program.

This eight year $50 million program has produced some outstanding research and has trialled some innovative approaches to reducing and eliminating domestic violence and sexual abuse.

It has established an internet-based domestic violence clearinghouse, which brings together all available data and keeps it constantly updated.

PADV has also produced the successful Violence Against Women, Australia Says No campaign, which has raised community awareness and established a telephone help line.

More than 40,000 people have made use of the hotline.

The PADV program has been just one facet of an unprecedented $132 million funding of domestic violence and sexual assault initiatives by the Howard Government.

This includes more than $23 million to the National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault (NICSA) and a four year $60 million program to tackle Indigenous family violence.

With the PADV and NICSA programs coming to the end of their funding cycles at June 30, it is now the appropriate time to take stock of what we have learned and to set a new agenda.

This conference in Brisbane, and others to follow in other states and territories, will play a key role in informing future Government decision-making on this important issue.
When PADV was introduced during 1997, Prime Minister Howard made it clear that this groundbreaking program was only the beginning of the Government’s firm commitment to reducing and eliminating domestic violence.

This commitment has been reflected with initiatives such as the Australia Says No campaign, the hot line, and a school kit, which is to be distributed throughout Australia in the near future.

The $60 million Indigenous campaign is also an important and major initiative with the very survival of some communities at stake because of the ravages of violence and sexual assault.

The Government’s 2004 election policy Australian Women – Opportunities for Life reaffirmed that “the Coalition will build on its strong commitment to the elimination of domestic violence and sexual assault”.

Of course, future Government initiatives need to be considered in the context of the current Budget deliberations.

But we have already pledged to conduct a $3.4 million Personal Safety Survey this year, which for the first time in 10 years will give us the most up to date and accurate data on Australian women and men’s experiences of violence.

It is a sad fact that we may never know the full extent of domestic violence in our homes.

It is estimated that at least one in five women who are subjected to violence or sexual assault will not speak out.

When we see reported increases in violence and sexual assault it is still unclear whether the problem is getting worse or that more women are “speaking out”.

PADV-commissioned research from Access Economics, however, points to worryingly high levels of violence against women.

Based on the last Women’s Safety Survey during 1996, Access Economics estimated more than 1.6 million women have experienced some form of domestic violence during their adult lives.

It was also estimated that more than 353,000 women experienced domestic violence during 2002-03.

Access Economics has estimated such levels of violence are costing Australia $8.1 billion a year, economically, socially and healthwise.

In fact Access identified domestic violence as being by far the biggest risk factor to women’s health among women aged between 15 and 44.

This startling estimate is based on the established links between domestic violence and high rates of “femicide”, suicide, injuries, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Domestic violence increases the risks of women taking up smoking, and abusing alcohol and drugs.

It also increases the chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer.

The health implications of domestic violence alone are costing at least $388 million.

While the costs of pain, suffering and premature death of victims reaches a staggering $3.5 billion.

It is clear that there is still much be done to tackle domestic violence and sexual abuse.

As the member for a rural seat, Farrer on the New South Wales and Victorian border, I am aware and very concerned about PADV research indicating high rates of violence and abuse in rural and remote areas.

Practical initiatives such as the Is Violence Too Close to Home? kit are important to support rural communities.

The vast range of learnings from the PADV’s National Indigenous Family Violence grants program is also vital to informing our future work.

These grassroots projects have shown us valuable ways in which communities have developed appropriate local solutions to social problems.

And while the Government has also developed partnerships with the states and territories to work against domestic violence and sexual assault, we all need to stay committed to the task.

As the Parliamentary Secretary for Children and Youth I will also be taking a keen interest in the education campaign in schools against domestic violence.

Among the key findings of the PADV program is the identified need to give greater priority to children and young people living with domestic violence.

It is estimated that more than 260,000 children live with domestic violence victims and that more than 180,000 of them have witnessed acts of domestic violence.

PADV has developed good practice tools and standards to help services provide a child-centred focus.

We need to break cycles of violence with early intervention and education and we need to focus on “strengths-based” support.

We also need to teach more children resilience so that they can cope better with violence in their lives.

The reality is that we need an across the board response to domestic violence involving welfare, health, child and family, education and justice systems.

Domestic violence requires a total commitment from all Australians to eliminate this dreadful scourge from our homes.

Thank you and I wish you every success with your deliberations on this important issue during the next two days.