Rosie Batty launches Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month 2017

Today we are fortunate to have with us Ms Rosie Batty from the Luke Batty Foundation. Rosie’s son Luke passed away in tragic circumstances in February 2014. Since this event, as many of you would be aware, Rosie has worked tirelessly, campaigning for the necessary systemic and attitudinal change to address domestic and family violence. This campaigning and work led her to being named Australian of the Year in January 2015. Rosie is now the CEO of the Luke Batty Foundation and runs the Never Alone Campaign, an online community of 70,000 Australians who care about reducing family violence and providing support for Rosie in her advocacy and awareness raising. The Never Alone Campaign has contributed to significant wins, including commitments for respectful relationships education in every state and territory, increased funding for frontline services and increased awareness of issues within the Family Law system that put women and children in danger. Rosie was named as one of the founding members of the Council of Australian Government’s advisory panel on preventing violence against women. Rosie is now leading a Victim Survivors Advisory Council for the Victorian government, as a response to the country’s first royal commission into family violence. Rosie is also an ambassador for Our Watch and the Lort Smith Animal Hospital, and patron of Doncare Community Services, as well as being a Pride of Australian National Courage medal recipient. Please welcome Miss Batty, who has kindly agreed to address us today and to launch Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month for the department. Wow. It’s so good to be here. It’s really cold in Melbourne. [laughter] Typically I’m dressed in my black and white, as everybody in Melbourne seems to do. It is really – it’s really an honour to be here. The work that you do and the opportunity that you are part of, to create change through the school communities, is such a really passionate area for me. I’ll be emotional. I try not to be. It’s been a long journey. There’s been a lot of campaigning and a lot of advocacy. This is an example of where – you start to see your work turning into results, it can’t happen without people like you, also working in your careers, in your areas of influence, to help the change that you can. While I was Australian of the Year, which seems in some ways a long time ago, can I share with you that during that year, I spoke at over 250 events, reaching over – do you know what, I can’t even remember how many people it was now. It seems – it was like a 70 odd thousand or something, you know, like huge numbers of people. And you know, I travelled far and wide, and I came to Brisbane on many, many occasions. And it was such an important year, and I’m so privileged and pleased I embraced that opportunity as passionately and as committed, in such a way that really made sure that national platform was given the opportunity to really let people know just what a huge problem family violence is in our society. In those 250 speaking engagements, I did actually speak throughout Australia for a conference called Generation Next, which actually reaches into school communities. But I can tell you, far and wide, most people would say to me, we need to be teaching these things in school. Overwhelmingly, if there was one common thing that I heard all the time, it was, we should be teaching our young people. So the very first opportunity to campaign through our Never Alone Campaign, and through my influence with the COAG advisory panel, I was absolutely clear what had to be the priority, and that was to really get respectful relationships happening. And I’m so pleased to be here today, for you to be taking on that opportunity that will change lives. And without it, we won’t see the cultural change that we have to see. So it’s a really important opportunity. I know – the longer I do this, the further along the track I am, the more knowledge I gain, there is absolutely no doubt that this is the most important area. Whenever I speak, I never, ever forget to remind people of the statistics. It still astonishes me, a lot of people still don’t know. We have currently one woman a week, on average, being murdered, and I know of the horrific instances that have happened here in Queensland, as well as everywhere else. One in three women will be affected by physical violence in their lifetime. I don’t need to ask anyone in the room to put up their hands, but I can guarantee that if I did, we would have the evidence of one in three women here today. But what we’re talking about is the children. One in four children. I wasn’t bright enough to do the maths. I had to ask Lara, how many children did we say in Queensland or in your school system, was it over 500,000? Okay. There’s some kind of a prize. Who’s the first one? If it’s one – one in four women – one in four children affected by violence? [audience] Lara was quick. I’m still thinking about it. You’re talking about at least 130,000 children affected by violence in some way, shape or form. That’s staggering. And yet, dare I say, we are still a country in denial. We still think it happens in the rough neighbourhoods, low socio-economic areas. It doesn’t happen to people like us, in our area. But that’s absolutely incorrect. It’s about – it happens to everybody. One of the things I did say when Luke was first murdered, it doesn’t matter how nice your house is or how intelligent you are. It can happen to anybody. I didn’t know violence in my childhood. I didn’t know violence in my life until I met Luke’s father. I didn’t understand the different forms of violence, and I didn’t even realise I was experiencing violence. I thought I was doing the right thing, to support