Sixteen days of activism against gender-based violence

28 November 2019

I'd like to share with the Senate some more thoughts in relation to this week and preventing and eliminating violence against women. Sixteen days of activism against gender-based violence began on Monday. The effort to end violence against women never ceases, and the responsibility rests with all of us. Violence and abuse against women exists in many forms, including physical, emotional, financial and sexual. Preventing violence against women requires fundamental cultural and attitudinal change through awareness and education. Government and business, communities and individualseveryone has a role to play, and men are an integral part of this solution. The government can and must make it easier for women to escape violent and abusive relationships. It can improve access to the social security system. It can provide more safe places for women and their children to stay. It can ensure that women from non-English-speaking backgrounds and First Nations women are also able to access family violence support services.

It is a sad fact that First Nations women report experiencing violence in the previous 12 months at 3.1 times the rate of non-Indigenous women. They are 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence as non-Indigenous women. We know that supporting and resourcing programs and services run by First Nations people and organisations has the most effective impact, and the move to mainstream First Nations-specific services is a retrograde step. Labor has continually called on this government to rescind the decision in this year's budget to reverse decades of self-determination in the provision of legal services to First Nations people in our country by rolling the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services into a single national mechanism for legal assistance. This decision runs counter to the findings of a 2018 government commissioned independent review, which found that, through ILAP funding, ATSILS provide cost effective, high quality, culturally appropriate and accessible services. It notes 'an increasing body of evidence in Australia and internationally' that the best practice approaches to addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage involved communities controlling their responses to challenges that affect them.

More proof of this, if any is needed, is there in the work of the people at the Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group in Alice Springs. This courageous group of women came here to Canberra more than two years ago to talk about the work they do on the front line in Alice Springs town camps to make their communities a much safer place. I speak often about groups like the Tangentyere women, because these women in particular, and those who are doing similar work across the Northern Territory and also right across Australia, deserve to be recognised consistently and constantly, because their tireless efforts out there are really making a difference. Despite very tight funding, this group of women have gone from strength to strength. They have developed models and programs that are being looked at nationally and internationally as examples of best practice in the training and involvement of First Nations people in tackling the scourge of domestic violence.

A recent example of their work is the Mums Can, Dads Can Project. This project is developed and informed by town camp men and women to challenge beliefs and attitudes about the roles of men and women, especially with respect to parenting. These town camps are around Alice Springs, and those of you who have been to Alice Springs are probably familiar with them. The Mums Can, Dads Can Project injects some play and humourbecause we all need humourinto family violence primary prevention. It looks at the different roles men and women can have when it comes to raising children. For example, it shows dads looking after kids, playing dress-up, cooking and giving great hugs. These are all things dads can and should be encouraged to do, just as mums can kick a footy around, look after money and fix things around the house. Mums Can, Dads Can challenges the typical gender roles so men and women can be comfortable raising kids and consider their roles in the family. Seeing that mums can be strong and dads can be gentle will help raise the next generation of confident parents. The Mums Can, Dads Can Project builds on the work carried out in the Tangentyere Family Violence Prevention Program, with the aim of developing a framework with the capacity to be rolled out in Indigenous communities across the territory.

The Tangentyere women's work has been informed by their absolute refusal to be seen as just statistics. That is importantto be seen as more than just a statistic. I am very pleased to inform senators that the work of these women was showcased earlier this week on Monday night on national Indigenous television. The Tangentyere women's work stories are the subject of a documentary directed by Shirleen Campbell, the coordinator of the Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group. The documentaryNot just numbersis the story of this remarkable group of women who are having an impact far beyond the borders of their Alice Springs town camps. The documentary features the core group of women instrumental in forming the group and their work and achievements over the past five years to be seen and heard, not just counted. So if you did not get the chance, senators, to watch it on Monday night, I would urge you to streamNot just numbersfrom NITV and consider supporting this group of women who refuse to be quiet and seen as just statistics.

I would also like to pay tribute to the YWCA Australia's Women of Worth program, which has been recognised for empowering women in the Northern Territory justice system. The program received a gold award in the community-led category of the 2019 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards this week. These awards recognise best practice in the prevention or reduction of violence and other types of crime in Australia. They play a vital role in highlighting effective community based initiatives to prevent crime and violence before it actually occurs.

The voluntary program supports women integrating back into Northern Territory communities on release from prison. It provides six months pre-release and 12 months post-release support to women involved in the justice system, predominantly Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women. Data provided by the Department of Correctional Services shows that women who are engaged with the Women of Worth program are 69 per cent less likely to return to prison. Women of Worth helps women to break the cycle of involvement with the justice system and to rejoin and contribute to their communities after release from prison.

This program has made a big difference to the lives of many women and their families in the Territory. An award like this shows the necessity and power of the program. It also acknowledges the clients, whose faith in the program and continuous input has helped shape the initiative. It shows that Women of Worth is an effective program that addresses a clear and important need. The program is innovative within the Northern Territory context for its engagement with women on remand and serving short sentences and the period of post-release support it offers. The annual Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards recognises the outstanding contributions being made across Australia for crime prevention, including the development

STATEMENTS BY SENATORSViolence Against WomenSPEECH Wednesday, 27 November 2019