White Ribbon Day


Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins:

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.

(Continued from 2 July 2014.)

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL ( 16:42 ): In supporting this motion I would first like to congratulate the Hon. John Dawkins for putting it on the Notice Paper, because it does give members of parliament a chance to reflect on the White Ribbon campaign and also on the task that is ahead of us in eliminating violence against women in our society. Many of the men in state parliament are White Ribbon ambassadors, which is appropriate, because we are in a unique position, or at least an uncommon position, where we are often invited out into the community to speak with community groups, service clubs, churches, schools and the like.

For me, I usually keep my white ribbon on one of my jackets, even if it is not White Ribbon Day, because it helps to remind me when I am speaking to these groups—especially university students and secondary students—to make sure I mention it in my remarks, to explain why I wear the white ribbon. At these occasions we are often invited to talk about our role as a member of parliament and the work that we do in this place. I think it is important for us to explore with our constituents the whole range of issues that we champion, including the White Ribbon campaign. Most people are familiar with the green party badge that I wear, but it does disappoint me that a number of young South Australians have not heard of the White Ribbon campaign, because it is a message that I think is particularly important for the next generation.

One of the biggest White Ribbon events every year is the annual White Ribbon breakfast, and this year the breakfast will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre on 24 November. Numbers get bigger and bigger every year, and each year they have to find a bigger venue. I think they have about reached the biggest venue in South Australia. The guest speaker at the next White Ribbon breakfast will be someone who I have not heard speak before, but have heard a lot about, and that is Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, who is the Chief of Army.

Lieutenant General Morrison is perhaps best known for a three-minute speech that he delivered, which features on YouTube, which has been viewed by around 1½ million viewers. In that brief speech he gave Australian soldiers a directive to leave the forces if they did not accept that women had to be respected and treated as equals; or in his words, ‘If that does not suit you then get out.’

Exactly a year later Lieutenant General David Morrison shared a stage in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and also Angelina Jolie, who is the UN Special Envoy at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. According to reports of that event, David Morrison’s was a very powerful message. He labelled gender inequality in militaries a ‘global disgrace’. He said:

…every soldier has a simple, terrible choice: to be a protector or a perpetrator—there is no other choice, either in cases of a soldier witnessing a rape by another soldier, or by civilians in war zones. I have deliberately excluded a third choice, to be a bystander while others commit sexual violence. There are no bystanders—the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

For those of us who are not in the military, I think the same standard applies. That is why the white ribbon message is for men to swear an oath never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. There can be no bystanders. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

I would like to give a special acknowledgement to Cintra Amos and Gillian Lewis, who are the co-convenors of the Adelaide White Ribbon Breakfast Committee. I urge all members to get behind White Ribbon Day and get along to the breakfast. Tickets go on sale on 30 September and, if previous years are anything to go by, if you do not get in early you will miss out. I commend the motion.

The Hon. S.G. WADE ( 16:46 ): I rise to support the motion of the Hon. John Dawkins recognising the White Ribbon campaign and to emphasise the importance of ending violence against women. I commend the Hon. John Dawkins for bringing the matter before the council. I do so as a White Ribbon Ambassador myself.

On 6 December 1989 a man entered an engineering school in Montréal, Canada, carrying a duffel bag. Over 45 minutes he systematically separated 14 women from their male colleagues and murdered them. Dozens more women were injured during the attack. The event had a major impact on the Montréal community, so much so that two years later, on the second anniversary of the event, three men in Toronto decided to act. They decided to act as men to end gender-based violence. They chose the white ribbon as a symbol for men to show their commitment and their collective responsibility to eliminate violence against women. In that first year nearly 100,000 men wore a white ribbon.

The White Ribbon movement has spread throughout the world. It is a movement with a number of dimensions. I would like to highlight those dimensions in my comments tonight. First, the White Ribbon movement is essentially a men’s movement. It is a movement of men for men to challenge men on their ideas and actions, to identify policy questions, to educate men and boys and to raise public awareness.

