White Ribbon Day

I spoke today about White Ribbon Day, and the issue of violence against women.
White Ribbon Day
21 November 2011

In 1991 a small group of Canadian men started the White Ribbon campaign. Tragically, the inspiration for the first White Ribbon Day was the second anniversary of the Montreal massacre, a massacre in which a gunman at a university killed 14 women and injured 10 others. A small group of Canadian citizens believed that as men they had a responsibility to speak out against violence against women. To symbolise men's opposition to violence against women they chose to wear a white ribbon. Eight years later the United Nations General Assembly declared 25 November International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and adopted the white ribbon as its symbol.

One reason I became an ambassador is that White Ribbon Day promotes change by highlighting the positive role that men can play. It encourages all men across the world to take an active stance against violence against women. This Friday, 25 November, is White Ribbon Day, a day when men say it is not okay to use violence against women, when men speak out to change the attitudes and behaviours which allow violence against women to occur and when taking action to address violence against women is celebrated, supported and encouraged.

The global statistics on the abuse of women and girls can be mind numbing. In their book Half the Sky Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof report that more girls have been killed in the last 50 years simply because they were girls than all the men killed in the battles of the 20th century. Thanks to White Ribbon Day, high-profile ambassadors, such as comedian Wil Anderson, Indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes, NRL point-scoring record holder Hazem El Masri and our own foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, have signed the oath “never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women”. But it is through all men, among each other, letting it be known that violence against women is unacceptable that the greatest change occurs. Fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, team mates and colleagues—every effort and every conversation makes a difference.

I am sometimes asked by men why the focus is on violence in the home that is directed towards women. The answer comes clearly out of the statistics. According to the latest Recorded Crime publication of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, men are most likely to be assaulted by a stranger, followed by a non-family member, followed by a family member, but for women the reverse is true. Women are most likely to be assaulted by a family member. That is why it is so important we speak out about violence against women.

In my electorate of Fraser I am attending two events supporting White Ribbon Day. A barbecue breakfast is being held this Friday by the Canberra White Ribbon Day group, with the support of the Australian Federal Police, the Young Women's Christian Association, the State Emergency Service, Lifeline, the ACT government and men from across the ACT community. The other is a lunchtime event by the ACT Labor Status of Women policy committee. Both events are an opportunity for men in the electorate of Fraser to speak out against violence against women and to demonstrate the power that positive male role models can have in their local communities.

In addition to the support of colleagues and me for the prevention of violence against women, last Friday the Standing Council on Law and Justice considered draft legislation to implement a national scheme for domestic and family violence orders. Once implemented, the legislation will allow those protected by a Domestic Violence Order to move across state and territory borders and remain covered. It is an important safeguard for victims of domestic violence.

Violence against women is unacceptable. Men do have a responsibility to speak out on this, to speak with other men and to speak out in the community. Along with 16,500 Australians I have sworn “never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women”. This White Ribbon Day, men will be saying it is not okay to remain silent about violence against women. It is up to men to be good role models for boys and for other men in their community. I am proud to be a White Ribbon Day ambassador in my electorate of Fraser. I encourage all men to join me in speaking out on this important cause.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.