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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 March 2021) . . Page.. 557 ..


Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Women) (10.26): I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on, the Ngunnawal people. I acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

As the Minister for Women and the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, I welcome the opportunity to acknowledge International Women’s Day, which occurred on 8 March, by providing a statement to the Assembly on the status of women and girls in the ACT. The feminist cause is about collectivism. It takes the whole community, and it means working together while also recognising and celebrating diversity.

Today I announced the establishment of a sexual assault prevention and response working group to coordinate the community, the service sector, union, and relevant stakeholders on responses to sexual assault in the ACT.

On Monday, 15 March, many of my Assembly colleagues and I stood beside thousands of women at Parliament House to March 4 Justice. The treatment of women in workplaces and across the country is unacceptable. We are demanding a future in which women are treated with dignity and respect. It is a momentous time, and it is time to put survivors at the centre of how we respond to sexual assault.

Last week I met with the Victims of Crime Commissioner, Heidi Yates; Associate Professor and Senior Specialist in Sexual Health and Forensic Medicine Vanita Parekh AM; CEO of the Women’s Centre for Health Matters Marcia Williams; and CEO of the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre Chrystina Stanford to understand what needs to happen next with the Sexual Assault Reform Program. I heard the call for a different approach to change.

To quote the Victims of Crime Commissioner, Heidi Yates:

We cannot continue to hold up the criminal justice system as the ideal justice response for survivors, because that is a promise we simply cannot fulfil.

To make long-lasting change to cultures of behaviour, we need to bring everyone along on the journey for change. Our approach also needs to understand that the nature of sexual assault has changed over time, including with technology.

The working group will be inclusive and intersectional about the experiences of sexual violence across the community, including people with a disability, the LGBTIQ+ community, children and young people, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and communities that are culturally and linguistically diverse. We know that there are many different experiences and that our response must provide more than just one pathway. This work also needs to have a gendered lens, as women make up 86.6 per cent of victims of sexual assault in the ACT.

On Sunday, 28 March, the Women’s Centre for Health Matters released a survey regarding women’s experiences in seeking help for sexual assault in the ACT.


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