The movement accepts that male violence against women is a men’s issue. It is up to men to be community leaders, to be peer supports, to be fathers and guardians, to be decision-makers who work to stop male violence. It calls on men to speak out or step in when their friends or relatives abuse, attack or insult women. I am strongly of the view that the prospect of successful change in male culture is significantly enhanced if that change is brought on and supported by men.

The second aspect of the White Ribbon movement is that it is a pro-women movement. White Ribbon is fundamentally an opportunity for men to challenge other men who assert male power over women as a cultural norm by challenging that power in its crudest form, that is, violence. Violence is often not about violence: it is about power. I still remember a postcard that I saw as a young person. It said that rape is about power, not sex. If a person hits you with a spade, you would not call it gardening. Violence, sexual or otherwise, is often an assertion of power. We need to challenge beliefs and attitudes that deny women equality of opportunity in our society.

Thirdly, the White Ribbon campaign is an antiviolence movement. In Australia, the White Ribbon campaign is in fact the only national male-led antiviolence campaign and, in that, the White Ribbon campaign is part of an emerging network of movements that collectively work against violence. By rejecting violence in any form in our society, they support and reinforce each other.

In particular I pay tribute to the great work of the Sammy D Foundation both in South Australia and its sister organisations around Australia. As an antiviolence organisation, White Ribbon does not deny that men and boys are victims of violence too and it does not condone such violence. White Ribbon simply says that it is one aspect of a wider effort to reduce and eliminate violence.

I am very proud that, at the 2014 election, the Liberal Party in this state committed to implementing a task force against violence in our community. Coupled with the gun reform stemming from the Howard government and our ongoing commitment to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence in its many forms, the Liberal Party supports many of the values that the White Ribbon campaign seeks to promote in our community.

Fourthly, I put to the council that the White Ribbon movement is a pro-family movement. One of the most baffling aspects of male violence is the proximity of the victim. Male violence against women generally does not occur between strangers. It often occurs in the home or amongst family members and undermines the institution of the family and the community relationships.

About six South Australians die from domestic violence incidents each year. Violence destroys families; violence destroys homes; violence destroys communities—in the very places where people turn seeking security and safety. Violence is a breach of trust that eats at the fabric of our society. It deprives children in particular of a stable, nurturing environment that they need to grow and prosper.

In Australia, a lot of progress has been made but we also have a lot of work to do. Still around one in three women will experience physical violence; still almost one in five has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. In June this year the federal government released the Second Action Plan 2013-16, and that was endorsed by the Australian states through the Council of Australian Governments.

Building upon the foundations laid in the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children released in 2011, the plan aims to strengthen ties with other national reforms, seeking a holistic response to reduce violence. The national plan focuses on stopping violence before it occurs, supporting women who experience violence, stopping men from committing violence and building the evidence base so that we learn more about what works in reducing domestic and family violence and sexual assault.

As I conclude, I remind the council that the white ribbon is a symbol: it is fundamentally a symbol of a man’s pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. It is a personal commitment to never commit violence, but it is also a collective social commitment to never condone or remain silent about violence. I hope that, over time, White Ribbon will continue to grow and that the impact on our society will be that we will be a stronger and safer community.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT ( 16:53 ): On behalf of Dignity for Disability I will put on the record a few brief words in support of this admirable motion by the Hon. Mr Dawkins and certainly thank him and acknowledge his ongoing work in support of this area. I speak on this issue from a number of angles, I suppose one could say: as a member of parliament wanting to better society, as a woman and as a woman who in fact grew up in a domestic violence situation.

Of course, I am not going to go into the details of that on the floor here today but I do want to acknowledge that and I want to do that for a very specific reason; that is, because silence about these issues condones these issues. The more that victims or those who have experienced domestic violence either as a witness within a family or other situation, or as a direct victim of violence, are pushed into silence either by our perpetrators or by society as a whole, the farther away we are from solving these issues.

