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Medical Services Pacific 'One Stop Shop' Clinic launch

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Speaker: Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM (speech as delivered)

MSP Clinic, Suva

Thank you Jennifer. Bula vinaka. Namaste. Good afternoon. Thank you very much for the opportunity and indeed the honour to be here and to represent the Australian Government. I acknowledge of course the members of the Board, the trustees, Dr Tamara, the Commissioner, great to have you here.

I get a bit nervous when a policeman gets a phone call next to me. I think, 'Uh oh, what's just happened?' To the wonderful medical staff and other personnel who are here and volunteers as part of MSP, to my DFAT colleagues and of course all distinguished guests here today.

What a great example of some of the policy and development work that the Australian Government is partnering and supporting. What an honour to be here to, yes, officially launch the One Stop Shop. This, as you've said Tamara, is a holistic, multi-purpose facility. You mentioned our Burnet connection and thank you for doing that because Burnet's goal and mission of course to look after some of the most vulnerable populations, some of the most disadvantaged communities in the world. And as part of that, Burnet provides sexual and reproductive health services, not always easy to provide, not only in countries as you say around the world, the Pacific or otherwise, but even in Australia. Some of those stigma and the taboos to which you refer still apply.

And the other thing that we all know when we talk about communities and disadvantage is that women and girls are disproportionately affected. So my job as Ambassador for Women and Girls is to look after three particular areas: women's economic empowerment and that of girls too, leadership of women and girls, but thirdly and I think perhaps most importantly sometimes, because this underpins women's access to so many other things, is ensuring that we reduce and eliminate violence against women and girls whether that's in a conflict setting or in our homes and our communities and of course the scourge of domestic violence, family violence and sexual assault. I know that women are disproportionately affected in all those settings when it comes to these issues. So my job involves ensuring too that women have access to health and education, but particularly health and education services.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wear a second hat as well. I chair a national body and independent foundation to prevent violence against women and their children. And the statistics in Australia are pretty horrifying. Tamara I know you talked about, a couple of examples here and there whether it's a resort – by the way what is a resort? I don't think I've been allowed to go to any resorts in Fiji but I hear there are some. But whether those incidents are in that kind of context or in other places, you know in Australia, the statistics are horrid too. One in three women hasexperienced some form of physical assault in my country. Every week a woman dies at the hands of a partner – an intimate partner or former partner. And one in five women over the age of 15 has experienced some form of sexual assault. So whether the services are here or in Australia or in the Pacific generally, they are still so needed.

And we have to address, yes, those interventions, those support services. That's the wonderful thing of course about a One Stop Shop, you're right. That you have the psychosocial supports, you have the medical supports, the legal supports, that counselling that women – in the main, women – need, women and girls. But also all those wonderful services to which you refer. The Phoenix Program. You know, ensuring that ongoing counselling, that ongoing support as well as the mobile services that MSP provides to ensure that, yes, you have coverage of what, 36,000 people that you were talking about Tamara? So yes, we must provide these interventions, these supports and look after survivors of sexual assault. But we also have to prevent it happening in the first place too. So I'm a passionate advocate for primary prevention as well. And that's something that we're hoping to do in Australia.

So thank you for the opportunity and the honour to be here today. I proudly announce that the Australian Government will be supporting this to the tune of $200,000. I can't think of a more exciting way that affects the lives of men and women, but particularly women and girls in this community and across the Pacific region. So I'm not sure Jennifer if you want me to do the honours now by declaring or whether you want us to go and see the facility. Here we are talking under the roof here and I'm so excited to actually see what we're able to launch and promote today. But thank you for the opportunity to be a part of it. I wish your team well. But how wonderful to finally get to actually show everyone what we're talking about. So I hope we get to kick it off soon. But it gives me great pleasure to announce that money on behalf of the Australian Government and sort of similarly, semi-officially declare the clinic open but we'll have a look first.

Last Updated: 27 November 2014
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