Family Violence

It is an interesting opportunity to stand and speak today, far from being an enjoyable one, but it is one that I think we all need to express ourselves on and be heard in our communities and across the broader state and across the country because, as was indicated by several speakers today, we do face what can only be described as an epidemic and an epidemic of the worst kind, which is taking up to two women from our community every week.

On 12 February last year I was at a sporting ground when word began to trickle through late in the afternoon that there had been some sort of incident at the Tyabb cricket and football ground. It was only later on that evening that it became apparent what had actually happened.

The angst the community felt was just extraordinary — and the only word is extraordinary. People were in shock, so we can only imagine what it must have been like for the people who were there on the day, and we cannot possibly imagine what it was like for Rosie Batty.

The next day I also attended the candlelit vigil for Luke, and it is something that communities must do. Luke's friends were there, out of many hundreds of people. It was a very important thing that they were there and able to express themselves. Many of them stood around feeling really uncomfortable, and you could see that they did not really know what to do or where to go.

I encouraged each of them to stand on the park bench that we were using to make our speeches, and as they stood, one after another, they were able to get in touch with their feelings and they each burst into tears. It was such a moving thing to happen, but also it was a good thing to happen for those children because they were able to express themselves. One thing we know very clearly is that children do not really understand why this sort of violence takes place, because we are struggling to understand it. To give them the opportunity to be able to express themselves was very important.

Out of all that tragedy came one shining light, and that shining light was the way that the local community of Tyabb came together, and that shining light has spread across the state. Now we are seeing the culmination of that in this house today. It has been an incredibly important journey, and we have been led by a lady who has got more courage than I have ever seen before in anybody, and that is Rosie Batty.

To listen to Rosie today, she clearly puts everyone else in front of herself and everyone else's needs in front of her own. She is spending her life making sure that other people do not have to suffer in the way that she has suffered and that other people do not have to lose a child in the way that she has. That is a really important goal to dedicate your life to, and we should be so thankful for what Rosie has done for our community.

I was in attendance at a function at which Rosie spoke one night at the Hastings Football Netball Club. There were a lot of young men — young adolescent boys really — in attendance, and as anyone would know, they struggle to sit still, they struggle to pay attention and focus, but on this night, listening to Rosie, it was very clear that they were transfixed. They just sat and stared, and listened.

When she had finished, I have no doubt that at least temporarily those young men's lives were changed. If we are able to continue to repeat the message and live that message, we will be able to teach these young men and other young men to understand what it is to be a man, what is expected by the community and how they are expected to act, to behave and to respect those around them, particularly the women in their lives. I am very grateful for that.

I would like to put on record my thanks to the Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. I think her leadership in this area has been outstanding, and I think that she has done a great job.

I would also like to say a couple of words about Kristy, from whom we heard this morning and who was in the gallery earlier today. She is a very impressive young woman, and we can only imagine how much courage it took to stand up and speak in this house, which is daunting for anybody really, under these circumstances when the house is full of people she does not know, and to be able to stand up and say what is on her mind is a really important thing. She is a very brave young woman.

I have two other very quick things to say. I think courts need to find a way to be much harsher on breaches. Every breach that goes unpunished in a substantial way is a message to women that we cannot protect them. We need to pay far more attention to that.

And the other thing I would like to mention before I finish — because other people are waiting to speak — is that I do not think we need to wait until the findings from the royal commission come down to understand that we really need to give women somewhere safe to go now, not some time in the future and not just some place they can go where there are other women. We need to give them confidence that they can leave now and take their children and that they cannot be touched by these perpetrators. The sooner we do that, the sooner we will start to save women's and children's lives.