Page 461 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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We all agree that violence affects the social, emotional, physical and financial wellbeing of individuals and families, and results in significant social and economic cost to the community. The entire community—all areas of society, regardless of geographical location, socio-economic status, age, culture and ethnic background or religious belief—have the right to feel safe and secure. It is easy to acknowledge a problem but much harder to recognise that there are two sides to it. Until we get that balanced view and look at the problem as a whole, we are never going to come up with the proper policies and services to meet the problem. So, whilst the Liberal opposition would have liked to see a motion of substance and actions rather than a mere filibuster, it will be supporting the motion today.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.18): It has been interesting to hear the perspectives on this topic today. I certainly support the motion, but I wish to add to it. While I certainly note and endorse that the ACT government has set in place some positive measures to reduce violence against women, I am also aware that the number of reported incidents is continuing to rise. This indicates that more effort is needed to change the perception of what is permissible in relationships between men and women.

In 1998, the ACT government began working with domestic violence support groups, especially the Domestic Violence Crisis Centre, in a program of integrated and coordinated response. This has turned around the way that the police respond to incidents of domestic violence. A worker from the centre accompanies police during investigations. More prosecutions occur because solicitors and police are better educated about how to deal with cases, and more perpetrators are pleading guilty. Apparently, the message has got through that violence is unacceptable, but behaviour change is lagging behind.

We will be very much interested in the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Amendment Bill, which will be tabled tomorrow. We hope that the government has consulted widely with affected groups, especially those that work closely with women and other victims of domestic violence, in preparing this bill. We certainly will be as we look into our response to it.

In my work as Canberra coordinator for the International Women’s Development Agency and in my research on women’s human rights globally, I have learned that being born female increases the probability of being a victim of violence in nearly every society in the world. In those countries where having daughters is considered an economic burden and is often combined with restrictions on the number of children a family can have, technologies which allow the sex of foetuses to be identified leads to sex-selective abortions in too many cases. This has affected the gender ratio, so that in a number of countries, notably India and China, there is a disproportionate number of boys and men. This is already exacerbating the trade in girls and women, which is the third greatest illegal trade after arms and drugs. In other words, girls’ and women’s lack of status and access to entitlements and human rights contribute to the spiral of violence against them.

Thankfully, the situation for women in Australia is less extreme. But this did not happen without a lot of work. And guess who did that work? Women. We still have a long way to go. Ask the staff at women’s refuges where the demand continues to be greater than

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