PM pledges more to stop gender violence

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to do more to stop violence against women and says he feels the rage of survivors grappling with decades-long trauma.

LUKE LEWIS of the Sharks celebrates after his 300th NRL match with Federal Treasurer SCOTT MORRISON.
LUKE LEWIS of the Sharks celebrates after his 300th NRL match with Federal Treasurer SCOTT MORRISON. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Scott Morrison has recounted stories of women who have suffered sexual violence and pledged to do more to stop it.

The prime minister told a national online summit on women's safety on Monday about some of the hundreds of letters and emails he's received from survivors.

One was from a 74-year-old Queensland woman who spoke of 60 years of suffering following her rape at age 14.

"The letters and emails reflected on the anguish and lifelong burden of assaults at work, at school, at uni, on a sports team and at home where they should have been safer," Mr Morrison said.

"Assaults that happened at any and every age. Trauma compounded by silence.

"Through all the letters and emails, I felt that rage, the dread and the frustration that our culture is not changing."

But survivors have criticised what they see as the gap between the prime minister's comments and actions.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins tweeted that she "can't match this government's actions with the platitudes and warm sentiments they are all extending today".

Ms Higgins earlier this year ignited a wave of anger and protests after going public with her alleged rape by a colleague in a minister's office in 2019.

Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivors advocate Grace Tame said Mr Morrison had "appropriated private disclosures from survivors to leverage his own image".

"Gee, I bet it felt good to get that out," she added, echoing what she has said were the prime minister's words to her following her award speech earlier this year.

Mr Morrison told the summit he wanted all women and girls to live without fear and labelled federal spending on the issue so far as a "down payment" on developing the next national plan.

"I want their humanity, their dignity, their innate worth as a human being and the freedoms to which they're entitled to be respected," he said.

The two-day summit will canvass topics including preventing and responding to violence, the specific needs of Indigenous women and financial independence.

The federal government points to amended sexual harassment laws, a two-year trial starting in October of payments for women fleeing violence, and changes to superannuation disclosure in family law proceedings, as evidence of progress.

But a groundswell of anger remains, including over a failure to implement all the changes recommended by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and a stalled departmental investigation into who knew what and when about Ms Higgins' case.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese urged men to step up and hold themselves accountable.

"We have a long way to go, and we need federal leadership that is prepared, in both word and deed, to catalyse lasting change," he said.

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