Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaking at the White Ribbon Day Event, Parliament House - 26 November 2012
A little over 20 years ago, three men in Toronto, Canada, decided to act.
Responding to the senseless massacre of 14 female university students, Jack Layton, Ron Sluser and Michael Kaufman established a campaign that has gone on to become an international force for good.
A campaign; led by men, to end violence against women.
The White Ribbon movement reached our shores in 2003. And each year more and more Australian men pledge themselves to its principles.
More than 58,000 Australian men have now sworn an oath to reject violence in their own lives and speak up when they encounter it in the lives of others.
Some of Australia’s first White Ribbon Ambassadors are still spreading the word in 2012.
Staying the course, driving cultural change. Continuing to act.
Refusing to accept the attitudes and behaviours that contribute to violence against women and girls.
Refusing to be silent, or to make excuses for other men.
To every Australian man, every partner, husband, brother, father, son, colleague and friend who takes the White Ribbon pledge, thank you.
The impact of your actions is real.
You challenge the behaviours and cultures around you.
You lead through example.
You look to your own behaviours, and inspire the men and boys around you to do the same.
Just two months ago in Melbourne, tens of thousands of people were galvanised by another atrocious act of violence against a young woman.
They marched peacefully through their community to say ‘no more’.
But to achieve a sustained reduction to violence against women and girls, every sector of the Australian community must act.
Everyone must take ownership and responsibility, in every home, in every workplace, every school, every campus, every church, and on every street.
That’s where White Ribbon is so effective. It has evolved, growing out of, and involving, the communities of which it is a part.
Finding practical ways to raise awareness and change behaviour.
Practical actions like the White Ribbon pilot workplace project which is seeing the Australian Army, the AFL and ARL, government agencies and private-sector workplaces looking at their own cultures and exploring strategies to drive behavioural change.
Practical initiatives like the information day organised by students at Loftus TAFE, in Sydney.
Practical campaigns like the “See, Hear, Speak” campaign, which is raising awareness of workplace sexual harassment among Australia’s youngest working men and women.
Practical sharing of expertise, like the inclusion of a White Ribbon Ambassador on the panel at a recent Victorian forum discussing violence against women with disabilities.
Practical on-the-ground work like this, deep in the community, is crucial.
It encourages open conversation, often the first step towards real change.
Conversation and collaboration is also going on at the governmental level, through the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children and a new action plan, released in September.
But just as crucial as practical exertion and action is robust research.
In May next year White Ribbon will hold an international conference in Australia for the first time, in a bid to connect research, policy and practice.
Today it gives me pleasure to announce that my Government will support this important Australian ‘first’, with funding through the Women’s Safety Agenda.
I hope that the lessons from this conference will be shared widely and help inform future White Ribbon initiatives.
Once again, congratulations and thanks to all of the White Ribbon Ambassadors here today, including the Ambassadors here in the nation’s Parliament.
Your leadership is important, your example essential, if, as a community, we are to really bring about the changes that will ensure the greater safety of Australian women and girls, tomorrow and in the future.