March 04, 2015

Later today I will launch this very important book, which is the story of the Beryl Women's Refuge here in Canberra.

It was the second women's refuge to be opened in Australia, around 40 years ago.


I was a young woman when I joined the night shift at the Beryl Women's Refuge, and it was a time in Australia when young women like me felt that we could do and be anything that we dreamt possible.


What I wanted to do was make that so for women escaping violence.


To my mind, violence is the way that so many women have their dreams - and sometimes their lives - destroyed.


It is this violence against women that takes away their capacity to control their own lives. The women who have made the book I will be launching this afternoon have really understood that.


All of the people who have worked at the women's refuge in Canberra and at women's refuges all around Australia understand just how important it is to make sure women have a place to go to escape violence.


I want to thank all of the volunteers and staff who work in women's refuges now and who have worked in them over the last 40 years in our country.


The women and children who have sought refuge understand just how critical it is that these services exist.


Forty years ago, there were no government supports provided. Now, of course, governments at all levels provide funding, and yet, sadly, it is the case that, every single night, there are women who are looking for a bed for themselves and their children but cannot find one.


It is something all of us need to face up to.


For me personally, the nights I worked on the roster at the refuge remain with me.


Some of it was just plain fun, as I played with the children. But a lot of it, of course, involved talking with women late at night and it was very difficult.


I gained a very real understanding of how violence can destroy so much of a woman. At worst it can mean her life, or the lives of her children, or her health and confidence.


When I was interviewed for the book I am about to launch I was asked how this time at the refuge had impacted on my life as a Member of Parliament and as a Minister.


I do want to say today how much I have carried that experience with me over all the time that I have been here in the House of Representatives.


It has enabled me to really understand the impact on women of the use and misuse of power and control through violence.


It has also driven my commitment to make sure that refuges, homelessness services and the legal support that women so desperately need are properly funded.


That is why I am so pleased to see the policies that have been announced today.


This does have to be a priority. It does cost money to make sure that refuges are there every night that women and children need them, that legal support is there for people, and that family support services are there for people.


We acknowledge how important it is to do everything we can to say to girls who are growing up today that they can expect to take their place wherever they dream they can.


But we also want to make sure that, when they grow up, as women they are treated equally at work and at home.


Governments have a responsibility—all of us—to make sure that that can be delivered.


We can make a difference, and we must.






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