Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Launch Partnerships Against Domestic Violence – A Business Approach Resources and Seminar Series

Location: Level 46, Collins Room, Bankwest Tower, 108 Georges Terrace, Perth, Perth


  • Chief Executive Officer of Relationships Australia, Western Australia – Terri Reilly
  • Manager Education and Training, Relationships Australia – Fiona McDonald
  • Corporate Manager, BankWest – Jo Mulligan
  • Chief Executive Officer of the West Coast Eagles – Trevor Nisbett and West Coast player – David Wirrpunda
  • Chief Executive Officer of the Fremantle Dockers – Cameron Schwab
  • Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Terri (Relationships Australia) for your introduction.

And thank you everyone, for taking the time to come along this morning.

A special mention goes to BankWest for providing this venue, and for their valuable support.

And I also want to acknowledge Trevor Nisbett of the Eagles, Cameron Schwab of the Dockers and the players from both teams who are representing the Australian Football League.

I am delighted they accepted my invitation to join us, because along with the 14 other AFL teams, both the Eagles and Dockers have a strong commitment to addressing social issues like racism, drug and alcohol abuse and the welfare of women. I’m also very pleased to hear that, at the moment, the AFL is developing strategies to help reduce violence against women.

Which brings me to why we’re all here today …This event represents another important step forward in the Howard Government’s commitment to preventing domestic violence.

It’s particularly appropriate that our launch coincides with Stop Domestic Violence Day, which is marked each year on the 26th of April.

Designed to raise community awareness about domestic violence, this day gives us all the chance to reflect on the damage that violence does to women, children, families and to the wider community.

This day is also a reminder that domestic violence is a real issue for everybody. It’s not just someone else’s problem, but a dilemma that the whole of the Australian community must confront.

Today I am announcing the next stage of the Government’s Partnerships Against Domestic Violence – A Business Approach initiative.

To put the project in context, Partnerships Against Domestic Violence is a $50 million Howard Government program that has been running since 1997.

Many of you will already be aware of the range of innovative projects that Partnerships has funded across the country, to find better ways of preventing and responding to domestic violence.

It also includes the recent Violence Against Women. Australia Says NO campaign, which involved T.V. ads and stories in magazines, and a booklet delivered to every Australian household. As well, there is a special 1800 help-line, which offers trained counsellors to support people experiencing domestic violence.

The Partnerships Against Domestic Violence initiative has seen the Australian, and state and territory governments, working together to develop a coordinated and effective national response.

When you look at a national approach to solving social problems like domestic violence, people always think about what governments can do and how the community sector can get involved. But in my view, too few people understand that the business sector also has a big role to play.

So, I was very pleased in July last year to launch the first stage of resources targeted specifically to business, to help them deal with the impact of domestic violence on the workplace.

Because apart from the effects on victims, their families and friends, domestic violence affects workplaces, as well.

To give you an idea of what we’re up against, let me repeat some of the facts and figures.

There are around 9 million men and women of working age employed or looking for work in Australia. Of these, over 4 million women are in the workforce.

The majority of domestic violence victims are women. And an astonishing one in four Australian women – many of them working women – have at some time experienced domestic violence in their lives. The cost to the nation is huge – estimated at over $8 billion a year.

The social costs are also enormous, because they are borne not only by women subjected to violence, but by others who suffer indirectly – by children, by family and friends, and by entire communities.

Australian businesses also feel the impact, with the cost of domestic violence fall-out estimated at $1.5 billion a year.

This includes absenteeism, costing $28 million; staff turnover at $6 million; and lost productivity, at between $425 million and $600 million a year.

Businesses can also bear other ‘costs’ – for instance, higher insurance premiums, extra workplace security and safety measures, lost staff potential, low employee morale, and less productivity.

On a more positive note, many businesses like those represented here today, are taking a pro-active approach, and introducing domestic violence policies into their core operations.

The Training Manual and CD-Rom I launched last July were designed to help businesses with this, and I understand that, so far, the response to them has been very positive.

Building on this, today I’m launching additional resources to support the training manual. These are the two posters, a pocket-size crisis contact card and a training video.

Developed by over the past twelve months, these resources are provided at no cost and are delivered free across Australia.

In a moment, you’ll see part of the new video, which tells the story of Georgina’s abuse by her husband, and the effect this has on her at work, as well as on the people she works with.

Luckily for Georgina, Rachel, from the company, has had some training to handle the situation. Rachel recognises the problem is not just Georgina’s, that it’s a potential problem for the business as well.

Let’s find out how things turn out for Georgina, and the company ….


It’s amazing to think that many of us probably work with people like Georgina, yet we don’t know what’s happening to them.

It certainly takes a lot of courage for domestic violence victims to speak out. But it also takes a far-sighted and compassionate company to recognise the problem, and do something about it.

That’s what we’re trying to get across in our Partnerships Against Domestic Violence – A Business Approach initiative.

Based on the successful business information seminars about the training manual held in capital cities in July and August last year, the Government is now going to fund an expanded seminar series. The seminars will cover all the A Business Approach domestic violence resources.

I’m very pleased to announce that, following a tender process, Relationships Australia has been chosen to run the seminars, which will start in Canberra in early May. And after that, they’ll run in Townsville, Newcastle, Bathurst, Wollongong, Hobart, Launceston, Darwin, Alice Springs, Kalgoorlie and Port Hedland.

Targeting human resource managers, seminar topics include how to use the training manual and the other resources to increase management’s ability to introduce domestic violence policy into their organisations.

Relationships Australia is certainly very well qualified to run the seminars. Because a lot of the work it has done, over many years, has been to help families and children going through difficult times.

Among the services they provide are counseling; family and relationship skills, education and mediation; and children’s contact services. Importantly, Relationships Australia is also a strong supporter of giving men better access to relationship support services.

Relationships Australia also knows a lot about how relationships at home can affect relationships in the workplace. Indeed, their Employee Assistance Program is designed to help employers and employees, alike, deal with issues such as health problems, gambling, separation and divorce, alcohol and drug use, and family violence.

The way we are working together with Relationships Australia and the business sector on the A Business Approach initiative is a great example of the kind of three-way cooperative effort that the Government supports and encourages.

After all, the Government, on its own, simply doesn’t have the answers to every social problem.

Of course, we will always give assistance to people who really need our help. But it’s obvious that in a lot of cases, community organisations like Relationships Australia, and like the business people here this morning, are the ones that have the kind of on-the-ground knowledge and experience it takes to tackle problems at the local and workplace levels.

So congratulations to Relationships Australia. I’m sure you’ll do a great job with the seminars.

Finally … going to the official part of this morning’s proceedings …

It gives me great pleasure to officially launch the new Partnerships Against Domestic Violence – A Business Approach resources and the up-coming seminar series.

Thank you.