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Grace Tame calls for more national consistency on sexual violence laws at women’s safety summit

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The sexual assault survivor told the summit she would soon be meeting with attorney-generals from across Australia’s different jurisdictions to address her concerns around disparities in their laws. 

She noted there are currently up to nine different definitions across states and territories for key issues such as consent, grooming, the age of a child and of sexual intercourse.


“We need to reinforce our education with laws that back it up,” she told the summit, adding that the onus shouldn’t be on victims to fix the system.

Ms Tame is concerned that laws must not provide perpetrators with loopholes to avoid accountability for their crimes.

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“Language is key,” she told the summit. “This is a question that we all have to ask [is] where are the examples of language that we use that softens the reality and therefore enables and emboldens perpetrators?” 

Her comments came during a session of the summit dealing with preventing and responding to sexual violence.

She said education around the prevention needed to begin “as early as possible”.

“Education is our primary means of prevention – knowledge is power,” she said.

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The two-day summit has brought together women’s advocates, legal experts and community leaders towards guiding the next national action plan.

Women's Safety Minister Anne Ruston speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.

Source: AAP

The existing 12-year strategy to reduce violence against women and their children was drawn up more than a decade ago and is due to be replaced next year.

Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said the summit had shared sometimes “confronting” discussions that must be acted on in the next national plan.

“We must be willing to listen and to do more. I commit to you that these themes will underpin the next national plan,” she said.

“We all want the same outcome (which is) to end – not just reduce – but actually end violence against women and their children.” 

Minister for Women Marise Payne also said a constructive and collaborative approach was the “only way” for the national response to proceed.

“(We will have) a National Plan that is focused on early intervention and prevention,” she told the summit. “That is focused on response measures, that does address the many challenges that we are dealing with.” 

AFP commissioner warns ‘men need to change’

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw earlier told the summit the focus needed to shift to educating men and changing their behaviour.

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“Men need to change – put simply,” he told the summit. “We need to make sure that we are living those values and actually behaving in an appropriate way.”

Mr Kershaw also warned that COVID-19 lockdowns were “fuelling” sexual predators, who are seeking out child victims that are spending more time online.

“The AFP is very alive to how the pandemic is either fuelling or hiding crime,” he said.

The commissioner pointed out school closures and restrictions on community services have contributed to fewer police reports about forced marriage, sexual servitude and slavery.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw.

Source: AAP

In the first six months of the pandemic, there was a 62 per cent drop in reports of forced marriage compared with the year prior. 

At least two in five assaults recorded nationally last year related to domestic and family violence, ranging from 43 per cent in the ACT to 65 per cent in Western Australia.

Meanwhile, four in five Australian women have experienced some form of abuse facilitated by technology. 

Mr Kershaw said one reason for hope was changing cultural attitudes appearing in younger men.

“I do have some faith in our younger men coming through. There are some good signs there. But there’s a difference with the older men,” he said. 

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If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.

The Men’s Referral Service provides information for men about domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491. 

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