Transcript by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Official Opening of the Pacific Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue: Stopping violence against women

Location: Parliament House, Canberra

Please check against delivery.

At the official opening of the Pacific Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue, I would like to emphasise Australia’s commitment to reducing violence against women in all countries, including our own.

As you know, violence against women is an issue that affects every community, every culture, in every country.

It is something that knows no barriers and pays no attention to borders.

And violence against women can be devastating for every life it touches.

It is significant in itself that representatives from a number of countries have come together to say: this violence needs to stop. Women deserve better, families deserve better, communities deserve better – and our countries will do better.

One of the most important aspects of empowering women and supporting them to achieve their potential is ensuring that women can live their lives in safety.

But it goes deeper than that.

If 50% of the World’s population are at risk of assault in the places where they should feel safest – in their own home – then all other efforts that we make to achieve gender equality will be meaningless.

Indeed, all of our efforts to develop, to become a better, more just society will be pointless – unless we change the fundamental fact that so many women live in fear.

Later in the dialogue, at the dinner tonight, I will be talking more about Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010 -2022 whichI was pleased to launch earlier this year.

This Plan is something that, in Australia, we’re very proud of. It is our strategy to reduce the amount of violence that is occurring in our communities, to support survivors of violence and, importantly, to prevent violence in the future.

This Plan is also unique. It is the first time that our entire nation has come together, Commonwealth Government and every State and Territory, regardless of political persuasion, and taken action to eliminate violence against women in a coordinated and determined way.

But, we also know that there is not only one way to reduce or prevent violence – in Australia or elsewhere in our region.

We are always open to new ways, new strategies, new ideas and new leaders to tackle this problem.

That’s why this dialogue is so important.

It gives us, as friends and Pacific neighbours, to come together and act on this issue that threatens to undermine our efforts to become better societies.

We are very keen to learn from and adapt the approaches from different countries to suit our own culture and to share with you what we are learning and doing.

As you know, violence against women is a shared challenge in our region.

Dialogues such as this inform and unite us in our determination to put an end to violence against women.

Everyone deserves to live their life free from violence.

Devastatingly, we know this is not the case for 1 in 3 women around the world.

This results in so much lost potential, so many destroyed lives.

As Governments and as civil society, we have a responsibility to regain this potential, to rebuild these lives.

This week’s dialogue is an opportunity to do just that. It is a step that we can take to rebuild lives – and importantly, to stop lives from being destroyed.

I truly believe that there is global momentum to address this issue and I thank you for being a part of it.

I wish you all of the best in your discussions and I look forward to dinner with you tonight to discuss these issues further.