Of course I also speak in support of this motion as a woman with disability, and I believe it is very important that we acknowledge, not only in this chamber but as a parliament and as a state, that women with disabilities and deaf women are at least twice as likely to experience domestic violence than our non-disabled counterparts.

There are arguably a few reasons for this. One may be our lessened ability to physically defend ourselves. It also comes to the inaccessibility of women’s shelters for those wanting to escape domestic violence situations. We may have a greater than average financial dependence on our partner or other perpetrator of abuse, or we may have very real physical dependence on the perpetrator of that abuse as well.

Whether it is a professional supporter or an intimate partner, if the person getting you out of bed and dressed in the morning, for example, is the person perpetrating the abuse against you, you are of course far less likely to be in a position where you are able to escape that abuse. Similarly, if public transport is inaccessible to you due to your disability, and you rely on that to get away because the car may be jointly owned by the person perpetrating the abuse (or you may not even own a car), then that further disadvantages you.

So, it is important that we acknowledge that women with disabilities, and people with disabilities in general, are more likely to experience this abuse than our non-disabled counterparts. While we acknowledge that, we certainly should not accept it. We certainly need to work together constructively as a parliament and as a society to eliminate the additional barriers that people with disabilities can face in escaping domestic violence situations while we work on creating a situation where we do not find ourselves in violent situations to begin with.

I want to make very clear that, while this particular movement has my full support as what the Hon. Stephen Wade rightly called a pro-women movement, I do acknowledge that men and boys can also be victims of violence and aggression, but I believe that, while society as a whole sees victims of violence mainly being women, and therefore seeing male victims of domestic violence as being somehow weak or abnormal, the reason we need to push this as a pro-women movement is to make that space more free for men and boys to come forward if they are experiencing domestic violence because, until we address this issue for women, it will not be a safe space for men to acknowledge and seek support for any issues they may be experiencing.

The other point I make is that this is not a movement about blaming men. This is about raising the bar for men and acknowledging men as potential leaders and mentors in this area and as creatures who have the capacity to not settle for anything less than a non-violent society. Often we hear an excuse from many male activists saying, ‘Well, not all men perpetrate this abuse, thankfully, so why should we all be tarred with the same brush?’ I believe that we should not settle for the excuse of ‘not all men’ but should be aiming for a society where we can say ‘no men’. We should not accept that not all men do this but accept that no man should do this.

I acknowledge the many ambassadors for White Ribbon, not only in this chamber but also in this parliament, in both houses, and also the many ambassadors for the cause out there in the community. This movement has Dignity for Disability’s full support for the reasons I just outlined, and I hope we can continue to work together constructively on this issue.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:59 ): I rise today to support this motion put before the council by the Hon. John Dawkins, who is of course a White Ribbon Ambassador, and following on from the words of my colleagues Mark Parnell, who is, again, a White Ribbon Ambassador. I have long held the view that this is a men’s movement, and so I have not previously spoken to a White Ribbon motion.

I must say the breakfasts are a little early but I have been to a few of them, and I am certainly happy for men to take the leadership. I commend those men in this council who have, and they are: the Hon. Robert Brokenshire, the Hon. John Darley, the Hon. John Gazzola, the Hon. Ian Hunter, the Hon. Gerry Kandelaars, the Hon. Stephen Wade, and the Hon. Russell Wortley (Mr President). Thank you, and I commend you for your roles as ambassadors for this White Ribbon movement.

I am certainly very familiar with the start of this movement in Australia. It was somewhat contentious in the women’s movement because we were thinking, ‘Why do we have to do all the work yet again if these men are going to stand up and have a White Ribbon Day?’ I certainly remember being part of the organising group federally for that first White Ribbon Day, but I must say that men and boys have certainly taken it in their stride and are taking the lead, and that is a fabulous thing to see. Indeed, I remember Andrew O’Keefe being one of the very first public figures to stand up, and he is doing you proud as an ambassador; he is certainly changing the conversation.

I rise today, though, not just to support this motion, but to call on the government to take action. As would be no surprise to you, I am calling on the government to take action on that recent Coroner’s report into the murder of Zahra Abrahimzadeh.

