Thursday, 5 June 2008

Rudd: Opposed to violence against women

At the same time that the PM cut funding to the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court, Kevin Rudd addressed the inaugural meeting of the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children:

First of all, thank you all for agreeing to participate. I really
appreciate that. This is a priority for the Government. Our mission as a
Government is building a strong Australia, a fair Australia and one capable
of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

One of those challenges is not just a 21st century challenge, it is a 20th
century challenge. In fact, it has been around for a long, long time. And
it is violence against women and violence against children.

And the reason we are here today is to make a difference. And the
Government is determined to do that.

Prior to the election we made a commitment to establish this National
Council. Today we honour that commitment. This Council begins its work. And
I thank each and every one of you for willing to stick your hand up in what
is a very difficult area of public policy and a very difficult area of
community work - but one where we are absolutely determined to make a
difference, absolutely determined to make a difference.

Many of you have already made exceptional contributions in helping
survivors of violence and I am especially proud the Council includes Rachel
Kayrooz from my own electorate in Brisbane. Rachel and her young daughter
Faith have overcome a harrowing ordeal of violence and Rachel is an
inspiration in starting the organisation of 'Shout! Speak Out', to raise
awareness of domestic violence in healthy relationships.

So, thank you Rachel. I really appreciate it.

The nation, in my view, the nation and the community, must adopt a zero
tolerance attitude to violence against women and violence against children.
No ifs, no buts, no maybes. That's where we have to be as a nation, that's
where we have to be as a community.

If you look at the statistics on domestic violence, it still presents us
with some horrific reading.

The Bureau of Stats research from '05 indicates that six per cent of women,
that is one in eighteen women, have been survivors of violence in the
previous 12 months.

Six per cent of women, one in 18, survivors of violence in the previous 12
months.

The nation cannot continue to tolerate that. The nation has to make a
difference. We have to get that number down. And, what we are talking about
through this Council, the practical measures through which that can have a
real and lasting effect.

Governments alone can't solve the problem. At the policy level, we wish to
engage this Council on what is our overriding benchmark for policy decision
making. What works. What makes a difference. We are not interested in that
which sounds good. We are not interested in that which looks good. We are
interested in that which actually works and gets these figures down. That's
what we're interested in.

And that is why it is really important that you have come together as a
Council - as survivors, those who have supported survivors, those who
represent the interests of survivors, those who can change community
attitudes in our schools and our sporting clubs, in local communities and
through the national media, and policy makers and advocates.

The Government's approach to tackling violence against women is also part
of a broader framework of social inclusion. And very simply it is this. If
you have a social inclusion agenda to build healthy communities, if it
works effectively, and you have maximal participation in the nation's
social and economic opportunities, it usually generates a healthier web of
relationships, it usually generates a healthier web of relationships

That's why the Government is committed to building social inclusion across
its policies in Government, in education, in income support, in healthcare
and in community services.

Violence is not just limited to disadvantaged groups, it occurs across all
income groups and cultural groups. And that is why in opposition I
committed ourselves to a National Plan to reduce violence against women and
children. And your work in this Council is going to be very important in
putting that together.

Four specific things that we are working on already.

One, the Respectful Relationships campaign across our schools, across our
secondary schools. An education campaign particularly targeted at boys.
Important to build that in the minds of young boys as they become adults.

Second, White Ribbon Day. Providing $1 million to boost White Ribbon Day
education activities in rural and regional communities.

Third, working with perpetrators, conducting research into international
best practice models for working with perpetrators of violence.

Fourth, reviewing the actual legislation itself with States and Territories
to ensure tougher and more nationally consistent laws, and best practice,
in relation to reducing violence against women and kids.

And fifth, homicide monitoring. Providing half a million dollars to boost
the Australian Institute of Criminology's National Homicide Monitoring
Program to investigate domestic violence related homicides to inform future
interventions.

These are important practical areas of work, but this is where our work
simply begins.

The function of this Council is to add to that work and to add to it in
areas of evidence based policy, which take us in the direction of bringing
those appalling figures down. That's what we want to do.

Of course, the other element which is relevant to violence against women,
violence against children, is this - homelessness. Tanya and I share a
great passion in this area, what do we do about homelessness.

Recently there was a national conference of those involved in this sector
in Adelaide, and Heather Nancarrow was present there and thank you for your
work Heather in helping the Government put together its Green Paper on
homelessness. That will move towards a White Paper by years' end. But
plainly, domestic and family violence is the single greatest reason why
people seek help from our homelessness services.

So these things are related. It's not just changing the attitudinal
behaviour on the part of men. That is core business, and that is where so
much of these activities are directed. It is also about dealing with the
immediate emergency services which assist women in these circumstances, and
children, and one of those core areas of services is in fact services for
the homeless.

That's why for us this is doubly important, getting homelessness right.

The fact that today, in 2008, we can have 100,000 Australians as classified
in the census data as homeless, is in my view, obscene. That should not be
the case in a country as wealthy as ours.

So these areas of policy are interconnected.

We've got to work on prevention, and that's where so much of the action lies.

We've got to work on response, and that is helping women and children in
these circumstances, including in the critical area of homelessness.

But I conclude where I began.

It is only possible if you've got effective buy in from the community
represented by persons such as yourselves.

Not only do you bring extra expertise to the table, because in Government
our expertise is always limited, you also bring to the table acknowledge
and familiarity about what happens on the ground. What works at the point
of where the rubber hits the road, where it actually is being implemented
out there in the homeless shelter, in the domestic violence shelter or at
the point of delivery of critical health and care services for women and
children in these circumstances.

So, thank you for coming, thank you for being here. We can guarantee you,
consistent with the tradition of this Government, to work very hard.

But you know something, it's actually for a good purpose. The purpose is
really good public policy. It rests in some very decent Australian values.
Values of fairness. And if we can't provide fairness to women and children
who are under the threat of violence, then, frankly we need to be trying a
lot harder.

So thanks for being on board.

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