his relationship with his son, because you were influenced to think that way. So for me, it has been a journey, which I think is like so many others. Professional, articulate, strong, middle-class, white, privileged. I defy all those myths. That’s why I’m heard. Try being heard when you’re in an Aboriginal community and an Aboriginal woman, who is 35 times more likely to be hospitalised and 10 times more likely to be murdered. Very little support. Very little police presence. And really, very few options. When I became Australian of the Year, I was determined to try to stop this victim blaming attitudes – these victim blaming attitudes we have, that are so prevalent. We default to them. We don’t even know we do it. We spend more time talking about, critiquing about, and judging about, victims and why they don’t leave, and why they are involved in a violent relationship in the first place, and how it takes two to tango, or indeed, what did she do to cause it? We spend too much time discussing and trivialising and minimising the violence that surrounds us, and we rarely concentrate our conversations on the perpetrators of that violence. A woman is at the most risk when she does choose to leave a violent relationship. That is when she has taken the power. She’s regained her control. So there are many reasons why it’s very difficult to leave a violent relationship. Hardship, poverty, not wanting to split up the family. Many of those reasons. But the significant one I want to always drill home into is, that is when you are at the highest risk of being killed or significantly harmed. In my situation, Greg chose to take the ultimate act of power and control, by killing his son, who he loved dearly, who he had never been violent towards. But his desire for revenge and power and control over me was stronger than his love for the child. That is a really difficult thing to come to terms with. How could anyone hurt a child? We somehow have to think that, well, he must have been violent to the child, he couldn’t have loved him. All of those things. And again, the number of people who would blame me – how could she have let him have access to her son, why didn’t she protect him, what I could have and should have done. So many conversations about me. But what about him choosing to murder his own son? So, all of us are just everyday ordinary people. We make up society. But so are your teachers. So are all the school staff. So is all of the school community – made up of everyday people. Each and every one of them, with ignorance and attitudes that limit, define and judge, because that’s what we do. For us to have the societal change we need, the school community is one of those essential areas that we need to help us create the – the significant attitudinal change we need to see. But they can’t do it by just teaching it as a program. You see, we don’t even know our gender biases or our conditioning, because it’s just what we are, what we’re made up from. We are influenced so much by our parents, and our grandparents. You know, I – a lot of people have said to me, Rosie, how have you survived, how do you do what you do? And it’s been a question that I’ve really had to think, well, you know, at the end of the day, what choice do you have? You get up every day and you try to make the best that you can of each day. But I didn’t change overnight after what happened to me. I’ve always been this type of person. When I was six, my mother died, and suddenly, we were left. Three little kids under the age of six. My security, my world, changed forever. I’ve never married. I’ve never had a permanent relationship and neither have my two brothers. I don’t think we truly understand what trauma does to children. I don’t think we truly understand the part that we need to play to address trauma in children. And trauma can be caused by many different reasons. It doesn’t have to be tragedy and death. It can be through medical procedures. It can be desertion. It can be so many different things that are incredibly traumatic to that child. When I grew up, there was a definite culture of, children are seen, not heard. Can you remember those days, anybody? They didn’t know how to talk to you. They didn’t know how – the counselling didn’t really exist, I don’t think. It wasn’t something that – we just quietly got on, in our own way. Those kids that were the quieter ones, the ones that, you know, went under the radar, because they seemed to be so coping so well – you know, behaviour in the classroom, behaviour in the school community, is nearly always an indicator that something is wrong. We don’t have the language, the opportunity, or even the safety to share that something is wrong at home. How you may reach out as a child to say something is wrong has been handled appallingly in the past. Still is. There’s no real safety. And again, the minimisation of risk, the lack of training in what to do and how to respond – the significant danger the child may subsequently find themselves in by disclosing to someone they may trust. How do our systems respond? Well, I have to say, pretty badly largely, up until now. We are going through a significant change, and I’m so encouraged by the Queensland Government, for the area of focus that is one of the leading states across Australia. I’m incredibly proud with what’s happening in Victoria. I know that I’ve had, through Luke’s story, been a significant part of that influence. But I never forget how many people’s voices don’t get heard; are disempowered and silenced, and those that it affects the most are the children, who are the most powerless. So if we want to see significant change, we have to create an environment through our school communities, so that children understand what respect and a respectful relationship looks like. Because you know