I thank the member for Holt for this very, very important motion. We must continue to talk in this place about practical solutions to end intimate partner violence. But, more than talk, we must act.

Like so many others, I’m continuously shocked at the unacceptable rates of domestic and family violence in Australia, and I want to highlight the situation in rural and regional Australia, where unfortunately the statistics are even worse than in our capital cities. In regional Victoria, women are being killed at triple the rate of women in Melbourne. Figures published in December last year show that the top 26 local government areas in Victoria that experienced the highest rate of family violence are all in regional Victoria. It deeply distresses me that this includes councils in my own electorate.

I recently met with frontline support services in my electorate to hear what the people on the ground need government to do to improve these statistics, and I want to thank them for the vital work that they do in my community. Like me, service providers support the government’s announcement to extend the Leaving Violence Program. I also support measures that address the disturbing role that pornography plays in this crisis. I support cultural change campaigns like Stop it at the Start. But, speaking about cultural change, it will take decades at best. Government must back solutions that will have an immediate impact. We need to act now. We need to act deliberately to stop women dying.

Government can and must do more beyond what’s listed in this motion, and I want to highlight three immediate actions the government can take today that will make a tangible difference to women’s safety in regional Australia. Firstly, this government must better regulate industries which, when abused, have serious damaging social consequences, especially the abuse of gambling and alcohol. To end gender based violence, we must get serious about the impacts that these industries have. Research over many years has found a strong and consistent relationship between alcohol abuse and violence against women. In relation to gambling, a study undertaken by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety found that almost all women interviewed whose partner had a gambling problem described being subjected to severe financial abuse. I urge government to address alcohol marketing and after hours delivery and to implement the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry into online gambling led by the former member for Dunkley, the late Peta Murphy.

Secondly, the government must increase funding for frontline legal services. This message was crystal clear to me after I recently met with the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service in Indi. When a woman leaves her violent partner, her legal problems multiply. Child protection, tenancy, employment, consumer and family law: lawyers can assist with all of this, but right now there are simply not enough of them. Community legal centres are currently experiencing an 89 per cent increase in demand and are turning away around 1,000 people a day. A recent independent review led by Dr Warren Mundy found that the levels of funding under the National Legal Assistance Partnership, which is how the Commonwealth funds the legal services I’ve just described, is insufficient to meet Australia’s legal assistance needs. Dr Mundy observed that the consequences flowing from this impact acutely on regional and remote areas of Australia. So I urge the government to implement Dr Mundy’s recommendations to substantially increase funding for the legal assistance sector particularly in regional areas.

Finally, I want to see dedicated housing funding for regional Australia. We are increasingly hearing of women unable to leave unsafe homes because there is simply nowhere to go. The government’s announcement of billions of dollars to increase housing supply, including for women fleeing violence, doesn’t guarantee any funding for the regions. We need to lock it in. It needs to be guaranteed. Thirty per cent of Australians live in regional Australia, so we need to see 30 per cent of housing funding go there. Until the government dedicates housing supply funding to the regions, a key solution to keeping women safe from violence in Australia is simply not being realised.

I know this government understands the gravity of the situation for women. The Prime Minister has called it a national crisis. It is a national crisis. Keeping the conversation going in this House is important and good, but acting immediately with the funding and resources that will save women’s lives right now is critical. It’s crucial, and we must not delay.

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