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4BC Breakfast with Neil Breen

Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker


Subjects: National Summit on Women's Summit

NEIL BREEN: Politicians, commissioners, the Australian of the Year, and the Prime Minister, among many others, will gather at Parliament House in Canberra today. You'll hear a lot about this; it's the National Summit on Women's Safety. It's a two day summit. It'll focus on ending violence against women and their children. You know, when I read that – oh, you know, it's going to end – it's not going to do that. It's not going to end violence against women and children. I've got serious questions about this two day summit. And I'm going to talk to Senator Amanda Stoker now. She's the Assistant Minister for Women and Industrial Relations and the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General.

I don't want to be negative about it, Amanda Stoker, but Senator, why is it happening in Canberra? And I'm very worried that this is going to focus on what happens in Canberra and all the issues that swamped us all this year. I want to know that it's going to help the women of Inala, Toowoomba, Mount Isa, Cairns, what's going to be done in real terms to help them.

AMANDA STOKER: Good morning, thank you for having me on your show, and I share that objective with you. It's held in Canberra in a notional sense, but it's been conducted-

NEIL BREEN: It'll be hijacked by Canberra and it'll be hijacked by the left journalists, and all the activists and all the Twitter activists – I can just see it happening a mile off. I'm trying to not be negative about it. But what happened in Canberra, what happened in Canberra this year hijacked the debate about women in this country.

AMANDA STOKER: Well, that's true, but we've had two days of the summit already, and it has been really constructive. The subjects that have been dealt with have been about how to make sure the record amounts of money we spend in this country on trying to make sure women and children are safe is used wisely. And so rather than thinking of this as getting hijacked by those in Canberra, I prefer to approach it this way: It is vital that people in Canberra hear what's going on for women in Toowoomba, and Cairns, and Inala and in the rest of Queensland. And this is about making sure the people who have the line-by-line opportunity to acquit that enormous amount of money – all taxpayer funds – do it in a way that is meaningful and evidence based, for the people who are living lives of vulnerability. So the national plan to end violence against women and children, I completely agree with you; it's an objective rather than a promise. As you observed, human nature can't necessarily be fixed by a policy intent alone. But it's an important objective. And everything we do, in terms of spending money in this space, has to demonstrate value for money in terms of meaningfully improving the lives of women and children who are in these precarious positions.

NEIL BREEN: But what do we actually spend money on? Because the violence, which we've seen horrific violence against women in Queensland in the last 18 months-


NEIL BREEN: And it was perpetrated by and large by known domestic violence offenders, who'd been placed on orders, who'd then had partners – the females had complained to police and said, 'look, here's CCTV footage of my former partner in my house'. Next thing you know, he's back there and he burns the house down and burns the woman alive. It happened several times. How does the money Canberra spend get through to the front door of a police station so that when a woman turns up and says 'I think my partner's going to come back and burn me alive', we actually stop it from happening?

AMANDA STOKER: Great question. But the first thing to say is that women's safety is something that the Commonwealth Government funds in large part, but a lot of services are delivered by the states. So we provide the money to the states, but we need to provide all of the evidence, and encouragement, and contracts that mean it goes to situations like the ones you've describe. To make sure that we've got police officers who understand the problem; Who don't treat it as though it's something less than or different to every other type of assault or murder. It needs to be supported by programs to help those who are identified with orders of this kind, to learn new ways of solving their problems other than burning the house down.

And it is absolutely what the summit is doing. So there was a session on Friday about which programs that are about helping to shift the behaviours and attitudes of known offenders work. How do we get blokes who have a problem with this kind of behaviour into a program that they will willingly participate in, and in a way that shifts their behaviour in a way that keeps everybody safe? Because there's heaps of different ones out there; some of them work, some of them don't. We sifted through, as a summit, the evidence around what does and doesn't work, so that we can catch those potential offenders early in the piece, show them different ways to solve their problems and, in doing so, keep their future partner or future child safe.

There's going to be similar sessions covering all other aspects of how to deal with this complex problem. Because what we know is that it is social. It's about the experiences of people as they learn how to solve their problems growing up. It's about the experiences of people with their partner, and whether or not they're able to constructively resolve their problems without getting to violence. It's about people understanding what coercive control is and helping them to understand that there are certain behaviours that are indicators early in the piece of really bad problems of the kind, for instance, Hannah Clarke lost her life with at the hands of a partner down the track-


AMANDA STOKER: There's lots we can do here to help people keep themselves safe, and to make sure that government resources are going to wise places. And rather than being something that is all about the activists – noting that it is a field that is generally one that is popular with people who have an activist streak – this is a summit that is populated by those who are delivering services, those who are doing the academic research necessary to test whether or not programs are working. And by bringing together that kind of knowledge, we're able to – which I'm really optimistic about – put together the next action plan for the national plan to end violence against women and children. Because that's how we make sure we're getting meaningful impact on the ground and good value for taxpayer money. I think we owe the public no less, quite frankly.

NEIL BREEN: I'd be more optimistic about it, if these blokes were jailed and spend more time in jail, and that when they breached DVOs and all of these things they'll be put in jail. I know I'm sounding negative about it, Amanda Stoker, I'm trying to be positive about it, but I'll wait for the outcome.

Hey, thanks for joining me on 4BC breakfast.

AMANDA STOKER: That's my pleasure. Can I finish with this optimistic note for you?


AMANDA STOKER: First of September the merger of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court went together, but with it we started a compliance list. So people who ignore family court orders are going to be held to account with the full force of the Court, for the first time ever. And I think that'll be a relief to a lot of people.

NEIL BREEN: Yep, sounds good. Thanks Amanda Stoker.