Page 458 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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The ACT women’s 2004-05 action plan and a second action plan addressing violence and safety issues in the ACT further highlight this government’s commitment to ending gender-based violence in the ACT. The second action plan builds on the inaugural action plan, continuing many of the initiatives and introducing several new ones. The action plan links with the Canberra plan’s strategic theme of investing in people. It places emphasis on further reviewing legislation and legal processes for women experiencing violence, strengthening services and programs that support women and children experiencing violence, and continuing to work with the community to prevent violence against women.

Advancing the status of women and girls in the ACT is a government priority, and these plans provide a framework that supports government agencies to better meet the needs of all women and girls. The implementation of the recommendations of the 2002 report of the Select Committee on the Status of Women is further proof of the government’s commitment to addressing and improving women’s safety in the ACT. A number of measures to improve the government’s response to violence against women have also been taken, including reforming criminal law in relation to sexual assault and domestic violence, new security measures where Family Court officers meet women in the car park and escort them into the court, new education programs that aim to help all family members after violence has been perpetrated, and a new forensic and medical sexual assault care unit that provides an integrated sexual assault service for adults.

As previously stated, putting an end to gender-based violence requires the dedication of all members of the local, national and international communities. Locally and nationally, groups and organisations such as the Women’s Information and Referral Centre, the Domestic Violence Support Group, Men’s Link, Women’s Action Alliance, Lifeline Canberra, the National Foundation for Australian Women, Women’s Energy Services Network and the National Women’s Justice Coalition, help provide support and counselling to men and women affected by violence. These are just a few of the many groups that provide invaluable assistance to men and women in the ACT and across Australia.

At an international level, no organisation has worked as hard to improve women’s safety as UNIFEM has. Created in 1976, UNIFEM works in over 100 countries and provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies that promote women’s human rights, political participation and economic security. The establishment of a trust fund in support of action to eliminate violence against women in 1997 has furthered UNIFEM’s work on gender-based violence. The fund’s primary goal is to identify and support innovative programs aimed specifically at preventing and eliminating violence against women. Since its inception, UNIFEM has provided grants to a total of 105 projects implemented in more than 65 countries worldwide.

The international community has recognised that the efforts to confront gender-based violence are central to human security and development. We all have to work hard to put an end to gender-based violence once and for all. I urge all members of the Assembly to support this motion. While the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women is in November, it is pertinent to talk about it at all times of the year, because violence against women happens at all times of the year.

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