3.23pm | March 04, 2022





SUBJECTS: Domestic and family violence; 500 additional community sector workers.   

: Hi, I'm Peta Murphy, the Federal member for Dunkley, and I'm joined today by Jenny McAllister, Senator for New South Wales and, very importantly, Labor's spokesperson for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence. We've just held a roundtable here in my electorate office with a number of the amazing local service providers who are on the ground every day helping women and children who have been exposed to, and have experienced domestic violence. We got a lot of messages, didn't we Jenny, but one of them was the need for a Federal Government that will invest in frontline services, and will support and enable local groups to come together to have local initiatives and local responses. We know that's what we're great at in Frankston, and we know that's what we need more of – to deal with some of the issues that existed, pre pandemic, but after the pandemic, we know that domestic and family violence has been a growing issue. Thank you very much, Jenny, for coming today. And I know you've got some exciting news about just one of the terrific things that a Federal Labor Government would do if we were to form government after the election.

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: That's right, Peta. Thank you very much for hosting this morning. Right across the country, there are amazing men and women who work every day to support people who are facing violence in their homes. We just met some of them today. They are incredible advocates for their clients, and they just bring so much expertise and so much knowledge to every discussion. 

We talked a little today about some of the challenges facing people in the local area. Obviously, the ongoing housing crisis is of significant concern. Many families still doing it very tough with very flat wages, unemployment and underemployment rates are too high, and we know that these financial stresses put a lot of pressure on families and can make it difficult for them to seek help. 

Labor knows that we need a sustained investment in the capacity of these services to support local communities. It's why we've said that if we're elected, we will provide resources to put another 500 workers in place to support services like this. What it will mean round here is that there'll be an extra seven people, seven people on the ground. And we know from talking to workers that that means that they can help probably another 580 women and children a year. That's actually a really significant investment. It will also let the services grow the skills that they need to deal with the cases they see, which they tell us are significantly more complex and growing in frequency. It's really positive to be able to talk with them about it today. And I really enjoy hearing their insights about the things that we'll need to do when we come to Government.

MURPHY: Thank you, Jenny.

JOURNALIST: Jenny, in your opinion, why do you think there's been so little concern surrounding supporting women fleeing violence?

MCALLISTER: We've had eight long years with a government that has paid very little attention indeed to women's safety. It's been shameful. There is a national epidemic of violence, and yet the response has been lacklustre and strangely, lacking any kind of energy or urgency, or attention. That will change if Labor is elected. We cannot stand by and allow another eight, nine years to go by, without serious action on this issue, which just affects too many Australians. Too many children are growing up in violent households and we have to bring this to a close.

JOURNALIST: If known, how does Victoria's protection towards women and children fleeing domestic violence compare with other states?

MCALLISTER: Victoria has done an amazing job in recent years. The Andrews Government initiated a Royal Commission into Family Violence and since that time, they have committed to implementing the recommendations. Every time I come here, I learn a little bit more about how the reforms that have been progressed are helping services to work together more effectively. And that really seems to be the key. That was the key message we got out of this morning's roundtable. 

MURPHY: I think that's right. Empowering organisations to work together, to come up with solutions that are necessary for the conditions of their community is a really important approach, and the Victorian Government is allowing that and it's something that we should be looking at nationally.

JOURNALIST: Peta, since the plan to support women in crisis came about, have you seen any improvements, big or small?

MURPHY: I think in Victoria, we have seen a real investment and effort to make the systems work better. The plan to address family and domestic violence now in Victoria particularly, starts at prevention, and starts at gender equality, and saying that one of the driving forces of violence is gender inequality, and a culture of disrespect, and that's what's really important to change. You can see that in a lot of the things the Victorian Government is doing. I've had a lot of conversations with Jenny about this and our colleagues in the federal caucus. It's one of the things we're committed to, as women, let alone as Labor politicians - to keep driving gender equality, nationally, particularly if we can become the Federal Government.

JOURNALIST: What do you think will prompt more workers to be funded to help those fleeing violence?

MURPHY: I think it's the brave women and men who have stood up and told their stories, and we've always seen that happen. But of course, in the last 12 to 18 months nationally, you know, we have seen a conversation driven by brave young women who have experienced violence or have stood up against the culture in their schools and their communities, and are forcing politicians, who have never turned their minds before to this epidemic facing Australian women and children, to have to do something. So, a lot of the credit goes to people like that. 

The other thing that will change is when you have members of Parliament and Ministers who are dedicated to making a real change and not just lip service. That's why it's so important to have had Jenny down here in Frankston to make this announcement.

MCALLISTER: It's true that the last time a Labor Government was elected, we benefited enormously from a cabinet that was full of women who understood these issues and were determined to make a difference. That Government led by Kevin Rudd, and then Julia Gillard, initiated the first National Plan, set up 1800 Respect, established the national research capability, established the national prevention organisation, Our Watch. It was an enormous period of energy for women's safety policy. It's just a terrible shame that it did not survive the change of government in 2013, when Tony Abbott made himself the Minister for Women.

JOURNALIST: How soon would you like to see more of an improvement?

MURPHY: I'd like to see an improvement that starts around about May 2022, with the change in Federal Government. But a really serious answer is - it's not a short-term fix to change a deeply ingrained culture. We know that and it was a message from the people that we met with this morning who are working on the ground. It takes not just a financial investment, but an investment of time and will, and dedication, to say it's a generational change. It can't be done in six months. It can't be done in three years. But we have to start now.