Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (09:51): Today is White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I am an ambassador, and each year we restate our oath: I pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.
Yesterday morning I attended the media stand-up against violence towards women and their children with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, Minister Porter and many members of the press gallery represented by Laurie Wilson, the President of the National Press Club. Also there was an incredible survivor of domestic violence, Dr Ann O’Neill. Dr O’Neill left school at 15 and married young and had two children. At 24, while she and her children were asleep, her estranged husband broke into their house and shot all three of them. The two children died; she survived but lost a leg. She is now an inspiring speaker and opponent of violence against women and their children. She maintains an incredible level of positivity in her attitude. She has gone on to obtain first-class honours in a bachelor’s degree in social work and a PhD in international health.
There are lots of statistics that highlight the depth of this social problem. A woman dies at the hands of a current or former partner nearly every week. One woman in three has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. One woman in five has experienced sexual violence. One woman in four has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. More than half the women who have experienced violence had their children in their care when the violence occurred. The problem extends to society’s attitudes to this issue. Ninety per cent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, and yet 98 per cent of rapes reported in the media are committed by someone not known to the victim.
I commend the government for dedicating $30 million to an awareness campaign. Attitudes must change: violence against a partner is never excusable. No matter how intense relationships may get, violence is never the answer, and victims of abuse must know that it is never their fault. I say to all men: the most masculine, the most manly thing you can do is always to respect your partner. Today marks the day to make these statements, but that respect must be expressed every day of the year.