SECOND READING – JUSTICE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (FAMILY VIOLENCE PROTECTION AND OTHER MATTERS) BILL 2018

I too take great pleasure in joining the debate on this groundbreaking legislation that enacts many of the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations — that groundbreaking royal commission that our Premier initiated, that was a Labor Party election commitment. I will never forget being at our state conference — I think it was the April or May before the 2014 election — when the Premier announced it as the then opposition leader. I remember sitting in the front row with my colleagues — many of whom are in the house now; sadly, Fiona Richardson is not — the hair just standing up on the back of my neck, and feeling that this was going to make change for all women.

I want to begin by reading a Facebook post by young Issy Ermacora, who lives in Northcote. Issy is my cousin’s 20-year-old daughter, but I think she, as a young woman, sums up everything that young women are feeling after the horrific death of Eurydice Dixon. I will read Issy’s words now:

With everything that has been … brought to our attention recently it’s amazing to see such a powerful reaction from an array of voices. It gives me hope that things can change. I thought I’d share my thoughts with the women and men in my worlds. I know this is a bit long but I feel it’s terribly important. Also, please excuse any grammar or spelling mistakes. I’m not a star at either aspect of language. THIS ISSUE OF WOMEN’S SAFETY, IT ISN’T NEW. None of this surprises the women that I know. The response to the deaths of Eurydice and Qi has been so immense from women because we’ve all had those moments that we’ve felt it’s about to be us who will end up with this fate.

There are so many reasons why all men need to address the issues of women’s safety yet if we rephrase it, it’s very simple. We need to address the issue of MEN’S VIOLENCE. All men need to be involved in this because this is an issue of men’s actions and if men separate themselves from this issue because ‘they’d never rape a woman’ they are excusing themselves from this issue and giving up the power they have to change this terribly wrong part of our world. It’s hard for men to truly understand the fear women experience when they are alone. The uncomfortable feeling in the bottom of your stomach, a constant anxiety, it’s just horrible. This isn’t only about your likelihood to rape someone, women are used to being scared and sometimes we put up with it, the hyper-aware state we live in means sometimes it’s so hard to know when we can be comfortable. All men have a power to change this issue.

Issy goes on:

Men … Please, reconsider your jokes. Please re-evaluate your expectations of a hook-up when you go out. Consider that your every action can influence the safety of a woman. Consider how you act.

Men’s actions should haunt them as much if not more as they haunt the women they affect. This is not the case. From my experience and the experiences of those close to me men hardly realise or rethink pressure they have put on a woman, stealthing them, disrespecting them, taking advantage of them, ignoring a woman’s voice. Men’s actions need to change because this needs to change …

We need to use our voices to call out what’s not okay. Call out those horrible jokes. Stop slut-shaming women. Stop putting women down. Stop acting like you deserve something from a woman. This all need to change … it’s far from okay. Men need to stop. I hope that everyone realises their power in the change that they can make.

She goes on and on. Finally, she said:

As strong and brilliant as women are they can’t fix violence in men without a change in men. Let’s change.

The bill before the house really epitomises what young women like Issy Ermacora want. They want a safe ‘now’ for themselves, whether they are at home or on the streets, and they want a safe future.

There are so many people who have made comments on this bill. I just want to add a couple of my thoughts, and I want to give some thankyous. Dr Manjula O’Connor unfortunately has just left the gallery, but I did want to acknowledge her work in bringing forward the issue of dowry abuse. I know she is really very delighted that part of this bill goes to outlawing that archaic practice. I put on record my gratitude for her fantastic and tireless work in bringing this forward.

Jane Ashton is a wonderful friend of mine. She is now an elected councillor on the Shire of Nillumbik. She made this issue of unresolved family violence so real to me and so real to everyone in this community. Her twin sister, Julie Ramage, was murdered. It was the last time that the defence of provocation was used in a murder case to get someone off on manslaughter. Her estranged husband, Jamie Ramage, shamefully served such a short sentence. It was like Julie’s life was put on trial throughout the trial instead of the murderer himself. Those who have paid are Julie’s children and her twin sister, Jane. Jane, thank you from the bottom of my heart for not being silent and for being strident for years to get over your own pain and to make this position real, just like Rosie Batty who came after you. Without those women telling their stories, I do not believe the overwhelming voice for change would have occurred in this state. It has really been the telling of those stories that has made it real for so many people. But we know that dreadful attitudes still continue. We not only need prevention but also prevention from an early, early age. Like Issy Ermacora said, ‘Stop the jokes. Stop the slut-shaming and the terrible attitudes against women’. There is violence all around our society, and too often it is behind closed doors.

This bill proposes a much better system for responding to family violence and for protecting women and children as they are going through the processes. It is only a Labor government that will bring forward something that is so progressive. Thank you so much to the Premier for his leadership on this; to the first ever Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Fiona Richardson; and to her successor, the now Minister for Women. I know that she feels this very deeply, as do all of the women’s caucus, including you, Deputy Speaker. It is something that I think we will look back on and tell our grandchildren that we made a difference. I commend the bill to the house.