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The doors of opportunity | Prime Minister of Australia

Reception To Mark Commencement Of 10 Days Paid Family And Domestic Violence Leave

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and I pay my respect to their elders, past, present and emerging.

I want to acknowledge my colleagues here who have worked so hard to make this a reality. Katy Gallagher, the Minister for Women, but also the Finance Minister. There’s a good bit and a bad bit of that job, one she says yes, one she says no. Amanda Rishworth, who’s the Minister for Social Services, Tony Burke, who is the Minister for Workplace Relations.

I want to also acknowledge the members of the trade union movement who are here, who campaigned so strongly, through Michelle as the President of the ACTU, the figurehead, I will just single out one, but an enormous effort over a long period of time. But also the frontline workers who have done such an extraordinary job in advocating for the people that you look after. Day after day, you see the impact of family and domestic violence on the frontline, all the time, tragically. And your advocacy is quite extraordinary.

This is a day, frankly, which we didn’t wish we had to have. But we do. And from tomorrow, right across Australia, access to Family and Domestic Violence Leave becomes a reality. It will be such an important day and an overdue one.

No woman should ever have to choose between her job and her safety. No woman should ever have to pick between her financial security and the physical and emotional wellbeing of herself or of her children.

It is truly remarkable that until now these have been very real choices, choices that a shocking number of Australian women have had to face. It’s 2023, we’re nearly a quarter of the way through this century, we ought to have been so better than that. Well, as of tomorrow, we will have become that crucial, little bit better.

Tomorrow, and everything that it represents is the culmination of an extraordinary and sustained effort by so many people. I would say tireless effort, but we all know that’s not true, all of us are human. And yet so many people of conviction, determination and patience have pushed through exhaustion to make sure that today has become a reality.

Advocates, survivors, families, workers, unions, extraordinary individuals, and persuasive groups. And a Labor Party that vowed that the moment the Australian people gave us the extraordinary privilege of forming government, this is something that we would get done. And I am very proud to lead a government that fulfils the commitments that we made.

Our goal can never be anything short of true equality. We do need, of course, to make sure that this change, and I think it will, it will also raise the issue of why it has to be there, and that to me is obviously the preference.

So let us hope that in putting in place this measure, it is used less and less in the future, as we go on. Part of tackling domestic violence, of course, is bringing it out into the open, is talking about it, is changing that dynamic, where women and families felt reluctant to talk about what was happening in their lives, but still have to front up to work because they’ve got to pay the bills and put food on the table for their kids.

But we know as well that we’ve got to break the cycle, because we know that all of the research tells us, that is indeed a cycle, that those children often, who are having to watch these tragedies occur in their home, then go on to be traumatised by it and to have difficulty having what are respectful relations going forward as well.

So this is a policy that is about women and their children, but it’s also about men. It’s about changing behaviours, it’s about sending that message that this is a right that has been fought for, that should be there.

So we know that the quest to eliminate family and domestic violence goes on. In addition to this, we committed at the election campaign, and put into the budget, an additional 500 community service workers, and in addition to this, we put in the budget the commitment that we had for $100 million for emergency accommodation, because for so many, it’s not just a matter of what happens in the workplace as well. It’s hard to leave a violent situation if your choice is sleeping in a car, or sleeping in a park and you’ve got nowhere to go, where you can feel safe is so important as well.

In addition to that, our Housing Australia Future Fund has allocated 4,000 of the social housing units that we will build on a permanent basis to give somewhere permanently to go as well, and we’ll allocate at least that number for women and children escaping domestic violence.

So this requires not a whole of government response, it requires a whole of society response. And I want to pay tribute to the familiar faces, I look out at this room of people who provide services, people who I have known in this building since I was the parliamentary secretary responsible for family and community services, last century, literally.

So this is an issue that has been long-term. It will require ongoing solutions, but we are advancing in the way that it’s perceived by society as well. And I pay tribute to you here today and others who of course won’t be here who are providing services, providing support, whether that be formally or whether that be just through friends.

This Saturday, I’m going to a funeral of someone who I called my aunty, who we weren’t related to at all. I grew up with my mum and when I first came along, with my grandparents, and one of the people who I grow up being an aunty, she fled a violent situation and came to stay at our place and was there when I was a little toddler, so it was way back in the 1960s. But then it wasn’t spoken about, she literally was there to be safe and my grandparents took her in.

That’s the sort of thing that people are doing around Australia, last night, it’ll happen tonight, people will intervene to make a difference, and I’d say today as well that this is the government playing catch up with where people have been for a long period of time.

And I pay tribute to all of those who’ve achieved this result. This is your victory, not a victory of any parliamentary party or politician. This is people on the ground, this is the best example I can ever think of of bottom-up change.

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