Domestic and family violence has rightly been identified as a critical issue of our time. Thanks to the fearless advocacy of women like Rosie Batty and survivors across Australia, domestic violence has moved from behind closed doors into the public sphere. Domestic violence is in the media, campaigners are on our streets. Slowly but surely the wheels of government are turning as we work together to address this endemic and persistent blight. The next frontier—and the one that promises real and transformative change for women escaping violence—is to deliver paid domestic violence leave in each of our workplaces.
A woman is killed in this country every week from domestic violence. She is a wife, mother, sister or daughter. She is also often a colleague, a teammate or a collaborator. Unions NSW estimates that more than 800,000 women—a staggering one in six women workers—is experiencing some form of violence at home. The pain and sense of crisis this violence leaves on these women affects their role at work: absenteeism, conflict or tension with colleagues, reduced productivity and concerns about safety can result in women facing violence being more likely to resign or miss out on career opportunities. This leaves women less financially secure, which in turn makes it more difficult to escape violence and perpetuates a vicious and tragic cycle.
Paid domestic violence leave offers certainty where there would otherwise be none. Let us remember, income equals choice. It enables women and children to leave abusive relationships. It provides space and time for women to get themselves back on their feet.
It allows women and children to visit doctors, find child care, attend court appearances or seek apprehended violence orders. It allows women to look at apartments or homes to rent, change their phone number, set up a postbox, or simply spend time with their kids and explain what is going on. It means women no longer have to forfeit opportunity as they manage or recover from inexcusable violence perpetrated against them. It brings domestic violence into the most public of spheres, our workplaces. We will no longer be able to ignore the fact that we work alongside victims of domestic violence and that we work alongside perpetrators of domestic violence too.
It will transform the way we understand and manage human resources, knowing that our workplaces are not just where we clock on and off; they can be places of compassion and support. It forces workplaces to consider a range of different policies beyond leave to protect workers against violence. How can workplaces act to keep perpetrators from intimidating or harming women in the workplace? How can workplaces protect the privacy of women who seek paid domestic violence leave? How can we support and be available for co-workers of women who are supporting their colleagues through violence? Importantly, paid domestic violence leave works to redress a fundamental reality in our workplaces: that domestic violence is a gender issue and contributes to the gendered inequality in pay and employment opportunity in this country.
Our unions are fighting to end the national emergency of domestic and family violence. Last week union representatives and workers gathered at Parliament House to call for paid domestic violence leave. I congratulate Natalie Lang, Secretary of the Australian Services Union, on her passionate advocacy and leadership on this issue. I also congratulate and acknowledge Sharon Burrows and all the formidable women of the trade union movement on putting this firmly on the agenda. I say without reservation that I stand in this House in solidarity with them and all women who have experienced violence at the hands of someone they loved and trusted.
I add my voice to the many others calling for the Premier and Treasurer to take paid domestic and family violence leave to the Council of Australian Governments and to join with their Victorian counterparts, who announced their support for the scheme. We must add this leave entitlement to the national employment standards put in place by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Providing 10 days of paid leave will send a powerful signal to women in crisis that they can escape violence and regain control of their lives. It will send a powerful signal that our workplaces are spaces in which they can feel safe and protected. It sends a very powerful signal that victims of family violence are not alone. We are here for them, they will not be forgotten and they will be not be ignored.