Media Release by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Australia helps improve safety and opportunities for women in Vanuatu

Australia is expanding its assistance over the next four years to help Vanuatu improve services for women who have experienced physical and sexual violence.

Announcing the additional support at the Australia-US Pacific Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue: Stopping Violence Against Women in Canberra today, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, said Australia’s contribution would make a tangible difference to the safety of thousands of women in Vanuatu.

“Up to 60 per cent of women in Vanuatu experience violence in their relationships with men and the problem is worse in rural or remote areas,” Mr Marles said.

“Women who are subjected to ongoing violence are often unable to fully participate in society, they often experience poor health outcomes, and they can miss out on leadership and educational opportunities. This is a violation of their human rights and a tragic waste of their potential.”

Australia will provide $5 million over four years to help the Vanuatu Women’s Centre deliver counselling and legal services and emergency accommodation for up to 15,000 survivors of violence.

Australia’s support will see an estimated 80,000 people benefit from community education and awareness programs and help build the skills of 650 workers who provide counselling and human rights training in rural areas. It will also provide a permanent facility for the Vanuatu Women’s Centre in Port Vila.

“Australia has been a proud partner of the Vanuatu Women’s Centre since 1994. It is the only organisation in Vanuatu delivering services for survivors of violence.

“High rates of violence have serious economic implications for communities and create ongoing lost opportunities for development.

“Australia is committed to working with Vanuatu, and all of our Pacific partners, to eliminate violence against women. Together we can empower all women and girls, both across the region and at home,” Mr Marles said.

Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis said that the Australian Government was committed to reducing violence against women both at home and internationally.

“Here in Australia we have developed a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children,” Ms Ellis said.

“This Plan has been endorsed by all Australian Governments, across political persuasions and is a 10 year strategy to really make a difference when it comes to supporting the victims of violence and preventing violence in the first place.

“It is not enough, however, to work across state boundaries alone. We also have to work across borders and across regions to create safer societies – ones where women don’t fear for their personal safety or the safety of their children.

“Working together to make a real difference in the lives of women is what this week’s Dialogue is all about and I look forward to seeing some really positive outcomes,” Ms Ellis said.

The Australia-US Pacific Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue is being held from November 2-4 at Parliament House, Canberra.