what? As adults, we don’t do a very good job of that. Our bias, our views of the world, are often discriminatory, shortsighted, and small-minded. The Prime Minister said some time ago when I was with him, not all disrespect of women ends in violence, but all violence begins with disrespect. So if a child is not being modelled respect in his home environment, where the people closest to him are the biggest influences, who else is going to influence as significantly as the school community they find them in? How contradictory it is, if the teachers are not modelling respect. Children are smart. They see straight through it. The school system has changed significantly from when I was a child. We no longer hit kids. We’re not allowed to. You’d lose your job if you did. But punitive punishment was something we actually endorsed, and used. It seems incredulous. I mean, in my life time, how many changes have I seen? First of all, we would say, you know what, it is my kid, I can hit it if I want to. I can smoke in my car. I could do all the things. I’m the parent, I can do what I want. Well no, you can’t. And now, over time, we’ve been influenced to understand that hitting anybody, anybody at all, is wrong. So how can it be wrong to hit each other, but okay to hit your child? It seems ludicrous. And yet it was the norm. So our attitudes change. Sometimes they need to be helped to change, so we can see different ways of handling things, different ways that we can act. But it’s so gradual, and it’s such a gradual shift. We have to be reminded of what now seems so very wrong. You know, one of the terms we use very regularly is rule of thumb. Well actually, I don’t use that term anymore, but I know it. When we consider, it comes from a Victorian rule which said, you can hit your wife and children providing it’s no wider than your thumb. So we have so much that’s latently dormant within us that’s still sitting there, that we need to tackle and challenge. And it seems such a big journey ahead, and sometimes to me it seems so overwhelming, you don’t know where to start. And when you consider that family violence has been since time began, and as a progressive civilised country, we’re only just really starting to talk about it openly. The Police Commissioner in Tasmania is a similar age to me – 25 – and he said, Rosie, I can remember when I was a little boy, when I was about 10, we would call the police often to our next-door neighbours. When the police came, they treated it as a noise disturbance. They didn’t want to know what was behind the screams. They weren’t there to protect her and to stop it from happening. Being called out for a noise disturbance was purely an interruption to what they deemed as real police business. Thank goodness, culture within our police force has changed. It’s still got a long way to go, might I add, because the police, like everybody else, are made up with people who have their attitudes and beliefs. And we still, still, have an attitude that blames victims. So how can it be – that it’s ever been okay for us to turn a blind eye to somebody who is experiencing violence? But we do. We don’t recognise the different forms of violence still. We don’t realise that psychological abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, all of these other forms of violence, are equally as unacceptable. And it would be incredibly rare for someone to be experiencing just one form of violence at any one time. They’ll always play out, always gets worse. The violence and control always increases. So what frustrates me most is, we still don’t understand all the different forms. We still don’t know the statistics. But we’re starting to call it out. We’re starting to recognise it, and those conversations are starting to happen in areas they never have before. We’re certainly starting to see them in the workplace. We have a lot of leadership in the corporate space, because again, they do the maths. You’ve got the ANZ bank who’ve got 62,000 staff. 52 per cent are women. Again, one in three of the workforce will be affected by violence. It is a workplace issue. And the support we’re now starting to see will drive significant change, because in your workplace, again, it’s an area of influence. It’s part of our community, and it’s an essential part of our lives. So is sport, and all those other drivers. But the school community is where we are today. And I think that, you know, the opportunity for change for me is really exciting. And when I know how smart kids are, how quick they are to adapt, I look back and I know I used the smoking analogy a lot. Thirty years ago, I came to Australia in my mid-twenties as a backpacker. I can tell you, I smoked on the aeroplane and I smoked in the terminal. I smoked wherever I went, because you were allowed to. Also, it was cool. Film stars smoked. TV presenters smoked. Everybody that was somebody you wanted to be, apparently, smoked. So it was cool, and I was stealing them out of my dad’s packet from the age of about eight. He never knew, until he stopped smoking and that was the end of my supply. But now, I look back. When Luke was alive, he thought smoking was disgusting. He’d look down on me or anyone who would smoke. He couldn’t make sense of it. Why would you smoke, if it’s going to kill you? We can’t see cigarettes. It’s very difficult to buy them. In fact, I was using this analogy recently. And the lady said – I was taking my daughter to school the other day, and she said to me, what’s a cigarette Mummy? How great is that? You actually can possibly grow up to get to a certain age and not know what a cigarette is. And then when you describe it to them, you know, whereas when we were kids – did you have those pretend cigarettes that you could buy as lollies? How appalling. So I use the smoking analogy, because