I love my bed. Right now, during the pandemic, I love my bed more than ever. It’s become what I look forward to most. Every night, it’s my end destination. It’s the place I know I am going. It’s the warm hug that restores me. These are stressful times. There is division. There is uncertainty. There is anger. There is grief. There is loss. There is the aching pain of missing the people you love who you cannot see. As I changed the sheets on my bed the other day I became intensely aware of the restorative power of sleep. My mental health is maintained by my bed. It’s my greatest ally.
My beautiful comfortable bed is my privilege. I recognise my immense privilege. I also recognise that this safe place, this basic requirement in maintaining a robust and resilient mental health is a human right. So many people who are struggling don’t have a safe place to sleep. That may be because they are living in domestic violence, are in housing stress or are homeless. Access to safe and affordable housing is one of the key issues in keeping women and children safe. Lack of housing is why many women return to violence.
This week, women, policy makers, allies and interested parties gather in Canberra for the two day National Summit on Women’s Safety. This comes the week after the federal government rejected 49 of the 55 recommendations by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in her extensive Respect @ Work Report (2020) proving once and for all that the Morrison government is not interested in protecting women.
Having the federal government host a Safety Summit is like having a children’s birthday party at a paedophile’s house. It’s a cynical exercise in public relations. They have not addressed the culture of rape and misogyny within their own workplace, in fact their refusal to take on the spirit of Jenkins’ report, which firmly places the onus of safety on the employer, shows a deeply embedded investment in the status quo that entrenches women as victims of harassment and violence. It is not in the interests of privileged and powerful men for women to be safe. True safety involves changing culture. It requires the dismantling of a system that enshrines the privilege of the entitled, and not the other way around.
We are so used to minimising violence against women, we forget the litany of abuse.
That plays well for Morrison. I mean, if the Coalition were a person, all Australian women would have to take out a restraining order.
Let’s reflect on what has been revealed, just this year, in Mr Morrison’s workplace: the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins on the Defence Minister’s couch, a Liberal staffer masturbating on an MP’s desk, the historical rape of a young woman by the former Attorney General, Andrew Laming’s dodgy photo of a woman stacking a drinks fridge, Nationals MP Michael Johnsen accused of raping a sex worker in the Blue Mountains… And they are hosting a Women’s Safety summit? With Scotty giving the keynote? Need I say more?
Domestic and family violence cases have increased during covid lockdowns. Twenty-nine Australian women have been murdered so far this year, on top of 56 last year. To keep women and children safe we need a change of culture. We need safe workplaces. We need access to safe homes. To a safe place to sleep.
In the meantime we need fully funded refuges. The most dangerous time for women at risk is when they leave an abusive situation. If they are going to be murdered, this is the highest risk time. Refuges are key to keeping these women safe. I’m the Ambassador for the Ballina Women and Children’s Refuge. The same government hosting a Women’s Safety Summit defunded the Ballina Refuge as of 1 July this year. That’s how much they care about women’s safety.
It’s up to us to create change. You can be an ongoing donor, or, if you can, donate through attending the comedy event I am hosting online with super stars Steph Tisdell, Ellen Briggs, Katrina Davidson, Jenny Wynter, Ting Lim, Vanessa Mitchell and Alex Hudson: on Thursday 16 September at 8pm. Please buy a ticket on ballinarsl.com.au. All the proceeds go to the Refuge.
Because some of us just don’t pay lip service to women’s safety. We do something.