Wherever I go in Australia, and whenever I speak about the problem of family violence, people talk to me about the need to start tackling the problem at the very beginning, with a national and comprehensive program of teaching respectful relationships in schools.
Today I was thrilled to be able to take that message to the country’s leaders at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Sydney. But I wasn’t alone: I was able to present Tony Abbott, and each one of his state and territory counterparts, with petitions signed by 13,000 Never Alone supporters, calling for funding and support to make a schools program a reality.
I was delighted to have had this opportunity to speak to the Prime Minister, the Premiers and Chief Ministers, all of whom agree with me that family violence is at the very top of the list of challenges facing this country.
Along with my colleagues on the COAG Domestic Violence Advisory Committee, Ken Lay and Heather Nancarrow, I was able to give them the message that ending family violence is not just a crusade being carried out by a few of us, but it is supported by thousands more.
The issue of family violence is complex and needs many different responses, but I talked about the need to start at the very beginning, where attitudes and behaviours are first formed and shaped.
Children, even very young children, are able to think deeply about these issues. I told the leaders the story of a 9-year-old boy who sent me his school project, where he had chosen to tackle the topic of family violence.
His mother wrote to me to say that when his teacher asked him to research his hero he initially thought he would talk about the soccer player Tim Cahill. But after doing some research, he decided to write about domestic violence, and my campaign to make the issue of violence and respectful relationships a key part of the school curricula.
My "work to have the issue of domestic violence made a compulsory part of public education has made her a hero!”, he said in his project.
But I’m far from the only hero in this story. And I can’t do it on my own. Without the weighty support of thousands of people behind me, I would not have been able to send such a strong message of overwhelming community support for this fundamental educational reform.
I’m really pleased to say that the response from all the leaders was extremely positive. Some states, such as NSW, have already committed to introducing a schools program. Other state and territory leaders have said they will look seriously at what they can implement.
I’m asking for a co-ordinated, nation-wide approach, and I'm optimistic that our voices are starting to be heard. If we maintain the pressure and keep up the conversations, we will start to see real changes occurring.
I want to thank everyone who supported me by signing the petition and standing with me today.