Opinion Piece – The collective hearts of Australians broke last week but I hope we have all decided enough is enough

The story of Australia is as much as anything a story of strong women. Courageous, trailblazing women and girls who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.

Women like Hannah Clarke who showed love for her children Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey and bravery in the face of the most unimaginable terror.

The collective hearts of Australians broke last week but I hope that February 19 will be the day that we all decided enough is enough. Domestic violence must end now.

Because as horrifying as the events in Camp Hill were, it is not a one off.

It is unacceptable that one woman is killed every week in Australia at the hands of a partner. Every single death is one too many.

Every two minutes police are called to a domestic and family violence matter and every day 12 women are hospitalised.

Let that wash over you for a moment and think about the women behind those statistics.

They are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and colleagues. Women who are working hard and striving to live their best lives but whose supposed loved ones are denying them the opportunity that the rest of us take for granted.

Despite increasing equality it’s hard to fathom that so many women in this country do not feel safe and are forced to live in fear of manipulation, control and violence.

As a woman who happens to be a Cabinet Minister I believe I must take responsibility for fostering an environment that promotes the interests of women from all walks of life.

As Minister for Families and Social Services I have made confronting domestic violence, which is an terrible blight on society, an absolute priority. Not only must we respond to it but we need to prevent it in the first place.

I believe it is my role to call out negative behaviour when I see it such as the provocative, unhelpful and just downright repugnant interventions in this debate by Bettina Arndt.

It is right that the Governor-General has referred the correspondence over her Order of Australia honour to the Council that oversees the awards for consideration.

The Morrison Government’s absolute goal is to prevent domestic, family and sexual violence. This is why we are investing a recording $340 million under the Fourth Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

Under this investment we are funding a series of programs for men. Some are to support culprits’ change their behaviours while others are seeking to intervene to change attitudes before violence is metered out.

It is vital that men take responsibility for their own attitudes and behaviours and I strongly encourage them to seek support to change.

Just last week I announced the Government’s long term commitment to 1800RESPECT – the national domestic and sexual violence counselling service that has become a bedrock of support for women.

We must make sure that this service is delivering the best support possible to women who have found the courage to speak up which is why for the first time since 1800RESPECT was established 10 years ago we are conducting an open competitive procurement process. This will shape 1800RESPECT for the next five to 10 years.

Work is also underway on the third instalment of the Stop it at the Start campaign. It will help give people the tools to respond to violence and the attitudes which can lead to it and help to increase confidence to take action.

I want to commend South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and NT for joining with the Commonwealth to fund this initiative and I would urge that other states to get on board.

These are just some of the actions we are taking as a Government and we will continue to show leadership because it is not acceptable for women in this country to be denied freedom of choice, opportunity and safety.

We stand ready to work with states and territories who are the frontline responders. A piece of paper will never make a woman feel safe but if she knows a domestic violence order will be enforced that can.

We must send a very clear message to the public that this kind of behaviour is abhorrent and we – governments, communities, families and individuals - are going to do something about it when we see it happen.

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