First time Australian government has over 50% women at the table

"It’s a chance to re-affirm our commitment to true gender equality – in the community, the boardroom, on the sporting field, in our parliaments."

By Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

The lead-up to International Women’s Day is an opportunity for all of us to recognise the progress that women are driving across our economy and our society.

- Advertisement -

It’s a chance to re-affirm our commitment to true gender equality – in the community, the boardroom, on the sporting field, in our parliaments.

Above all, this is a time when we must face-up to where we are falling short and look for new ways to do better.

Nowhere is this need for new thinking and renewed determination more urgent or more clear than when it comes to addressing violence against women and children.

One death from family violence is one too many. One death a week is an epidemic.

It is an offence against every value we hold as Australians, it flies in the face of everything we say and imagine about ourselves as nation.

In acknowledging this hard truth, it is worth noting that there has been a profound change in the way we talk about family and domestic violence and the national priority we give to it.

- Advertisement -

The terrible toll of violence against women is front page news – as it should be.

And that in itself should give us cause for hope.

Because so much of this overdue change in mindset is down to the courage of victim-survivors and advocates, extraordinary Australians like Rosie Batty.

Women who have channelled their grief and pain into a call for national action.

Over recent years, the voices and experiences of women have helped change public perception.

And under our Government, the voices and experiences of women are changing public policy.

I am proud to lead the first government in Australian history with a majority of women in our membership.

You can see, across every portfolio, this has made a difference.

Because of women, campaigning with the union movement, making it clear that no-one should have choose to between their safety and their job – we now have 10 Days Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave.

Because of women’s advocacy and the work of experts like Anne Summers, emphasising the way poverty and financial dependency trap people in violent relationships – we’ve delivered more support for single mums.

Because of women, making it clear that one of the most basic reasons they do not leave a dangerous situation sooner is because they simply have nowhere safe to go – we are building and funding more crisis accommodation and safe housing around the country.

The experience and perspective of women and children is driving our actions on family and sexual violence law reform.

It’s driving the work our outstanding Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, is leading on our new Gender Equality Strategy.

It’s informing what we’re doing in education, everything from respectful relationships to dealing with sexual assault on campuses and preventing online abuse.

And it’s shaping so much of the economic progress that we have made.

The gender pay gap is at a record low, the participation rate has reached historic highs.

All 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report are being implemented.

We’ve taken new action on pay equity and pay transparency.

These are just some of the changes that have seen Australia climb from 43rd in the Global Gender Gap rankings to 26th.

And yet even as we welcome this progress, we must recognise that gender equality, while essential, does not safeguard against family violence on its own.

Indeed, even nations that lead the world on measures of gender equality are dealing with their own shocking rates of violence.

Some of it, in the cruellest of ironies, occurring as a reaction to the progress being made.

Male partners using violence to try and re-assert some sort of imagined authority.

This is why addressing family violence cannot begin and end with efforts to achieve gender equity or economic equality.

We have to go deeper than that.

To start with, we have to listen and learn from those who have experienced violence.

That’s what the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner Cronin is doing.

And it’s what Minister Amanda Rishworth has done through our National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children.

Out of those conversations and consultations on the National Plan have come two important and recurring messages I wanted to highlight this morning.

First, there must be more humanity and empathy and dignity accorded to victims of family, domestic and sexual violence, from law enforcement to government services to the courts.

When women are seeking help they should be heard and seen, believed, supported and empowered.

A willingness to understand what a person has been through must be built-in into the system and shape the actions of everyone who works in it.

As one woman put it:

“Your whole world is turned upside down. Most days you don’t even know what your own name is. Let alone the right services to call.”

And the second vital point was that we need a much sharper focus on stopping violence, not just responding to it.

One person put it like this:

“If we look at this as a waterfall, we’re catching women and children at the bottom of the waterfall. They’re already in crisis, and they’re drowning. We want to be catching women before they fall in. If they’re partway down, we want early intervention to get in there. Because when they get to the bottom, crisis and tertiary response is overwhelmed, which they are.”

We need to put the focus on prevention and we need to do that in new ways.

Concentrating our efforts on perpetrators.

Intervening early where there is a higher risk – whether it’s because people are facing financial or health stress, or alcohol and drug issues.

As well as proactively engaging with children who have been exposed to violence.

Because all the data tells us that men who perpetrate violence as adults are more likely to have experienced violence as a child.

We know that’s not the reality for everyone. Ending violence in a generation means making sure it’s not the reality for anyone.

Because violence against women and children is never acceptable.

We need to break the cycle, to make sure that the trauma inflicted by this generation of abusers, doesn’t create another generation of perpetrators.

That’s why we are investing in initiatives like Helping Children Heal and other early intervention programs that will help young men deal with the trauma they’ve suffered, so they can form healthy relationships when they grow up.

The final thing I’d say is that while women are shaping these policies and driving these responses, ending this epidemic of violence has to involve men stepping up.

Because violence against women is not a problem that women should have to solve.

Men have to be prepared to take responsibility for our actions and our attitudes.

To educate our sons, to talk to our mates.

To drive real change in the culture of our sporting clubs, our faith and community groups and our workplaces – including this workplace.

It’s great there are so many Members and Senators here this morning.

I know that everyone elected to Parliament, from all points of the political compass, believes that the decisions we make here can help change the country for the better.

And practically every week, whenever we read about another life violently stolen, all of us are reminded of why change is needed and why it’s needed as a matter of urgency.

I know all of us are determined for Australia to do better on this.

Working together, I know we can and I’m confident we will.

This article is a transcript of Prime Minsiter Anthony Albanese’s speech at the International Women’s Day parliamentary breakfast.

Support Our Journalism

Global Indian Diaspora needs fair, non-hyphenated, and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. The Australia Today – with exceptional reporters, columnists, and editors – is doing just that. Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, or India you can take a paid subscription by clicking Patreon. Buy an annual ‘The Australia Today Membership’ to support independent journalism and get special benefits.