COAG Summit on Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children

The Premier addressed the COAG National Summit about a range of measures that the State Government is implementing to reduce violence against women and their children. 

Better Services

Ministerial and Parliamentary Colleagues

Delegates, Guests and our Distinguished MC, Natasha Stott Despoja

I acknowledge we are meeting today on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people

I pay my respects to their spiritual relationship with their country and to their Elders, past and present.

Yesterday, my Ministerial colleagues, Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman and Human Services Minister, Michelle Lensink, addressed you.

It’s an honour to be here on the second day of this important Summit to participate in discussion about what more needs to be done to combat domestic violence.     

We can all agree that it is absolutely crucial that we reduce the prevalence of violence against women and children in Australia.

But we need to do more than that.

We must end all forms of domestic violence.

COAG has ensured this remains a priority for every Government in this nation.

And I know I am not the only member of COAG who is waiting to see the Statement which comes out of this meeting, which completes the consultation informing development of the Fourth Action Plan.

I am sure the outcome of this Summit will be extremely valuable given the understanding, knowledge, experience and advocacy of the participants. 

Earlier this year, I took to the South Australian election on behalf of my party, a range of commitments focused on reducing domestic violence.

It is of course pleasing now to be in a position to deliver on those commitments.

Importantly, this has included holding a number Roundtables in our first six months to test our policies to ensure they will provide the desired outcomes.

This increases confidence that we have a strong policy framework to guide and drive our actions. 

Our framework has a number of priorities to:

  • prevent violence against women and children;
  • ensure our responses and actions are connected and accessible across South Australia;
  • take into account and reflect the diversity of our community; and
  • support women to recover so that they can continue to participate in the community economically, socially and politically

Led by Minister Lensink and the Office for Women, this framework also establishes the role of all community members in ending violence against women.

As Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman has already delivered our Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme and will be introducing legislation to make our laws relating to violence against women even stronger.

The work of Vickie and Michelle is being more than ably supported by Carolyn Power as Assistant Minister dedicated to the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence.

This is the first time our State has had such a position in its government.

But of course, not everything which needs to happen can be achieved by legislators, Government, or even by the dedicated workers and advocates here today.

To truly end violence against women and their children in our nation, we need to make sure that every single member of our community is empowered to say no to violence, by also saying no to sexism.

We know that gender inequality – and all that goes with it – can breed violence.

We know that those in society who regard women as inferior play a part in excusing and allowing violence.

So I want to talk to you today about just some of the additional things we as a community can do. 

And I want to do this by focusing on men. 

The agenda to address violence against women has been led, pioneered if you will, by women. 

But this is not just an issue for women.

Inequality and violence impact primarily on women, but it is not up to women alone to fix this. 

Men must play a significant role as well.

While progress is being made in all sorts of spheres and  organisations in the community and the workplace, men continue to hold more of the senior positions.

Accordingly, men tend to have a more powerful platform from which to speak. 

I’m working to change this in my team with the important responsibilities I have given to Vickie, Michelle and Carolyn amongst others.

I’m also more than happy to share with you the fact that I am very close to my mother, my sister and my daughter.

While I am now Premier, I remain more than comfortable with seeking their wise counsel and being influenced by them.

I cherish their voice.

I seek their wisdom.

All in their own way inspire me.

And make my world a much better place.

It will therefore not surprise you that in politics, I believe my Party must do more to encourage more women to take up roles in parliament and in public life.

And to support the advancement of those women who do get elected so that some of them attain the positions with the most influence and power.

At the same time, we need to ensure that men use the platforms they have responsibly.

And that in doing so, they understand the gendered nature of violence.

What it is like for women having to live in fear in the very place where they should feel safe.

In the home.

But domestic violence is also a serious issue in the workplace.

I cannot imagine what it is like to have to hold down a job when nightly, you are living with domestic and family violence.

I believe there are some particular things that all men can do to cultivate change. 

As I have already mentioned, we need male leaders to come to the party in terms of women’s participation and leadership. 

In part, this is about ensuring business understands the benefits and power of a diverse workforce.

About recognising that women bring a wealth of skills and experience to the table.

About making space for women to have a voice. 

Increasing the numbers of women in senior and leadership roles creates a better world for all of us.

Not least, it demonstrates that women have just as much to offer the business and corporate world as men do. 

Ensuring women have economic independence is vital if we are to achieve gender equality.

Childcare, flexible work and improvements to superannuation are all areas in which gains for the economic status of women can be made.

While the workplace is a key to enhancing women’s leadership and economic participation, this also benefits the whole workforce, men as well as women.

Because we know that organisations with greater diversity perform better than those with less.

Accordingly, it is my Government’s intention to develop a strategy to support women’s leadership and participation in the workplace.

This will include active engagement with South Australian businesses.

We want to talk to them about issues such as:

  • flexible work options
  • support for women returning to work after they’ve taken time off to care for children as well as support for carers
  • encouraging fathers to take up more flexible work schedules
  • educating management teams on the principles and benefits of achieving greater workforce diversity
  • mentoring and networking schemes that encourage and train women in career development strategies within a supportive environment.

Let me be clear.

These are not just the right things to do.

They are smart things to do. 

And it is a powerful way of demonstrating a respect and willingness to learn from women.

It’s about improving the status of women and also about making our culture more inclusive.

Of course, as well as wanting to encourage all businesses to recognise the benefits of enhancing leadership opportunities and economic participation for women, the State Government, as South Australia’s largest single employer, must do more for its own workforce.

That is why, within the State Public Sector, a project is being developed to strengthen workplace gender equality and promote safe and respectful workplaces for all employees. 

Importantly, this Workplace Equality and Respect Project, led by the Equal Opportunity Commission, will ensure our departments become re - accredited as White Ribbon Workplaces.

The Project will aim to ensure that participating public sector agencies are equipped with the tools, knowledge and capacity to apply best practice approaches to workplace gender equality and respect.

It will have a strong focus on building accountability through alignment with external standards and benchmarks.

The Project will build on the substantial work already undertaken across the State Public Sector which has resulted in 20 agencies achieving White Ribbon Australia Workplace Accreditation.

I am proud to head a Government which is seeking to lead by example to encourage the cultural change that is necessary to end violence against women and their children.

I’ve referred to how cultural change in the workplace can help us all, men as well as women, in the fight against the scourge of domestic violence.

And in this respect, I mean all men.

Not just those who have leadership roles in organisations.

What can all men do?

To me, the answer is simple.

Every single one of us can commit to saying no to sexism.

Every single one of us must call out sexist comments when we hear them. 

Every single one of us can make a personal commitment to a fair and equitable world. 

The White Ribbon Agenda has helped men to understand their role in addressing violence.

It is not about how we respond to the violence occurring.

It is about intervening before violence is allowed to happen. 

It is about changing attitudes so that we no longer excuse violence or leave women to fix the problem. 

It’s about taking responsibility for our actions, and the actions of those around us. 

In the end it comes down to that simple but significant word -  respect. 

As men, we must commit to role-modelling respectful behaviours and attitudes.

This is the only way we will achieve lasting cultural change.

The only way that we will end violence against women, once and for all. 

I want to again thank each and every one of you for your participation in this Summit.

I am confident the Fourth Action Plan will crystallise and drive our efforts into the future.

I look forward to working with my colleagues around the COAG table to ensure your work over these two days helps to achieve the ambition we must all share – to end all forms of domestic violence.

Thank you.

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