International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

7 Dec | '2020

Ms BELL (Moncrieff) (11:31): Violence against women is a global problem, occurring in a wide range of circumstances that include crime, wars and, sadly, in homes across the world and across our great country. Obviously, they’re all complex areas that require a multitude of responses. Before I highlight some of the Morrison government measures, I think it’s important to outline a productive approach to domestic violence solutions. My view is that there are a number of barriers to progress that no longer can be ignored. They include virtue signalling in place of meaningful action, ambiguous or misleading language in describing the problem and policy responses, and unnecessary politics around this issue. It’s important that we address these three barriers, otherwise we’ll all continue to be frustrated with progress and, more importantly, we will fail to achieve better outcomes for victims.

With regard to virtue signalling, we must understand the difference between raising awareness to build consensus for action and engaging in the completely ineffective virtue signalling that sometimes leads many to declare their position on domestic violence rather than making a meaningful contribution to preventing it or addressing its consequences. I could use my own experience growing up in an environment where domestic violence was the norm in many households. I could approach this debate from my own mother’s point of view as a victim, but instead I prefer to focus on solutions and resist playing the very emotive blame game. Whether in this place or in our institutions, businesses, community groups, families or homes, simply declaring that you are against domestic violence is just not enough. It merely puts you in step with the decent norms across Australia. We must all hold ourselves to a higher standard that says violence, bullying and/or controlling behaviours towards women and children—or anyone, for that matter—are just not acceptable, and they must stop.

Many Australians and organisations already share my preference for meaningful action. Given the privacy sensitivities, the general public are often not aware of contributions to prevent, intervene in or ameliorate the effects of domestic violence. I’d like to commend the actions of one such business. Last week, in my office, we assisted a constituent suffering through a domestic violence situation—we try to help as many people as we can. While it’s not appropriate to publicly describe the exact circumstances, I can say this: Suncorp Bank promptly assisted the woman in a manner that improved her safety and made her feel supported, and I acknowledge their efforts. When the private and public sectors, and individuals, take well-considered, appropriate action with their behaviours, we can move forward powerfully as a society.

With regard to the language that we use to describe problems and solutions, we should be clear, we should be accurate and we should be just. I worry that terms like ‘gender based violence’ sometimes have a minimising effect. Equally we must be careful of our choice of words for the victim’s sake. If someone has been violently assaulted, we should say exactly that. If there’s a family in distress with a high level of verbally abusive behaviour, we should say so because, if we fail to differentiate what’s actually going on, even though this could be confronting for some, we are unlikely to get any of the intervention measures right.

With regard to unnecessary politics, we must resist the manner in which commentators and others—many of them in left-wing style—conflate issues to pursue their broad agenda throughout our society. I think a much better approach is a liberal one, which is to take each victim, offender or other person involved as an individual and for individuals to take responsibility for their actions. We need only to improve it further by individuals treating all individuals with respect and having systems that allow for that.

In relation to meaningful action on domestic violence, I acknowledge and support the work of both the Attorney-General and the Minister for Women, including measures to enhance domestic violence protections for Family Court users. A local positive action example in my electorate is in Southport: Men of Business, or the MOB Academy. I commend Marco Renai, for founding MOB, and I commend all those involved in taking early positive action by mentoring young boys to be fine, respectful and aware young men. National positive action is the government’s significant and ongoing investment in addressing domestic violence, including a $150 million COVID-19 domestic violence support package. Let’s tell the positive stories about respect for women and action by this government and by organisations like Suncorp and MOB Academy that are making a difference. That way, we replicate the positive progress and avoid the blame game that has gone on for too long.

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