Men need to step up and be held accountable on women's safety

Making sure women can live safely, free from violence and harassment, is not a new challenge. Throughout my lifetime, these issues have been making headlines.
Over time, I’ve seen our country make progress on women’s safety. We know so much more about abuse and how to support survivors thanks to a generation of women who have spoken out and pioneered change. Still, the events of the past year – and the brave and tireless advocacy we have witnessed – makes this particular moment feel full with potential, the sense we are living through a transformational time for Australia’s women.
Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, and the women who came together in their thousands this year have inspired a national conversation about the treatment of women at home, at work and in our communities. But we have a long way to go, and we need federal leadership that is prepared, in both word and deed, to catalyse lasting change. That is why the National Summit on Women’s Safety this week is so important. The Prime Minister did not invite me to participate in the summit, and I didn’t seek to. Creating space for women to lead and to decide is imperative.
As a man and as a committed ally in this work, we need to listen and to amplify the voices of women. But we also need to join with them in action.
So I want to make my perspective clear: change is urgent. Almost one in four Australian women have experienced violence from an intimate partner. Each week an Australian woman is murdered by her current or former partner.
Participants in the summit do incredible work on the front lines of our domestic violence crisis. But they are stretched thin.
Nearly 10,000 women a year are turnedaway from shelters, 40 per cent of calls to women’s legal services last year went unanswered, and the ABS recorded nearly 100,000 victims of domestic violence in 2019. Services are crying out for back-up.
The outcome of this summit must be nothing short of a concrete commitment in funding and resources from this government, after eight long years of neglect – not more inaction from a Prime Minister who refused to even meet with the March 4 Justice protesters when they were on his doorstep.
Labor has already announced several policies for women escaping violent situations. Our focus is on providing women with the housing and economic support they need to establish a safe life.
No woman should have to choose between her job and leaving an abusive situation. That’s why Labor will establish 10 days of paid domestic violence leave, and allocate an additional 4000 units of social housing to women and children experiencing family violence and older women on lower incomes. In addition, we will provide $100 million for crisis and transitional housing.
We also need to recognise the battles women face – whether it be workplace harassment, pay inequities or everyday sexism.
Labor has fully embraced all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report, including the duty of employers to ensure workplaces are free of sexual harassment.
An Albanese Labor government will ensure there are Working Women’s Centres in every state and territory to provide free, confidential assistance on workplace matters, including sexual harassment and discrimination. We will also establish a one-stop shop within the Australian Human Rights Commission to assist victims of workplace sexual harassment.
Last week in Parliament the government finally responded to the Respect@Work report, adopting just six of the 55 recommendations. It was a tricky, half-hearted response to a powerful report.
Change is urgent, but not simple. Addressing women’s physical, emotional and economic safety and solving it for the long term will require some significant shifts.
Men need to step up. We must hold ourselves accountable and assess our institutions and actions to ensure higher standards.
That’s not going to be easy. Institutions I have loved my whole life – football, the church and yes, the Labor Party – are mostly run by men. We must provide an honest accounting of where we’ve failed.
Today, across this country, too many kids are watching their mums grapple with the harrowing cost of domestic abuse. Too many women are living with the fear, the anguish and the emotional and physical scars of an abusive encounter.
I hope the National Summit on Women’s Safety can be a turning point for this government, finally delivering long overdue change Australian women are calling for.

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