That report has been presented to the Premier, and we await the action on that report. For those who have not read the Coroner’s report, and for those who are less familiar with the circumstances, I will say this: in 2010, Brooklyn Park resident Zahra Abrahimzadeh was stabbed to death by her estranged husband. He had been physically and psychologically abusive to Zahra and their three children since their marriage began in 1984.

Around a year before her death, Zahra packed her possessions in a car and left her husband after he assaulted her and one of her children and threatened to kill them. Despite Zahra reporting this incident to the police, her husband was never arrested or reported by the police, or dealt with by the criminal justice system in any way for these actions. To quote the Coroner:

One of the most powerful influences that police can have in a context where a person has been violent, or threatened to be violent, is the power of arrest and charging. If that power is not exercised expeditiously, or worse still is not exercised at all, there is a real danger that the offender will think that he…has ‘got away with it’…

Just over 24 hours after they fled the family house in 2009, the Abrahimzadeh family had been placed in temporary housing. In the early hours of 26 February, Atena Abrahimzadeh, one of Zahra’s very young daughters, called the SAPOL call centre on 131 444. This is a transcript of the call:

Operator: Good morning, SA Police.

Atena: Hi, we’ve been placed in a domestic, in temporary housing from Domestic Violence services but the house doesn’t actually have electricity to it and we’re really, really, really afraid because we’re scared of my dad. We got a restraining order against him but every time a noise—there’s a noise, we get scared. I’m actually—I drove to the Henley Beach Police Station just to maybe sleep here or something for the night but there’s no-one here, like the office is closed.

Operator: That’s right.

Atena: Yeah, so we were just thinking, is there any other police station around we can go in because my mum doesn’t feel safe at all in that house because it’s really dark and there is no electricity for the night.

Operator: Who placed you there?

Atena: Domestic Services people. They though that—

Operator: You need to take that up with them tomorrow. You can’t sleep in the police station.

Atena: I know but it’s just because, honestly we have gone out a few times by now my mum was about to have a heart attack every time there was a noise.

Operator: I’m sorry, what—

Atena: She’s crying and—

Operator: What do you want me to do?

Well, Premier, I want to ask you: are you giving the Abrahimzadeh family and all families in this state the same response to those who are escaping domestic violence that that operator gave Atena? ‘What do you want me to do?’ Well, I think that the Coroner’s report has outlined clearly not only what the Abrahimzadeh surviving family want our government to do but also what many South Australians want to happen.

Over the next 12 months, Zara continued to receive threats from her husband. He taunted the children with the pointlessness of their having gone to the police in the first place, saying that he was still at liberty months later. He attended at the Port Adelaide Magistrates Court on numerous occasions, as the domestic violence restraining order worked its way through a contested hearing.

Each time he knew that his presence must have been obvious to the police prosecutor and other police at the precinct, yet he was not arrested and he was not charged. Finally, when the contested hearing took place, he was able to gain a significant concession: it expressly permitted him to attend the Persian New Year function, where he followed through on his threat to kill Zara.

When handing down his report, the Coroner chose to direct the findings of the Zara Abrahimzadeh domestic violence murder case to the Premier rather than the police commissioner. In his recommendations, the Coroner recommended that risk assessment must actually be applied, not merely recited as a mantra. The government must also heed this recommendation.

This is not the first coronial inquiry into domestic violence-related deaths. In the past three years, there have been four coronial inquests into such deaths. The 2012 Coroner’s report into the death of Robyn Hayward found that Robyn was shot by her partner, Edwin Durance, in 2009. Durance had a history of domestic violence and was known to local police in the Riverland. When Hayward was murdered, Durance was on bail for an assault against her.

