Launch of Project Safe Space - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Launch of Project Safe Space

Terri spoke at the launch of Project Safe Space at Griffith University. She said "Griffith University recognises the importance of talking about family and domestic violence: talking with students, and educators and stakeholders, sharing knowledge and finding solutions. Griffith should be commended for being willing to lead a discussion with the students of this university, and in the broader community. It’s discussion that will be heard well outside the lecture theatres and the grounds of this campus. And it’s a discussion that will continue in the community well after these students graduate. Project Safe Space will also take the knowledge and experience from these conversations and turn it into action."


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In speaking at this launch, I want to talk about why this project will make a great contribution to the community’s response to family & domestic violence.

Family and domestic violence is, among other things, a product of attitudes towards women. That’s why it’s just as important to talk about violence as it is to act against it, to help shift attitudes.

This project – Project Safe Space – provides opportunities for both talk and action.

Today I want to start by talking about the fact that, family and domestic violence is a major problem in Australia.

I want to make the point that, Government at all levels can and should show leadership.

And finally I want to talk about how leadership can come from the community. Project Safe Space is a great example of that.

The problem is great

Family and domestic violence has finally been getting the attention that this shameful issue deserves.

Rosie Batty is an outstanding Australian, not for what her former partner did, but for the advocate that she has become since her tragedy.

When Rosie Batty was made Australian of the Year, that highlighted family and domestic violence and the tragic consequences if it is not stopped.

Australians are, I think, in awe of her strength and determination to advocate for change, that will mean that no more women or children will lose their lives as a result of this type of crime.

Rose Batty reminds us that it is everyone's responsibility to do what is necessary to end this violence.

89 women were killed by their current or former partner between 2008 and 2010.

That is nearly one every week.

Research from the 2012 ABS Personal Safety Survey and Australian Institute of Criminology showed that both men and women in Australia experienced substantial levels of violence

But, one in five Australian women had experienced sexual violence compared to one in 22 men.

1 in six women had experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.

61 percent had children in their care when the violence occurred.

And 58 per cent had never contacted the police.

Gender inequality

This is a profoundly a gendered issue.

The biggest risk factor for being a victim of family violence is being a woman.

According to the campaign Our Watch, there are three drivers that contribute to a culture where violence against women occurs.

Firstly, gender inequality. The fact that women and men do not have equal power or resources; and that their voices, ideas and work are not valued in the same way.

Secondly, rigid adherence to gender roles: for example, the idea that women and men should act in certain ways or are better at certain things based on their sex.

And finally, attitudes, norms, behaviours and practices that support violence: for example, the idea that violent acts are okay in certain circumstances, the idea that some violent acts are not serious and that violence is an acceptable way of resolving conflict.

The latest National Community Attitudes Survey, conducted in 2013, found up to 28% of Australians endorse attitudes supportive of male dominance of decision-making in relationships, which is identified as a risk factor in partner violence.

This survey also found that there is still people who think that domestic violence is excusable if the perpetrator is under a lot of stress, affected by alcohol or feels regret.

It found that attitudes towards women are fairly consistent across the population, regardless of education, where people lived or how much money they earned. 

Negative attitudes in relation to gender equity and violence against women exist in all segments of the Australian community.

What stakeholders are saying is needed

With family and domestic violence now a national priority our country must grasp this opportunity to put lasting measures, funding and institutions in place that will end the violence and, in the meantime, make sure survivors are supported.

Fair Agenda, an independent campaigning organisation, asked family violence experts what federal funding it will take to tackle this national crisis.

Here’s some of what they found.

Domestic and Family Violence Crisis Lines of Australia Network have identified a funding deficit with respect to crisis lines run by State and Territory governments.

There is a concern that the current level of funding does not allow for a continuing increase in demand for services, or ensure women at risk can receive support and assistance regardless of their location.

1800RESPECT is currently funded by the federal Department of Social Services.

In 2014, it responded to 54,853 over the phone, online and face-to-face contacts

But 18,631 contacts went unanswered due a lack of staff.

That’s a quarter of contacts.

Thankfully on 17 May the government announced an additional $4 million in funding for 1800 RESPECT over 2 years.

This is the bare minimum needed to fund the estimated deficit in funding.

There is inadequate funding for specialist agencies to meet the demand for services, so that women and their children can safely leave violent relationships without the risk of homelessness, have access to the support they need to recover from trauma and re-establish lives post-violence.

In the long term, Homelessness Australia are calling for the development of a replacement 4-5 year intergovernmental agreement to meet the cost of providing homelessness services, particularly to women and children experiencing homelessness or lack of affordable housing, as a result of escaping domestic violence.

A strategy to address violence against women cannot be entirely successful in an environment of lack of access to affordable housing.

There needs to be long-term, sustainable funding for all programs and initiatives included in the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

Right now many primary prevention activities are being implemented only in a limited number of locations, and are due to cease at the end of 2015.

It has been identified that there is urgent demand for community legal assistance, including from people experiencing family violence.

Stakeholders have also called for a greater focus on addressing gender inequality.

It has been suggested that gender equality and prevention of violence against women and their children should be a standard agenda item for the Council of Australian Governments. This might include an annual report outlining progress on gender equality and prevention of violence against women and their children.

Another suggestion is to ensure all Australian Public Service departments and agencies have workplace policies and meaningful targets that foster gender equality,

Something Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has committed to do here in Queensland.

