Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

ADJOURNMENT: White Ribbon Day

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (20:52): I would like to associate myself with the comments made by Senator Siewert earlier about the importance of the five-year anniversary of the apology to the people who were in institutions in our country. It is important that we remember that, and I know that Senator Siewert has been deeply involved in that process, as have many people.

Tonight, it being White Ribbon Day, I want to support the men in our community who have committed themselves to the White Ribbon campaign. This is a men-led campaign, and I think we should acknowledge that men have decided themselves that they are going to stand up and make the pledge that they will not accept or tolerate violence against women. This simple pledge is something that inspires and aims to ensure that we have real attitudinal change in our community. As Senator O'Sullivan said earlier, it is not enough just to make pledges and it is not enough to have a day-though I know that this is the first day of a 16-day program-which draws attention to violence in our communities so that we ensure that there is real action. It is clear from all the information that we have in front of us that there must be change. We will not beat the horrors of violence in our community by just saying how bad it is. We need to have a look at what is happening in our communities realistically, breaking down the mythology and breaking down the reluctance we have to challenge things that are uncomfortable.

Today, at the breakfast we had in this place to acknowledge White Ribbon Day, where there were so many people-parliamentarians, people from our military forces, men and women-who came together to say, 'The violence must stop,' we were challenged by one of our prominent White Ribbon ambassadors, Andrew O'Keefe. We have seen him often over the last 10 years standing up in the community and talking about why as a community we can do better and why we must do better. He challenged us openly about our own attitudes. He said that, as a father, he was speaking to people about what our expectations for children are and whether we have different expectations for boys and girls. I think we automatically pull back from that to say, 'No, we're different. We're better than that. That's other people.' But, as he continued in his statement to us, you could feel the movement-that Andrew was saying that we must consider our own thoughts and actions first. Only then, when we have acknowledged that, can we expect to move on and act for change across the community. It must be done.

Today we had the first national snapshot of what is happening in gender equity across workplaces in Australia published. We have been waiting for this. This is the first major report from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency based on their year of surveys, which looked at over 4,000 workplaces. Over three million employees were a part of this survey process. It told us that there is not equity in Australian workplaces. Still more women are clustered in part-time and casual work. Still there are way too few women who are rising through the career process to become leaders in businesses and members of boards. We hear this data and it is all there. It is so important that people look at what the real evidence is from our communities and see that, in Australian workplaces, there is not equity. That is the core. Consistently, the issue of violence against women is linked to the core issue that there is inequity and that women are not treated with full respect in our community, and that leads to the acceptance and acknowledgement that violence happens.

The data from an attitudinal survey across our community that also came out this year, which is a regular production of the Victorian health department, reveals that there have been changes. This survey has been done over a number of years. There are positive elements in this area that say that attitudes towards violence have changed. People accept that violence is a reality, but the terrifying concept is that there are still at least one in four people who think that sometimes violence is justified and accept that there are times that women may 'bring it on themselves'. When we have attitudes like that in our community, we have no option but to challenge it and say that it is not right. That is also a part of the White Ribbon campaign, in terms of making a personal commitment that, when we hear things that are offensive, when we hear statements that actually denigrate or treat with disrespect women, children or men in our community, it is our job to say that is not right. We cannot just let these things continue without challenge. The purpose of the personal commitment is not only personal action but, in terms of committing a violent act, it is also identifying and objecting to acts that could in some way continue violence in our communities.

The concept must be that we work towards having genuine equity. It is encouraging to see that part of the attitudinal processes in our community is working with young people. Through elements of respect for community and respect for relationship changes in our schools, we can intervene and talk with young people at a very early age to indicate that there are different ways to look at living and working together. We can indicate that there is no requirement to have any element of violence and that you can work through differences without resorting to, or supporting, violence. That is also part of the White Ribbon challenge.

We can see that change can happen. But the only way that change can happen is for people to work together, looking at their own behaviours and looking at the wider community. There are clear indications that this issue is now on the agenda. Ten years ago, when the White Ribbon campaign was first being developed, there were pockets of response. People who had already been involved in activities around safety and ensuring that people are not damaged by violence were able to take on the program that was initiated in Australia through UN Women and now works through the White Ribbon Foundation.

In the contributions at our breakfast this morning we heard that there were over 1,000 community activities across our nation, which were focused on the purposes of White Ribbon. That is an enormous response from the Australian community. They range from very small neighbourhood events to quite large events, such as that which is happening in Sydney-the large public march, which got very strong media coverage this evening.

There is a public statement to which people can respond, which speaks about the fact that we, in our own communities, are saying no to violence. That will mean that women and children who, at this very moment, are feeling isolated and fearful because they are in violent situations, can understand that the society in which they live will support them, and that they need not suffer in silence.

The most important element of this program is to break down that silence and to ensure that we can, together, say no to violence. These things do not happen without a widespread commitment, and I do want to acknowledge so many people in the community who have worked tirelessly to ensure that we have the White Ribbon campaign and various other activities which identify and respond to the issues of violence. I want to acknowledge their work and commitment.

We have not reached a stage yet where we can be proud, consistently, across our community. As I said, we still have attitudes in our country that do not reflect the importance of the issue or identify that we must change. We have to change if we are going to ensure that there is a safe and secure place for all people. When Andrew O'Keefe talked about what we wanted for our children in the future, it was a place where they would be safe and would have opportunities to grow and work together into the future, and make their own decisions openly.

Next year there will be another White Ribbon campaign, and many people will get involved. We heard this evening from Senator O'Sullivan that it is important for all us to make our own commitments. If we can do that we can ensure that the young people of today will not have to suffer the way that so many people have done in the past. We understand that violence in families is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for generations. In 2014, we can identify it and ensure that we are going to be part of a pledge that we will not accept, in any way, a violent community.