February 25, 2016  |  Take note motion

Family Violence – Take note motion

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure and my honour to speak on the take‑note motion on family violence. Family violence is an issue which has rightly been taken up on the national agenda. When we saw Luke Batty brutally killed by his father, we could not
stand by. When we heard courageous women like Rosie Batty come out and speak about their experiences with family violence and their experiences with the justice system, we were all shocked.

We have found that family violence disproportionately affects women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, women with disabilities and women within our Aboriginal communities, and I commend the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for her contribution earlier today. It affects all women, including women who are pregnant or have recently given birth. Something I have learnt as the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, through our Baby Makes 3 program, is that it is often when a woman becomes pregnant that the prejudices can first commence in relation to family violence.

Something I have been proud of is that the Andrews government has taken this issue so seriously. Believe it or not, just this year we have seen eight women killed by violence in
Australia. We cannot stand by. I am proud that our government since day one has taken the issue of family violence seriously. It is not just a matter of having a Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence or holding a royal commission; it is really about addressing the root causes and underlying issues surrounding family violence.

As the new Australian of the Year, David Morrison, said recently, it is about walking the walk and talking the talk. We should not be a nation of bystanders. It is not enough for men like me — like us — to wear a white ribbon and sign a pledge. It is not enough for us to know that we would never commit an act of violence against our partners or turn a blind eye if we saw it happening to someone else.

We need to see this problem for what it is — a problem of gender and gender inequality. As
Ms Batty said when she spoke in this place recently:

A lot of people still do not see this as a gendered issue. They still cannot quite grasp how it could be a gendered issue. Surely it is because of drug and alcohol problems, surely it is those people with mental illness, surely it is not because of people like us and our  attitudes. You are the leaders of the country, you have huge power and influence, and it is every bit people like you, me and everybody who contribute to this situation.

We need to look at our attitudes, our institutions, our values and the way we educate our children and interact with one another. We need to also recognise how that impacts on the
way that women are treated in our society and how that creates an environment in which men can believe that it is okay to perpetrate acts of violence against a woman who they  supposedly love, whether it be physical, financial or even emotional violence.

The 2013 national community attitudes survey showed that one in five Australians believes that if a woman is sexually assaulted while drunk or drug affected, she is partly responsible, while over one in five believes that there are circumstances in which women
bear some responsibility for violence. Up to 28 per cent of Australians endorse attitudes supportive of male dominance decision‑making in relationships. It is attitudes like these that this government is trying to tackle.

Through the respectful relationships education initiatives we can affect the generational change required to prevent gender‑based violence. The 2016 school year has now begun,
and it is great to see respectful relationships form part of the Andrews government’s Victorian curriculum for prep to year 10. It will build students’ understanding of gender equality and of how to address negative attitudes such as prejudice, discrimination and harassment. For older students there will be an emphasis on media literacy and understanding its interaction with sexualisation and gender.

The Andrews government is supporting schools to deliver this new curriculum through resource development and capacity building for staff. It is also important that adults, especially adult men, take the time to understand their attitudes and values and how these
may impact upon gender inequality, which leads to family violence.

Last night after I got home I watched the ABC’s 7.30 report, which looked at a unique residential program in Perth for perpetrators of family violence. A big part of the counselling is about getting those men to understand their emotions so that they are better equipped to address them. As men we are taught to repress our emotions, that being emotional is a sign of weakness or flawed masculinity. We find with most male perpetrators of family violence that their inability to express or communicate their emotions, especially ones like anger, frustration and resentment, often leads them to
taking it out on their partner.

As leaders in our communities we can make an effort to dispel these myths of masculinity and show that every man is a real man and that there is nothing wrong with talking about your emotions. When we see women like Kristy McKellar, who spoke to us in this place
about her experiences and the unspeakable cruelty that she fell victim to despite being a confident, beautiful, secure and successful young woman, it is plain to see that it is not just about circumstances.

There are things that we can do in this place, like establishing family violence leave for Victorian government employees, which aims to erode the stigma associated with family
violence and provide employees experiencing this kind of trauma with options and support in the workplace. This policy is not just vital to ensuring our workplace is a supportive environment, it is essential for productivity. We can also aim to provide a holistic approach when it comes to the justice system, addressing family violence by tackling the problem at its core and using innovative approaches to improve outcomes for women and reduce the rates of recidivism in perpetrators.

These are all actions that we can take as lawmakers and community leaders to make change. I do not want us to be known as a nation of bystanders, and I do not want to sit back and do nothing while women are continually killed by those who are supposed to love
them. I urge members in this place to not only support the policies put forward by the Andrews Labor government to tackle the scourge of family violence but also consider their actions and attitudes in their own lives and how they may be improved to eradicate gender inequality, which is at the core of this issue.

I am very pleased to be part of the Andrews Labor government. It was after the by‑election in 2012 that I had the privilege to see the then Leader of the Opposition, the now Premier, at the Moonee Valley Racecourse announce that he was going to establish the Royal Commission into Family Violence. More importantly, rather than just announcing that he was going to establish it, he made a very firm commitment there and then that every recommendation of the royal commission was going to be implemented. No matter how difficult, how short or how long, every recommendation was going to be implemented.

The then opposition leader showed a measure of courage, and he knew that the family home, where women should be at their safest, was where they were often the most unsafe. If we get this right — we have got the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, we have got the royal commission and the report will be handed down very soon by Marcia Neave — I believe we can implement generational change and lead the nation in tackling this scourge.

I am very proud of my own electorate. Just this week I confirmed with the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence a visit to my electorate. In my community I held a family
violence forum last year, and it was very well attended by a couple of hundred people at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School in Keilor East. Ever since then a number of people have stopped me in the street, whether at a community event, a barbecue or a breakfast, to say what a great event it was and how great it was to hear from the minister, who has a personal and unique story to tell on this subject matter. People from Rotary clubs and football clubs have been affected by family violence; they are just your normal, middle‑class residents of the Niddrie electorate, who I would never suspect would have a daughter or a sister who has been affected.

This is an issue that we have as a no. 1 priority. It is an issue that I am very proud to support. I thought the speakers who spoke in the Parliament on this matter, particularly
Kristy McKellar and Rosie Batty, were incredible. It was a privilege to be part of the government. I thought the member for Brighton made a very good contribution earlier today, going right back to Attorney‑General Jan Wade. I thought the speaker before me, the member for St Albans, who spoke about the challenges in culturally and linguistically diverse communities and the high‑profile circumstances that she has faced in her community, also made a very good contribution.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs spoke about the high rates of Indigenous family violence. I got to represent the Attorney‑General and the Minister for Police in Mildura  not so long ago at an Aboriginal affairs function, and I am fully aware of the challenges in that community. But we are seeing leadership in that community. We are seeing that if you put in place the wraparound services required, you can tackle this issue and meet it head on.

I am looking forward to seeing the second budget of the Andrews Labor government to see the real commitment to tackling this issue. I think it is great that the Parliament has once again taken the opportunity to put this matter to all parliamentarians so that they might contribute to the debate on it. It is an incredibly huge social policy issue, and it has required leadership. I think Premier Andrews needs to be commended. From being in opposition to being Premier he has put it at the forefront of this government, and this is a government that will do everything it can to tackle this scourge.