Australian Greens Deputy Leader and spokesperson for women spoke at a breakfast event for White Ribbon Day held in Parliament House this morning alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
As the original list of political speakers contained no women Senator Waters spoke on behalf of Greens Leader Richard Di Natale.
Senator Waters commends the commitment to ending violence against women and children but hopes “White Ribbon Day is not just one day of reflection for those who then sadly fail to deliver in their spheres of influence.”
“The women of Australia need more than just words; the government needs to stand up, speak out and cough up.
“Every one of us must do what we can in our spheres of influence, whether that’s changing our laws, whether that’s funding our programs or whether that’s standing up against causal sexism in our workplace.
“This is a job for all of us.
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(Acknowledgement of traditional owners, parliamentary colleagues, members of the defence force, members and international guests of White Ribbon Australia)
It is important to reflect on why we are here today.
We are obviously gathered for the last two sitting weeks of Parliament but in that time between two and four women will lose their lives to the hands of either a partner or a former partner.
I would like to acknowledge the work White Ribbon has done in raising awareness of this issue and I would also like acknowledge the fine words we have heard from both the prime minister and the opposition leader this morning, particularly the recommitment of the Labor party to amend the family law rules to stop perpetrators cross-examining their victims.
Both of our parties made that commitment at a function by the Women’s Legal Service in the lead up to the election, and I commend the re-commitment to that and I’d look forward to seeing some action on that in the Parliament hopefully very soon.
Stopping the scourge of domestic violence is a job for all of us, and that’s why it is critical that we’ve seen a multi-partisan approach to this issue, particularly in the development of the National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.
However, we need that plan not just to reduce violence against women and their children, we need it to eliminate that violence, and in order to do so it needs some teeth and its needs some funding.
So whilst the fine words and the moral leadership are welcome and very powerful, While we can’t allow women to keep falling through the cracks. We can’t allow platforms like today to make us reflect on those issues for a day, but then sadly fail to deliver in our own spheres of influence.
Right now, there are two critical sectors that are on the front lines of stopping violence against women and their children - specialist domestic and sexual violence services, and community legal centres – now both of those are facing dramatic funding cuts in the very near future.The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness expires in July 2017, just eight months away, taking $115 million in federal funding with it.
We know the homelessness and domestic violence are sadly crucially linked and that many women and children simply have no other options between violence or homelessness; we can fix that.
The national partnership agreements on legal assistance services include a 30 percent cut for community legal centres, again kicking in in July next year.
They already have to turn away about 150,000 people - many of them women; again, we can fix that.
Along with services like ATSILS and the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, those sectors have been subject to years of uncertainty and threats of funding cuts at a moment when stopping violence against women has become a national priority.
There is some incongruity there, and it needs to be addressed.
Eight months from now, if a woman is facing violence, she will have even fewer places to go for help unless these funding issues are fixed.
We need to government to stand up, speak out - and cough up.
But we must also look to prevention, and the two Senate inquiries which I was proud to initiate with the support of my parliamentary colleagues into domestic violence told us that the underpinning attitudes of a lack of gender equality is what is driving the horrific statistic of violence against women and their children.
And changing those notions and working for gender equality is a job for all of us - not just for the politicians in this building, but a job for all of us in each of our spheres of influence.
We must challenge the casual and sometimes unconscious sexism that sadly still pervades our society and our workplaces - and of course our parliaments.
For that reason I’m proud that Greens Leader Richard Di Natale noticed that today’s political panel would be all-male and decided that he thought it was appropriate that me as his day Deputy and our spokesperson for women speak on his behalf today.
So in that themes, I would like to congratulate the White Ribbon Ambassadors - particularly the recommitment to process that you have outlined this morning which I think will go some way towards addressing some of the recent concerns. I commend all of the White Ribbon Ambassadors in the room for their commitment and urge them to undertake that re-commitment process.
We commend you for that redoubling of your commitment but we also need to see a redoubling of effort.
Particularly that for those ambassadors who are CEOS and leaders in the corporate sector - I urge you to reflect on the state of your own workplaces and to do what you can to ensure domestic violence leave - until such time as it is mandated in our national laws - is something you provide in your workplace, and likewise, that there is no gender pay gap in a workplace that you preside over. Sadly we know those statistics are still prevalent after many decades.
In conclusion I welcome the very encouraging words that have been spoken here today, but the women of Australia need more than words - they need action, and they need all of us to step up and do more to stop the deaths. So today and every day let’s remember those women - the one to two women every week that are killed at the hands of a partner or a former partner, and do each and every one of us must do what we can in our sphere of influence whether that’s changing our laws, whether that’s funding our programs, whether that’s standing up against casual sexism in the workplace. This is a job for all of us and I look forward to us all carrying it on with renewed commitment.