Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Sharing The Findings Seminar

Location: Shell Theatrette, 1 Spring Street, Melbourne


  • Ladies and gentlemen


Thank you, Fiona Sharkie for your introduction.

I would first like thank Joy for her welcome on behalf of the traditional owners of this land – the Wurrundjeri people.

And thank you – to everyone – for joining us here today.

May I also take this opportunity of congratulating The Office for Women, from the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services and the Victorian Office of Women’s Policy for coming together and organising this important seminar.

This seminar is one of a series being held all around Australia to showcase the culmination of many years of work on preventing and dealing with domestic and family violence and sexual assault. This has been partnership effort by government, communities and community groups.

Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

The seminar

Today we will hear about the many projects funded through the Australian Government’s two programs – the Partnerships against Domestic Violence program and the National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault.

Indeed, this Sharing the Findings Seminar represents an invaluable opportunity to take stock of what we have achieved in relation to the prevention of domestic and family violence, and sexual assault in our society.

Australian Government commitment

The Australian Government is passionately committed to preventing the tragedy of domestic violence in this country.

The effects of this abuse permeate our whole society and, for many, the repercussions are long-lasting and profound. It damages women, children, families and the wider community in many different ways.

And it is not just someone else’s problem, but a dilemma that the community as a whole must face. In confronting the issue we must get all tiers of Government involved, we must mobilise the business sector, and empower key groups within our communities to take action.

The Partnerships Against Domestic Violence program has taken giant strides in raising awareness about domestic violence and has helped to build a broader community approach to this appalling problem.

The launch of PADV – 1997

The emphasis of Partnerships launched in 1997 was about finding out what actually works best – testing and researching new ways of addressing domestic violence, enhancing and sharing knowledge, developing and documenting good practice, and educating the community.

Almost half of the initial $25 million in funding was about bringing the Federal and State and Territory governments together to work on a cooperative approach to the problem of domestic violence.

The remaining funds were used for new Federal initiatives to be developed in consultation with the States and Territories.

The main objectives of these initiatives were to:

  • prevent domestic violence occurring in the first place
  • protect victims of domestic violence, and
  • educate of the community about breaking the cycle – that is, stopping child victims becoming adult offenders.

In 2001, The Australian Government committed to a second phase. In all Partnerships has funded over 230 innovative projects in many communities around the nation.

Many of you will already be aware of the range of projects that have been undertaken to find better ways of preventing and responding to domestic violence.

The work has covered areas such as Indigenous family violence, children, working with perpetrators, services for women, community education and ongoing research.

I will leave it to our other speakers to talk in more detail about these projects, but perhaps I could briefly touch on two key outcomes from the Partnerships initiative.

Indigenous communities

Under Partnerships there was a wide range of projects with a solely Indigenous focus, as well as Indigenous aspects to ‘mainstream’ projects.

It was found that in Indigenous communities there was a need for increased prevention and early intervention as well as further community education and development and counselling. There was also a need for more programs for men who are violent.

These days Indigenous leaders and communities recognise very publicly that domestic violence in their communities is a chronic problem, and you have my assurance that I will continue to take a keen interest in what more we can do to work with communities and at the government policy-making level to help make a difference.

My Department currently administers the Family Violence Partnerships Program, which builds on the Australian Government’s commitment to tackling family violence in Indigenous communities. It develops local solutions to issues that contribute to violence, such as alcohol and drug abuse, and addresses causal factors to family violence.

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Women’s services

The first phase of Partnerships also found that there were many barriers faced by women in reporting and escaping domestic violence.

These included lack of support, lack of information about what to do, lack of knowledge about their rights, the need to leave the family home to gain protection, and the potential increased risk of violence after separation.

Two key findings from Phase 2 give us cause for hope. It was found that:

  • Accommodation and support service options have increased and, importantly, are more accessible; and
  • A shift has occurred, from women leaving the home, to women remaining safely in the home. This has a lot to do with shifts in criminal justice and community approaches.

Those findings are encouraging and point to the fact that things are changing – more slowly than we’d like, perhaps – but changing nevertheless.

Business involvement

May I also particularly mention today the role that the business community has played in helping ensure the success of the Partnerships program. Employers have a key role to play in helping to ensure the well-being and safety of their workforces.

And I am intent on further expanding the network of cooperation we already have with the business community on this, into the future.

Many businesses are now taking a pro-active approach to the issues and introducing domestic violence policies into their core operations. And I am committed to working with them to support their efforts.

For example, the business Training Manual and CD-Rom released last year through the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence – A Business Approach program, were designed to help businesses address domestic violence-related problems. And I understand that, so far, the response to them has been very positive.

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

And that’s the key message we’re trying to communicate in our work with business.

The economic impacts

While domestic violence is a very human tragedy affecting the health and wellbeing of a great many individuals in our society, it also brings with it a massive economic impact.

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

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

The majority of domestic violence victims are women. And an astonishing one in four Australian women have at some time experienced domestic violence in their lives.

That is a sobering statistic.

And the cost to the nation is alarming – estimated at over $8 billion a year.

Where to from here?

The incredible work that has taken place since 1997 is the foundation upon which our future efforts to tackle domestic violence and sexual assault will be based. And the Government is determined that the work will continue with even more momentum in the future.

In the recent 2005-06 Budget, the Australian Government announced funding for the new Women’s Safety Agenda, which will build on our commitment to eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault.

The four-year, $75.7 million Safety Agenda will make use of the wealth of research and good practice from the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence program and the National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault.

There is funding to encourage ongoing research projects on domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Government is also funding a re-run later this month of the Violence Against Women. Australia Says No. campaign. This highly successful campaign will again raise awareness in the Australian community that violence against women is unacceptable through TV ads, and stories in magazines and cinema.

Funding will also be available to provide training to those working with people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. Nurses in regional and rural areas will receive training so that they can better recognise the signs of domestic violence and assist those affected by it. There will be training for the criminal justice sector on the sensitivities that accompany women’s experiences of sexual assault, and we will also fund training and materials for counsellors at Mensline.


I look forward to hearing about how the rest of the seminar goes and about the issues raised here today.

May I once again thank all the people from The Office for Women, Family and Community Services and the Victorian Office of Women’s Policy for their hard work in organising this seminar series.

And thank you to you all for coming along today.

Thank you.