SPEECH: Domestic Violence Leave

09 August 2023



Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle—Deputy Speaker) (19:00): I am very pleased to be able to rise in this chamber to speak on the family and domestic violence leave statements. I think I'd like to start by firstly acknowledging the profound and ongoing impacts of family and domestic violence in Australia. This year, we've already seen 33 women lose their lives through acts of violence. This is an issue affecting women of every age; from every cultural background; with different jobs and different levels of education; living in different suburbs, towns, and cities; leading different lives—but all with their lives cut way too short. Too many women and children are living in fear in their own homes because of the violence and coercion they are experiencing there, in the very place they should expect to feel safe.

Things have to change. No-one should be living in terror each and every day or living in fear that the person who purports to love them is in fact the most dangerous threat in their lives. That's why our Labor government, under the leadership of Minister Amanda Rishworth, has been working very closely with all the state and territory governments who have a shared commitment to ending violence against women and children in one generation. It is a big commitment, it is ambitious, but it should absolutely not be beyond us to ensure that women and children are not subjected to violence and coercion in the next generation.

The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children is the second national plan, of course, and I would like to acknowledge the work of the former Labor minister for women, my friend and colleague Julie Collins, the member for Franklin and current Minister for Housing, Minister for Homelessness and Minister for Small Business, who saw us through with the first of the national plans, in any Australian parliament, to end violence against women and children. She help established Our Watch; ANROWS, an important body to ensure that we had the very best research and materials at hand; and gender reporting legislation—all very important hallmarks in ensuring that we not just put an end to violence and coercion but also tackle the very drivers of that violence, which we know includes gender inequality. We now have our second national plan to end violence against women and children, and this will take us through the period from 2022 to 2032. It provides us with a blueprint for a whole-of-society approach—an all-levels-of-government approach—to end violence against women and children, as I said, within one generation.

I'm really pleased that, over two successive budgets, our Labor government has made a record investment of $2.3 billion for a range of initiatives to end violence against women and children. We know that prevention is key for generational and important societal change. Investments in early intervention are so important to actually stopping violence from occurring and escalating. We're also making investments in terms of response so that women have a place to go and the support they need to leave a violent situation, which is often one of the most terrifying decisions for women because we know the real risk and danger is when you've actually made the decision to leave—that's when you are at most risk.

The other area we're investing in, which is critically important, is healing and recovery because investment here leads to breaking that cycle of ongoing violence and stops women potentially returning to violent circumstances. We know it's not just about addressing the acute effects of violence; it's also important to tackle the gender inequality that drives gendered violence. That's why you will see gender equality at the centre of this government's thinking. We have a majority of women in government for the first time in Australia's history since Federation. We have more women in a federal cabinet than ever before. So this is never an add-on extra for Labor; gender equity is at the front and centre of all our thinking in all policies and all work that we do.

To get rid of gender inequality, we're tackling that on a number of fronts. Firstly, we're implementing all the recommendations of the Respect@Work report because it's crucial all workplaces in Australia should be safe and respectful places to work and should reflect best practice in terms of the prevention of sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault. We've legislated for a positive duty on employers to provide workplaces free of harassment. I mean, who would have thought that was a radical idea? Yet, sadly, the opposition did not support us in seeking a positive duty to ensure that workplaces are free of sexual harassment.

We're investing in consent and respectful relationships education in schools, as well as broadly across the population. We're also implementing improvements to offer support to 1800RESPECT, meeting the needs of those people who experience workplace sexual harassment.

Of course, leaving a violent relationship can be, as I mentioned earlier, one of the most dangerous times for women. It's one of the most dangerous times not just for women but for their families and everyone they love around them. In addition to the safety implications, women face multiple and systemic barriers when leaving a violent relationship. That decision can lead to homelessness, economic insecurity, social isolation and the loss of employment, income, assets and support networks. These are huge barriers, all of which we can do something about. We must change this so that women feel safer to leave a violent home.

This week we marked the beginning of paid domestic violence leave for all workers in all businesses, including casual workers. I could not be more proud of this moment for the Australian people. This access to paid leave will make a practical difference for women escaping family and domestic violence, who now will not have to choose between their job and having time off work to deal with family and domestic violence. Those legal appointments, interviews at the police station, moving your kids' school, and finding and dealing with real estate are all time-consuming, and women need paid leave to do that. I am so pleased that we have seen businesses, both big and small, embracing the start of paid domestic and family violence leave, because this leave will save lives and it's an important step towards our goal of ending violence against women and children.

To assist in the change with this new paid leave, the government has just released a new podcast, in partnership with Lifeline Australia, titled Small Business, Big Impact: How to Support Employees Experiencing Family and Domestic Violence. The podcast is hosted by Gretel Killeen, a great advocate and voice for Australian women. The podcast, designed for small business, has been guided by experts from the family and domestic violence sector alongside representatives from small business and their peak bodies. It'll help to prepare small-business owners for those important conversations in their workplaces about paid family and domestic violence leave and how they're going to be able to support their employees. That's usually what employers want to be able to do: ensure that they're there to be able to support good people working for them that they want to retain and keep in a safe working and living environment.

I want to give a shout-out to the amazing women who—along with their representative union, the ASU—for 10 years visited us in Parliament House to talk to us about the need for this paid family and domestic violence leave. We couldn't get it through in the former government. I've been here for nine years trying to advocate for this leave. So it was with real joy that, with the election of the Labor government, we were finally able to bring this to fruition. The Albanese Labor government is deeply committed to a country free of gender based violence where all people live free from the fear of violence and they are safe at home, at work, at school, in the community and wherever they live and go. We should not accept anything less than that, ever.