smokers now are a minority, and they are a minority that’s decreasing rapidly. We don’t look up to smokers. Some of us – [coughs] that’s an asthma cough, not a smoking cough. Some of us still seek to smoke. But we have to – we are socially isolated, and have to go down the corner, around the corner, and we know everyone’s looking down their noses at us. But this kind of cultural change is really powerful. To have an overwhelming sense that people are disapproving of your actions sends a very strong message. As subtle as that may appear, that is what change is. So that’s the gradual change we will see, but it’s a long term. It’s a long term vision, this one. This is not something that’s going to be resolved next year, the year after, or the year after that. But we need to do that for your children, for your grandchildren. Because if we don’t start it now, with a determined long term strategy, it will continue. We have to see that change is possible. And that’s why I give the analogy, not to simplify family violence, because it is indeed a very complex subject. But there are many other campaigns that you will readily remember, and I was reminded of the Slip Slop Slap campaign. I think we should change the word slap though. You know, anti-smoking, anti-cancer, safety belts, speeding, drink driving. You know, some of the worst offenders are still those in my age group. The younger generations are way more educated and smart. So I hope you see my vision for change. I’m sure that you do. And just to know that each little part that we all play makes the opportunity for significant change, and this opportunity in Queensland as we also share it in Victoria, will be immense. And I’m really, really pleased to be here today to kind of have that opportunity to say to you just how important it is, and how really pleased I am to have been part of that journey with – personally, and with the foundation, the work that we’re able to do with Our Watch in the area of prevention. So we’ve got to keep pushing forward. It will be some time before we can see significant change. I’m lucky, because a lot of the time, I get a lot of people telling me how much change is happening. But all I look at are those statistics, and every time, I think that’s another person whose life has been taken and the damage it does to everyone left behind. But can you imagine that we’re only starting to read about those stats, recognise them in the paper, hear about them. Wasn’t such a long time ago, they didn’t make the headlines. They didn’t make the newspapers. We’re still learning how to report on them in a sensitive, respectful way. But we are getting there, and the media largely is on our side, and now wanting to communicate and share and be part of this change too. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had an absolute privilege today, and I thank you Rosie, for your words to us, and the messages that are so important. You are an inspiration, and I thank you on behalf of everyone in the room, for sharing your pain, but also for asking us to join in the gain. We have 1,239 state schools in this state, and every one of those schools is teaching respectful relationships. And so, I would like you to leave this building today knowing a few things. The first one would be that everyone in this room is with you. I’d like you to know that people in those 1,239 schools are with you. There’s over 86,000 employees in this department, and this department, the Department of Education, is taking family and domestic violence very seriously, because it’s a very serious business. We’ve accepted the mission as a department. We have accepted the mission to make sure that Not Now Not Ever means exactly what it says, and we’re working hard to do that as a department, and we’ll continue to work hard, because it’s not something we’re going to change quickly. And we know that. But we believe – we believe alongside of you – that it can change and it has to change and it will change. So I’d like you to leave here knowing that today, and knowing that we are with you. I think that there are two things involved for me, because I’m a fairly simplistic person. And to me, it’s about heads and hearts, and you’ve certainly touched our hearts today, in terms of your own experience. And I guess now it’s really important that all of us understand we’re going to use our heads and our hearts to do something about this. It’s not good enough just to say how serious this matter is. We are some people that can do something about this. We are in a very, very privileged position, to be running those 1,239 state schools. So – and we are educators. That’s our business. We educate, and I believe very strongly that our mission to educate the young people of Australia is just a formidable challenge to us. But certainly, in Queensland, we do control those 1,239 schools, and it’s up to us to accept the challenge to do something about it, and we will. I can assure you, we are, and we will. So I just wanted to thank you for joining in the launch of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month. Thank you for launching it for us, Rosie, and I just want to go back to one that you said, and it’s this – that change is possible. And that struck a real chord with me. I think, as you leave the room today, I just ask that everybody, you know, as you walk through the doorway – under your breath, because I don’t want people thinking that, you know, you’re talking to yourself. But change is possible, and if there’s one key message that comes from today, let’s make it that change is possible, and let’s giddy up, and let’s make sure it happens. Because that’s the mission. So thank you very much for being with us. Thank you, Rosie. And thank you for being an inspiration.

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