In February 2012, the Coroner delivered findings into the death of David Wyatt and his toddler son Jakob. The Coroner reported that, if the family safety network had been in place at the time, he believes that it could have prevented this homicide and suicide. One year later, in February 2013, Coroner Johns delivered findings into the death of Shane Robinson. Robinson was in breach of his parole orders and, while evading police, went to the home of his partner and assaulted her. The Coroner will soon hand down his report into the death of Jeremy Harding-Roots. On the morning of Mr Harding-Roots’ death, he went to his ex-partner’s house and attacked her with a metal pole. The statistics in this area are alarming, and these are just a few of the many stories.

It is fantastic to see White Ribbon doing the great work that it is doing, but we need more. We need to look at this as a national emergency, as Natasha Stott Despoja, Ambassador for Women and Girls, has called for. We need to treat this with the seriousness that it deserves. I am heartened to see that Daniel Andrews, the leader of the Labor Party in Victoria, has said that this is a national emergency and that he will have a royal commission into domestic violence and violence against women if he is elected Premier. That is the seriousness with which we should be taking this issue, not sitting and receiving a Coroner’s report and making no response, not accepting the words of a police commissioner who says that these things have all changed since the Abrahimzadeh incident.

We know that, in the past few months, we have seen a young child killed in the eastern suburbs. When the response was given to the media, we also know that they said that there was no previous contact with child protection or Families SA. I know for a fact that is untrue. I know people who know people—this is Adelaide. I know that that is an untrue fact. That family was already known, and there was clearly a reason why the mother of that child was panicked that his father had taken him that morning. It should have not been responded to in the way it was by the authorities in this state.

I also draw attention to the murder of a woman and her children by her husband and their father last week and the way in which the media handled that. The stories of his being a good guy, the stories of their being a perfect family, that is a slap in the face for that family and for those victims, those victims who were murdered. He killed them, and we know that for a fact. What the circumstances were and the media discussion around that, focusing on how he was a good bloke, do not help the cause of really addressing domestic violence and treating it like the crime it is. He was a domestic criminal. With those few words, I commend the motion.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 17:09 ): I rise briefly to indicate my strong support for this motion and also commend the work of the Hon. John Dawkins in bringing this motion to the house.

The Hon. G.A. KANDELAARS ( 17:09 ): I rise to support the motion of the Hon. John Dawkins that this council recognise White Ribbon Day. As a recently appointed White Ribbon Ambassador, I have seen first hand some of the work that the White Ribbon organisation does and I have attended a number of their events. White Ribbon is Australia’s only male-led campaign to end men’s violence against women. Starting in 2003 as part of UNIFEM (now UN Women), White Ribbon became a foundation in 2007. Its goal is to make women’s safety a man’s issue as well. It recognises that it is up to men to stop the violence and recognise the positive role men play in preventing violence against women.

White Ribbon and its ambassadors observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November each year. The day also signals the start of 16 days of activism to stop violence against women, ending on Human Rights Day on 10 December. The organisation’s work is primarily through raising community awareness, with programs in schools, workplaces and social events challenging the attitudes and behaviours of a minority who use or condone violence against women.

One of the examples of some of the work of White Ribbon is an event I recently attended, a workshop which was followed by a public forum which was conducted in conjunction with Flinders University. White Ribbon was providing training in preventing all forms of violence. The workshop was on bystander intervention. I should mention that the member for Morialta, who is also a White Ribbon Ambassador, was in attendance at that day.

The forum was hosted by Dr Shannon Spriggs, who is a fellow of Griffith University in Queensland. She is a leading expert on bystander intervention, a program originally created in 1993 in the United States. The program uses the bystander approach to violence prevention. The training session allowed participants to become proactive bystanders, equipping them with options to prevent, confront and interrupt violence that they may witness. Working with both men and women, the training is an open dialogue and aims for participants to think critically about domestic violence issues. As an example, one of the issues that was raised during the training is how many women are constrained from going out in the evening, while we men generally do not have to consider our personal safety at night. That is quite confronting.

The public forum hosted by Flinders University was conducted on the same day and opened by the Hon. Ian Hunter on behalf of the Premier, Jay Weatherill. Both are White Ribbon Ambassadors. The forum sought to enhance efforts in South Australia to prevent family and domestic violence. It was hosted by leading researchers and the deputy commissioner of SAPOL. The forum created further awareness of the need for men to end violence against women.

