Martin Parkinson - Opening Remarks PM&C Domestic and Family Violence Policy Launch

Martin Parkinson - Opening Remarks PM&C Domestic and Family Violence Policy Launch

PM&C Who We Are The Secretary
Friday, May 13, 2016

Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Thank you to each and every one of you who is here, or who is watching this through our live streaming. The fact that we have so many people here, so many staff either watching this or here in person I think speaks to the respect that you have for PM&C’s firm opposition to domestic violence, and I take it as a personal commitment on your behalf to stand up against the perpetrators of violence.

So why does PM&C need a Domestic and Family Violence policy?

Surely it’s something that’s a personal issue? Well actually it’s not. It is a workplace issue as well.

Around one in five Australian women and one in 20 Australian men have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Almost two thirds of women who experience violence at home have paid jobs—in other words, that’s about 800,000 women in Australia at the minute.

The fact is domestic violence is a workplace issue and it was brought home to me at a meeting of the Male Champions of Change last year.

It was the end of one of our meetings and one of our colleagues said, “there’s something that has been playing on my mind that I want to run by you”.

He then told us about one of his high-performing staff members, a woman who had made a great contribution to his organisation. She had progressed rapidly and was definitely seen as someone to watch.

But then something changed. Something was clearly going on in her private life that was affecting her at work. As it turned out, she’d been promoted every year in this organisation. But one year, the senior executives who had been very carefully supporting her progress decided that it would be best to give her a lateral move so that she could develop additional skills before she took the next step up. There was no question she was going onwards and upwards.

But, it turns out, her spouse took the decision not to promote her as a signal to punish her with violence. It took incredible bravery for this woman to seek the help of her colleagues.

It wasn’t her employer’s fault. It wasn’t her fault either. But it was within her employer’s power to support her with counselling, leave to relocate her family and financial support through advancing her salary.

The interesting thing was, that my MCC colleague had never come across an issue of family violence in the workplace. He didn’t know what he could or couldn’t do to support her. More to the point, when he asked the rest of us for advice, we all basically shuffled our feet, looked at one another slightly sheepishly and said “well actually, I don’t know”. So if you think about it, you’ve got 25 of the nation’s leaders, CEOs, chairs of companies, heads of public sector departments all looking at one another and saying “we actually don’t know what to do’’. That was the point where Liz Broderick said “I know somebody who can come and talk to us” and that’s how I met Rosie Batty.

So, I’ll just come back to my colleague and his company. These were not favours that they were giving to this woman, they were the decent thing to do to support a colleague so she could get her life back on track.

And that’s what we’re doing here at PM&C. There are some elements of this policy that staff have always had access to. We’ve had miscellaneous leave provisions and counselling for ages. But what we’ve lacked is a coherent system of support.

I was surprised to find only four people within PM&C could approve miscellaneous leave, meaning staff affected by domestic violence would have a choice of Ben Neal, Rowena Bain, Elizabeth Kelly or me if they needed to take leave. We’re really nice people, but if I didn’t know one of us and I was affected by domestic and family violence, I’m not sure I could walk up to a stranger and ask them for assistance. People who are affected are much more likely to reach out to someone they know, rather than send me, or Ben, or Rowena, or Elizabeth an email out of the blue.

So we’ve changed that—your Branch heads can now approve miscellaneous leave. The important thing is, it’s miscellaneous leave. There is a push in some quarters to have mandatory domestic violence leave. I don’t want to do that because I think it actually adds to the trauma for people who are affected. I think it is actually more important that we have miscellaneous leave and we use it flexibly.

But it’s not enough just to be able to say that we will be able to provide access to miscellaneous leave by a much larger cohort of people, we have to roll out training to our managers so they are better able to handle these important conversations when they occur.

We will provide loan phones so staff have an independent means of communication. For those who don’t know, but Telstra actually has, loan phones for people affected by domestic and family violence. But we’re going to do that here in the Department so that staff have an independent means of communication. We’re going to provide family rooms for when staff need to attend work with their children. And our Security team is also prepared to assist in ensuring our workplace is unquestionably a safe place.

Let me pause just for a moment to talk about the importance of that first conversation. People affected by domestic and family violence can feel deep shame about their situation. They can have feelings of helplessness, mixed with self-doubt and confusion. Some victims will unfortunately blame themselves, others will be cowed by abuse. They’ll be worried about how others will respond: will they feel pity, will they be believed? Will it change the way their employer and their colleagues view them and their capability?

The moment that a person affected by family violence speaks up to someone they trust is a step forward in reclaiming their personal autonomy. It’s about regaining control of their lives. More than anything else it speaks of their personal strength, and in no way will I, or PM&C, tolerate an employee affected by domestic violence suffering further through workplace gossip or any form of career sanction. I want PM&C as an organisation to be an entity that can be trusted to support that brave step when people have to make it, and help our staff get through what is an incredibly difficult period in their lives.

We cannot ignore the fact that PM&C staff are affected. Just go back to those numbers I talked about. One in five women, one in 20 men. Think about the size of our Department. Think about our gender split. Look around. It is inevitable that we have both victims of domestic violence but unfortunately we also must have perpetrators. If you see anything that leads you to be concerned about the behaviour of a colleague, that makes you think they might be a perpetrator, please find a way to speak up.

I urge you all to read the policy, discuss it with your colleagues and take a stance unequivocally opposed to domestic violence.

I’m going to hand over now to Rosie Batty, our Guest speaker this morning, but before I do, let me say, for those of you who don’t know Rosie, she is a most amazing woman and let me just give you a sense of the things that she’s done, the recognition she has been given and the efforts that she has been making.

In 2015 Rosie received the honour of being Australian of the Year and her name has become synonymous with the words courage and resilience.

Rosie is a tireless campaigner, having established The Luke Batty Foundation and launched the Never Alone Campaign, asking all Australians to stand with her and beside all victims of family violence by signing up at neveralone.com.au.

Rosie was a founding member of the Council of Australian Governments advisory panel for preventing violence against women and she is the recipient of the Pride of Australia’s National Courage Medal and has been inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

Fortune Magazine has named Rosie one of its top 50 world’s greatest leaders and Rosie’s been voted the most influential person in the Not for Profit sector on Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25 list.

She’s 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 The Lort Smith Animal Hospital and a Patron of Doncare Community Services.

Rosie’s here with us today to share her remarkable story.

So please, recognise what an honour this is, and welcome Rosie to the stage.