5th East Asia Gender Equality Ministerial Meeting

Plenary II: The eradication of Violence Against Women

Address by Penny Williams, Australia's Global Ambassador for Women, E&OE

Beijing

15-16 May 2013

Your Excellency Madame Chair

Honourable Ministers

Distinguished delegates

Today, violence against women is increasingly recognised for what it is: a threat to democracy, a barrier to lasting peace, a burden on national economies, and an appalling human rights violation.

I acknowledge the ongoing efforts of all our Governments and civil society to respond to this challenge 

Two months after the UN Commission on the Status of Women successfully negotiated Agreed Conclusions on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women, it is valuable to be discussing this topic at a regional level and giving consideration to how we can implement the commitments our Governments made in New York in March.

But while we have many important declarations to guide us and there is no shortage of good work being done to address violence against women and girls, the path ahead is at times overwhelming.

Domestic Challenges and Programs

Australia also has a zero tolerance for violence against women, but we – like every country represented here, are reminded daily of the pervasive presence of gender-based violence in our country.

In Australia, one in three women and girls over the age of 15 has experienced physical violence. Almost one in five has experienced sexual violence.

And every week, one Australian woman is killed by her husband, partner or boyfriend1.

We cannot calculate the appalling cost to victims of this violence.  The physical, emotional and psychological damage cannot be quantified.

But we can put a price on health costs, expenses across service systems, legal fees, lost wages and lower productivity. 

In Australia, the impact of domestic violence on our economy has been estimated at more than AUD$13.6 billion per year, with that figure likely to rise to AUD$15.6 billion per year by 2021 if action is not taken.

Responding to this, in February 2011, the Australian Government, in partnership with states and territories in Australia, launched a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children [2010-2022]. 

Bringing together the efforts of government and community groups across Australia to make a real and sustained reduction to the levels of violence against women, it is internationally regarded as a best practice model.

The National Plan is a long-term whole-of-government undertaking. It recognises that only sustained, united action across sectors and jurisdictions will achieve enduring change. Australia’s federal, state and territory governments have all committed to implementing the National Plan.

It also recognises that different approaches are needed according to women’s differing circumstances.

The Australian Government is investing heavily in specific initiatives under the National Plan, including education to change the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence. Engaging men and boys is a focus.

The government contributes funds to the White Ribbon Campaign as part of this initiative. The campaign is a male advocacy program where men swear an oath to “never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women” and act as ambassadors to end violence against women in their communities.

Under the National Plan, the government’s social marketing campaign “The Line” is a headline program that is influencing and informing attitudes and behaviours among young people regarding respectful relationships. This innovative campaign has a wide reach and a large following across different social media platforms.

Another innovative initiative is the provision of free, accredited training for health and allied health professionals, particularly in rural and remote areas, to better identify and respond to domestic violence.

The National Plan is underpinned by a national hotline – 1800-RESPECT – which refers victims of violence to counselling, medical and law enforcement organisations.

The cross-cutting nature of the National Plan is evident not only in the above examples but also in the commitment, at federal and state and territory government levels, to establish a National Centre of Excellence to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

The centre will be used to drive multi-disciplinary research to better inform future policy and service delivery practices. This initiative signals a strong national commitment to tackling violence against women.

International challenges and Programs

Our work within Australian society is mirrored in our commitments overseas.

Internationally, the rates of women suffering from violence are also alarming.

Over many years our aid program has invested in strategic initiatives that centre on three key outcomes towards prevention and eradication of violence against women, by ensuring that:

In conclusion, the issue of violence against women and girls is one of the most difficult and endemic challenges we confront.

I commend the All China Women’s Federation for providing this opportunity to share expertise and strengthen our collective efforts to stop violence and support survivors.