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Press conference – Melbourne

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP


Subject: Violence against women

JOURNALIST:  Do you feel like enough is being done by men?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: There is a crisis of male violence in Australia. It's a scourge on our society and it must end. We have to do more. We know we can do more. We've done a lot in the last few years. I think there's been a change in the way in which society thinks about the issue of family violence but we've got to do more.

JOURNALIST: Even looking around that room I can see more women. How do you see men taking a bigger role in addressing this?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think by men in positions of leadership, and you're starting to see that, calling it out, and by men everywhere in society, acknowledging that this is a problem for men. That we have to talk to our sons, we have to talk to our colleagues. We've got to acknowledge it as a problem for men.

JOURNALIST: Despite their efforts in creating awareness and trying to make things better, 28 women so far this year. It's a lot. Are we going backwards?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That is the daily, weekly, monthly reminder that we have to do more. I think that the community is understanding more now than we were, but it's a daily reminder that we have to keep at this.

JOURNALIST: What are your hopes for this symposium? We've got the Chief Justice, we've got more majors, we've got people who work in family violence all coming together to talk about it. What do you hope happens here?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think it sends a tremendously good message that here, in the court which deals with family violence issues day in and day out, sees family violence issues coming up in a huge number of the cases that come to this court, for the court to be hosting this symposium is a tremendous thing. There is, as you've said, a great gathering of people in this room. It's understood, I think, that there needs to be collaborative work. That we can't be siloed, that we can't just have the judges of the court doing things not connected to all of the welfare agencies and all of the family violence organisations. Everybody needs to work together. One of the reasons we passed an Information Sharing Act last year was to make sure that where the state and territory child welfare authorities have information that it gets fed into family law proceedings in this court.

JOURNALIST: Do you feel like we are making progress in this area?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I do think that we are making progress. I think that we talk about this very differently to the way in which family violence was discussed and acknowledged when I first became a lawyer many years ago. I do think we're making progress.

JOURNALIST: Where does the law sit in terms of making sure women feel confident that if they do litigate that they will get a better outcome?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've made sure by amendments to the Family Law Act that family violence issues are going to be taken into account. I think there are much better processes now for women to seek protection than was the case decades ago. I think there was more legal assistance available to women who need to seek help and I think that there's a better understanding in government, and in courts of what the problem actually is. But we've got more work to do.

JOURNALIST: One of the comments said by the Chief Justice was that there was never a more important time to discuss this than now. We saw a huge rally in Ballarat for the three women killed and then we've had this situation in Bondi where a man is specifically targeting women. I mean, is this how women are viewed as a cultural issue in Australia at the moment? What's going on?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I don't think it's just at the moment, I think this is a long standing problem in Australia. We need to acknowledge it, we need to have men understand the crisis is a crisis of male violence and men have to act, men have to change their behaviour. Men should be talking about it among themselves and we need to understand that this is not a problem that can be left to women. Even though, as you say, most of the people at this symposium are women, that's perhaps representative of the problem. It's not a problem that can be left up to women. Men have to solve it too.

JOURNALIST: With the Bondi situation the parents are saying he didn't have a girlfriend. Was there a failure in the system that we didn't pick that up further before we got to that stage?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think one thing that's clear is that there are very often complex causes, multiple causes, multiple factors that bear on someone being a perpetrator of violence against women. We should not oversimplify it.