Page 466 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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experiencing violence and their children. But the problem is enormous and is one that we all need to work together on.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (11.38): I join with Ms MacDonald and commend her for bringing this important issue to the attention of the Assembly today. I am particularly alarmed by the statistics Ms MacDonald mentioned relating to the percentages of women and girls in our society who are subject to the terrible crime of rape and other forms of gender-based violence. There is simply no excuse, of course, for this gender-based crime, and I call on all members of the ACT community to do what they can to stamp out these horrible occurrences and to address the attitudes and values amongst our young people, particularly, that can lead to these offences.

Research indicates that violence against women is a problem of international significance, as Ms MacDonald has already said. Significantly, it affects millions of women and girls world wide.

I join with Ms MacDonald in her positive analysis of the ACT government’s steps to address gender-based violence in the territory and commend the steps of past assemblies to address the growing concern of violence against women.

It must be remembered that the effects of gender-based violence, in particular sexual assault, are felt both physically and mentally long after the actual incident. They have a devastating effect not only on the person herself but also on those in close relationships with her, such as a partner, parents, siblings, perhaps her children, her friends and her workmates. And, of course, that has an effect on all of us in the whole community. The ACT government recognises this and has taken the appropriate steps to ensure that there are adequate support services available to victims of violence in this context.

I agree that prevention is the best way to address the problem of gender-based violence, as I have said before—and I acknowledge the compassionate approach of the ACT government to wholly support mental and physical rehabilitation programs and the development of strategies in the women’s action plan. One such approach is the government-funded Women’s Information and Referral Centre, which provides a central point for women in the ACT seeking support in response to gender-based violence and other gender-specific issues. This service is to be commended, as it allows ACT women a direct contact point for gender-related services, including counselling; domestic violence support; family law assistance; health management; loss and grief counselling; relationship counselling; sexual abuse assistance; and support groups such as VOCAL. All these services are supported by this government.

Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, violence is part of our daily reality in Western societies such as Australia. As Ms MacDonald said, both at home and in the workplace, women are often subjected to degrading attacks in a both physical and emotional manner. We need, in response to this growing problem, clarity and vision; we always need to be thinking outside the square. While the ACT government has implemented some of the most effective support and prevention methods in Australia for victims of gender-based violence, there is still more that can be done of course, and the ACT government is committed to doing that.

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