Most importantly, governments must implement policies and legislation to address women’s economic inequality.

Talk must be backed by action

To his credit, Tony Abbott has been talking about this issue.

He first pledged stronger action on family and domestic violence when opposition leader.

However, this rhetoric has not been backed by action in government.

In fact the Abbott government has taken us back in respect to funding of critical services and programs.

Since the 2013 MYEFO this government has cut $51 million from Community Legal Centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, legal aid and family violence prevention legal centres.

It was only after sustained community pressure, that the government restored $25.5 million of this funding.

The 2014-15 Budget cut $44 million from the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

Funding for the National Affordable Housing Agreement has been reduced.

And funding to peak homelessness bodies has been cut.

There have also been cuts of $271 million to the community grants scheme administered by the Department of Social Services.

This has a profound effect on the services available to survivors of family and domestic violence.

Labor’s record and commitments

Labor has been very critical of these cuts and is calling on the Coalition Government to turn words into actions.

Bill Shorten has written to the Tony Abbott seeking his bipartisan support to hold a national crisis summit on family violence.

Labor has also called on the Coalition Government to support a number of interim measures to ensure women and their children affected by family violence are getting the support they need.

In particular Labor wants to make sure women are getting the legal support they need - irrespective of where they live - and that they have somewhere safe to go.

A national crisis summit on family violence is required for the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to agree to urgently implement coordinated judicial and social services reform within their areas of responsibility to better deal with family violence.

A national crisis summit on family violence is the best way for stakeholders to openly and transparently lay down the key policy challenges for addressing family violence.

In Government, Labor created the first National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The national crisis summit seeks to build on this work with a program for clear action.

Labor’s interim measures will deliver more than $70 million over three years in targeted funding to ensure those suffering from family violence can access critical services when they need them.

Labor will commit almost $50 million to frontline legal services, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services to ensure women suffering from family violence get legal support. 

The aim of this is to ensure, at least, that women facing court have access to appropriate legal services.

We will also make an initial investment of $15 million in Safe at Home grants to help people affected by family violence stay safe in their own home.

In addition, Labor will invest $8 million in perpetrator mapping to look at the interactions across family violence, law enforcement, justice, child protection and related systems to help identify opportunities to prevent violence through information sharing.

At our recent national conference we carried a motion stating Labor was committed to domestic violence leave as a universal workplace right with "appropriate" paid leave and employer support.

I congratulate Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Shannon Fentiman, for their work so far in responding to the report handed down by the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence, chaired by The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO.

The Palaszczuk Government has made a commitment to consider all the recommendations in the report ‘Not now, Not ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence.’

In the recent Budget, the Queensland Government invested $31.3 million to implement a preliminary response.

This includes $19.9 million over four years to establish new crisis shelters in Brisbane and Townsville, and $3 million towards a national campaign.

Project Safe Space

In accepting the report Premier Palaszczuk said,” I want this government to take the lead on addressing domestic violence, but we cannot do it alone. As a community, we all have a responsibility to look after one another.”

The Labor Party recognises that it is only by working together with the community sector, with businesses, with legal professionals, with unions and with universities like Griffith that we will affect everlasting change.

Accordingly it is with great satisfaction that I involve myself with Project Safe Space.

Griffith University recognises the importance of talking about family and domestic violence: talking with students, and educators and stakeholders, sharing knowledge and finding solutions.

Griffith should be commended for being willing to lead a discussion with the students of this university, and in the broader community.

It’s discussion that will be heard well outside the lecture theatres and the grounds of this campus.

And it’s a discussion that will continue in the community well after these students graduate.

Project Safe Space will also take the knowledge and experience from these conversations and turn it into action.

The journalism component will highlight the misconceptions and misunderstandings around the actions and behaviours of domestic violence victims and their families.

The law elective will provide students with an invaluable opportunity.  With the insight provided by the community partners of Project Safe Space, they will explore opportunities for law reform in this area.

These students will leave university with a unique insight into issues surrounding domestic violence, having worked closely with victims.

They will become agents of change in our community.

The understanding that these students gain will not only contribute to the just reporting of family and domestic violence, and just treatment in our legal system,

It will help change the attitudes and culture of their peers, which will contribute to that everlasting change that is needed to once and for all time solve this crisis.

I applaud all those who are partnering with Griffith University and this project.

  • Domestic Violence Action Centre,
  • Caxton Legal Centre,
  • Rachel Kayrooz and White Warrior Challenge against Domestic Violence,
  • Bravehearts,
  • Mentors in Violence Protection
  • Women’s Legal Service

I know I have not mentioned you all. This list seems to be growing by the day.

Special thanks should go to Faith Valencia from the School of Journalism who has worked tirelessly to get this project off the ground.

I have seen firsthand the work she does with students in preparing them to be leaders in the field of journalism.


In conclusion, talking about domestic and family violence is important.

We must acknowledge that this is a crisis. We must talk about gender equality and must talk to the whole community about it.

But this talk must be backed up with actions.

We all need to work together as governments, as businesses, as schools and universities, as a society to put in place substantive measures to deal with attitudes to women if we want to seriously stop gendered violence.

Project Safe Space is part of that action.

I congratulate Griffith University and everyone involved, and I wish you every success.

Thank you.

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