WHITE RIBBON DAY

That this council recognises White Ribbon Day and encourages all men to swear an oath to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

 

In moving this motion I note that the member for Stuart in another place will also, in the near future, move exactly the same motion (as I understand it) about White Ribbon Day, and I acknowledge that, like myself, he is an ambassador for White Ribbon. I also put on record that the member for Stuart also recently moved a motion in the House of Assembly recognising Domestic Violence Month.

 

White Ribbon is a male-led campaign to end violence against women. The vision of the campaign is that all women should live in safety, free from violence and abuse. The organisation came to Australia in 2003 after starting in Canada in 1991. I suppose the establishment of the organisation was a response to the 1989 massacre at Montreal University, where one male attacker killed 14 female classmates.

The organisation runs as part of United Nations Women through the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and White Ribbon Australia is a registered company under the Corporations Act 2001. Members of the White Ribbon board are independent, non-executive directors who volunteer their time and skills to the organisation.

The meaning of White Ribbon certainly does not imply purity or perfect relationships, but instead a perfectly clear belief that violence against women is unacceptable. White Ribbon observes, and asks its ambassadors to observe, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November each year. I think, sir, that you and many others know that the response to the celebration of that day has lifted enormously in recent years, and proceeds from White Ribbon Foundation merchandise sales go towards high impact media campaigns aimed at changing community attitudes.

My first involvement with White Ribbon was when I went to a briefing at Hindmarsh a number of years ago along with my colleague the Hon. Mr Wade. I acknowledge the fact that two of the hosting members at the function that evening were the Hon. Mr Gazzola and the Hon. Mr Hunter. As a result of that briefing I became further involved and became an ambassador for the White Ribbon campaign in 2008.

In the nomination form that I filled out I said that I am passionate in my opposition to violence against women and am able to convey that message in my work right around South Australia. I think that is something that all of us in this place can do. It is certainly something that we need to talk more about and, in common with my passion of talking about suicide in the community, I think the reality is that domestic violence is something that, unfortunately, we have, on many occasions, turned a blind eye to and that is not something we should continue at all. We need to make sure that we get the message out there that we do not condone violence against women and we also do not condone silence about violence against women.

As well as the annual breakfasts on White Ribbon Day, the Men in the Mall events have grown in popularity. Certainly, myself and a number of others at those events have signed a pledge to not condone violence against women. There are many other ambassadors for White Ribbon in this parliament now and I was pleased last year to sign a nomination form for the Leader of the Opposition, Steven Marshall, and I know that many other colleagues on all sides of parliament are involved.

While it is a group of men being ambassadors for this message in the community, of course there is great support from women for this work, particularly through a number of women's organisations. Zonta International is highly involved in that work and one of the earlier functions I went to after becoming an ambassador was run by the Zonta Club of Gawler. So, I congratulate those groups for the support they give to White Ribbon Day and their encouragement for men. I must say that many more much younger men have been signing up as ambassadors in recent times, and I think it is very important that we get those younger men involved because they can put the message out to other younger men.

In conclusion, I will put some statistics about violence against women. Three-quarters of those who experience violence at the hands of a current and/or previous partner are women. Almost half of Australian adult women have reported experiencing violence. In women aged 15 to 44 intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death. While these statistics can only rely on reported incidents, it is safe to assume the figures would be much higher if they included unreported violence against women. Almost 70 per cent of women assaulted by a male do not report the assault to police. In 2012 alone, it was estimated that 51,000 or more women aged 18 and over were victims of sexual assault, yet less than a third reported the event (and that was in Australia).

It brings us back to the fact that so many of these incidents are not reported or not spoken about in the community. We need to make sure that that changes. I commend all others who are prepared to be ambassadors for White Ribbon and to make sure that the message gets out into the community that violence against women cannot be condoned in any sense. I commend the motion to the council.