Media Release by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Australia and the United States – Committed to Stopping Violence against Women in the Pacific

Australia and the United States today reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent violence against women in the Pacific.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed in a joint statement on 6 November 2010 to work together to prevent violence against women in the Asia-Pacific region through a Global Women’s Empowerment Initiative.

As part of this commitment, Mr Rudd today officially opened the Australia-US Pacific Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue: Stopping Violence Against Women at Parliament House in Canberra.

“This two-day event reflects the resolve of Australia and the United States to work together to meet the challenge of violence against Pacific women, which is comparable to the worst in the world,” said Mr Rudd.

“Estimates suggest that the Asia-Pacific region is short-changed in excess of $40 billion a year in GDP because of the untapped potential of women. This is money that could be used to improve schools, health facilities, and to fight poverty.

“By ending violence against women, we not only improve women’s ability to fully participate in family and community life without fear, we also give them the chance to contribute socially and economically to their countries’ development,” Mr Rudd said.

The Dialogue will examine successful initiatives from around the region that address this issue and how to replicate them across the Pacific.  It will also look at the role of Pacific governments, civil society, donors, regional organisations and the private sector in stopping violence against women.

More than 100 delegates will be attending the policy dialogue from 14 Pacific island countries, Australia, the United States and New Zealand.

Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis said the Government’s genuine commitment to tackling violence against women both at home and abroad can be seen through the historic National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Girls and also the recent appointment of Penny Williams as Australia’s first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls. Through this role, Ms Williams will ensure the needs of women and girls are properly represented in Australia’s aid program and foreign policy more broadly.

“We know stopping violence against women requires strong, coordinated action by the international community and we are proud to promote and protect the rights of all women, in Australia and globally,” Ms Ellis’ said.