Address to White Ribbon Day function - Speech




Thank you very much, it's a pleasure and honour to be here today. I too acknowledge that we're meeting on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and pay my respects to elders past and present. I acknowledge the Indian High Commissioner. To White Ribbon co-founder Dr Michael Kaufman, thank you for being here to share your expertise. I certainly have read and admired your work. My ACT parliamentary colleagues, Rebecca Cody, Rachel Stephen-Smith and Caroline La Couteur. Thanks to everyone for being here on a beautiful Canberra day to discuss one of the most challenging issues that our community faces. 

When we think about family violence, there are reasons to be optimistic. The issue is more prominent now than it has been in the past. We have terrific programs like White Ribbon and I am proud to be a White Ribbon Ambassador drawing attention to family violence. We have organisations like GOPIO (Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin) and IWN (Initiatives for Women in Need) focusing on family violence in specific communities. The national conversation is strong.

But at the same time we also have a toxic conversation occurring in parts of our communities. We've seen in the United States on both sides of the aisle senior leaders now being accused of sexual misconduct. We've got here in Australia an increase in reports of sexual violence. 170,000 women reporting being victims of sexual violence last year.

I do a podcast called The Good Life. Recently one of my guests was Maree Crabb who is an expert in pornography - an issue which Rachel Stephen-Smith talked about before. And she pointed out to me that the typical age of accessing pornography is twelve. During their early teenage years, children are watching pornography - the vast majority of which shows physical violence - which is shaping gender attitudes.

We have in our community, a failure to close the gender pay gap. We have to recognise that family violence is inextricably tied up with gender equality in the labour market, and sexual harassment in the workplace. 

If we are to get attitudes to change, we need more women in senior leadership roles. Yet we have seen in the House of Representatives a decline in the number of women in the Government side. 

But in the end, we have this great hope. That tackling family violence isn't just good for women, it's good for men too. A society of mutual respect is a better society in which to live. My middle son, Theodore is here with me today wearing a white ribbon. I’m proud of him.

As the father of three boys I want my sons to grow up in respectful relationships because that will be good for the women around them. But I want them to grow up in respectful relationships because that will be better for them. A society in which we respect the inherent dignity of every member, whether they are gay or straight, regardless of the colour of their skin, whether they're in a wheelchair, whether they have an intellectual disability, and whatever their gender. That’s simply a better society to be in. 

The White Ribbon campaign is part of the broad campaign for equality in our community. And none of these campaigns for equality can be disconnected from one another. When we advocate equality for women we are part of a broader movement whose end goal is to say we are all equal, we all deserve equal rights, we all deserve the equal treatment and the equal dignity that comes with that. 

Thank you for being here today, I appreciate the wisdom and the insights of all of you in helping end the scourge of family violence in Australia.



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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.