Page 459 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (11.09): I thank Ms MacDonald for moving this motion today, but I cannot help but feel when I hear and read a lot, as I do, about domestic violence or gender-based violence issues, that somehow inadvertently we seem to get an unbalanced view of this whole subject. I am sure the things that she said were not meant in that way. I am just posing to the Assembly an alternative view, one that should be addressed while recognising the rights of women and girls who suffer domestic, family, sexual and cultural violence. At the 1997 domestic violence summit, the Office for Women described domestic violence as an abuse of power perpetrated mainly but not only by men against women in a relationship or after separation. It occurs when one partner attempts to physically and/or psychologically dominate and control the other. I will talk about that a little later, because that is probably at the heart of what I am trying to suggest.

We need to look at formulating and implementing strategies to address why men commit acts of violence towards women and girls. Ms MacDonald read out her statistics—and I have a bit of a problem with statistics, because we all know that they can be used or misused in any way. I am putting forward this view being very aware of the things Ms MacDonald raised, but we should err on the side of caution when looking at statistics. Looking at why men commit acts of violence is not something that is talked about much in our society. It is talked about to beat men around and say they are nasty, horrible things, but what are we doing? Ms MacDonald has found that most of the reports about violence by men on women, for example, are really quite derogatory. I do not believe it is helping. It is certainly not helping policies to be shaped. We shape our policies according to beliefs, assumptions and theories about how and why domestic violence occurs.

I am greatly concerned about any domestic violence, as we all are, but I am often more concerned about the pressure and inequity that is placed upon men. Ms MacDonald ranged widely in her motion about Australia and the world. That is right, but we here are charged with and mandated to protect the rights of individuals in the ACT. We cannot do much about the world, but we can start here. I notice Ms MacDonald’s motion is one of acknowledging only. There is no call on the government specifically to do anything solid. Of course we acknowledge it, of course we recognise it. It is an important issue, but there are no actions with her words. There is no calling on the government or us as an Assembly to do anything.

We can all notice it and talk about it, and that is very nice, but what are we going to do to address the complex issues? Why have we as an Assembly been ignoring a significant half of any debate relating to acts of violence? That is all I am putting to you. The only way to find solutions is to go to the heart of the causes of any form of violence. More than likely we will discover that the solution is to assist the perpetrators of violence and, to protect sufferers of violence, take action that is aimed at the source—why violent acts are committed. Ms MacDonald gave some statistics about men, but it is worth noting that the Office for Women acknowledges that it is mainly men but not only men.

Let us look at another aspect of this. When men use violence they can experience a range of consequences, such as the breakdown of relationships with partners and children, including separation and divorce; loss of community relationships and respect; feelings of shame, hopelessness, anxiety or depression; the serious injury or death of their partner

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