Violence against women is a serious community issue. Two out of five women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by somebody known to them in their lifetime, and sadly this figure is not declining.

There was a report released today, which was the National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey. It was commissioned, I understand, by VicHealth. The report, after surveying 17,500 people via telephone interviews across Australia, compared results from previous surveys in 1995 and 2009, and sadly violence against women is not declining.

The survey actually brought up some interesting issues. There is a tendency for Australians to minimise the impact of living in an abusive relationship. Despite efforts by organisations such as White Ribbon and Amnesty International to dispel the myth, three-quarters of Australians find it hard to understand why women stay in abusive relationships, and half of all Australians believe that women could leave if they really wanted to. One in five Australians believe violence can be excused if the offender later regrets.

Despite community education on law reform in Australia to promote a model of consent based on mutual negotiation and respect, one out of 10 Australians agree that if a woman does not physically resist or even if they are just protesting verbally, then it is really not rape. Well, that is not the case: it is rape. We have to work harder at changing these attitudes. Another one: the culture of denial exists in Australia, with more than one in three people believing women make false claims of rape. Finally, the report also shows that there is a concerning rise in the number of Australians who believe that both men and women are equally responsible for partner violence. In reality, 95 per cent of all violence against both men and women is committed by men, so it is a men’s issue.

It is not all bad news. Australian governments have invested heavily in campaigns and plans to reduce violence against women over the past 10 years. More Australians recognise that violence and abuse include coercive and controlling behaviours in addition to physical and sexual abuse, although we still have a way to go in recognising emotional and financial abuse. Just 17 per cent recognise that denying a partner money in order to control them constitutes abuse, so we still have a long way to go. These results from this survey are quite shocking and they are another incentive for us as males in this and other places to do more to address this issue.

Research conducted by the World Health Organisation has shown that, by promoting social equality, we can work to reduce violence against women, and that is a critical issue. It is attitudes that we have to change—male attitudes to women that need to change. I commend the work of White Ribbon and its ambassadors in seeking to directly challenge negative men’s behaviour and encourage all men to swear on oath to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 17:19 ): Firstly, I would like to thank the eight members of this chamber—it is probably not unprecedented, but it is certainly unusual for as many people as that to speak on a non-controversial matter—who have spoken on this debate, and also the others who have supported me in putting this motion without wishing to speak. I mention in that regard, obviously, the Hon. Mr Hunter and the Hon. Mr Gazzola, who were responsible for me first being involved in the White Ribbon movement, so I thank them for that.

I was also very pleased that, for a significant portion of the debate, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Steven Marshall, was able to be in the President’s gallery, because last year he also became a White Ribbon Ambassador and I know he supports the White Ribbon movement very much. I think it is a great movement, because it is increasing public awareness about these matters. It is increasing the consciousness of the community to make sure that we avoid that traditional silence.

We have an opportunity to make sure that the younger generations do not get into the habit of that silence that has plagued the generations that most of us come from, and it is not just about domestic violence; obviously it is about mental health issues, it is about suicide and it is about sexual abuse. There was this attitude that if we do not talk about it, if we push it back there behind us, it will go away.

We know darn well that does not happen in any of these matters, and it is certainly the case with domestic violence. I am heartened in that regard by the increasing number of younger men in recent times who have become involved in White Ribbon, and it is important that more of that younger generation take charge of this work. However, I think it is also important that we, as members of parliament, make sure that we engage many more people in the community.

I know that you, Mr President, have shown a commitment to it and I think it is important that we, not only as members of the community but also members of parliament, make sure that that message gets out: that White Ribbon is a very important movement, that it does very strongly stand up against domestic violence against women, but it also stands up very strongly against silence about those matters. With those few words, I commend the motion to the council and once again thank the large number of members who have contributed or have provided private support to me on this matter.

Motion carried.

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