Words | Dominic Giles
Last week I was watching the news, the start of this decade has been a noisy one to say the least. Bushfires, Coronavirus and the potential for World War Three. Something on this particular day cut straight through the noise. It was a developing story about a Brisbane mother being burnt alive in her car with her three children. It made me sick to my guts. Over the next few days the story developed with new details that we are all familiar with; the mother Hannah Clarke had been burnt alive in her car with her three children in an act of family violence. The feeling of being sick in the stomach intensified. Every time the story was on one of my social media feeds or on the news the sick feeling came back. Until I saw what ‘Scotty from marketing’ had to say when he opened parliament with his speech. The sick feeling turned to anger pretty quickly after hearing what Mr Morrison had to say.
The Prime Minister didn’t say anything offensive or untrue; it was what he failed to say which got me offside. Firstly, he did the obligatory ‘thoughts and prayers’ which was worded in such a way that he conveyed his sentiment while noticeable not using the words thoughts and prayers. Followed by some stats, “One woman every nine days is killed by a partner or former partner.” In the next few sentences he laid down his second statistic, “One in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of fifteen.” Whenever I hear statistics like this the first thing I do is reach for disbelief, not wanting to accept that the country in which we live has an endemic problem of domestic violence. Unfortunately, after a while I accept the facts and acknowledge the severity of the problem.
The reason why Mr Morrison upset me stemmed from this quote. “We must reflect on how and where the system failed Hannah and her children as it has failed so many others.” One would question why this quote would upset me as it seems like the Prime Minister is shining a light on a serious issue that we as a country face, the one in which he leads. My issues is that this is a series of words that have been crafted into a sincere sounding sentence that doesn’t fucking mean anything!
In the house of representatives, a room that is mostly full of men, I did not see a single man take a stand and lead the country’s male population. On that day a male should have stood in that room and taken the lead and vowed, “We men must do better!”
We as men are failing the women and children of this country. We need a culture shift! In the past I have seen stories like this and told myself “I would never,” and then continued on with my life. I now realise that it is not enough. We need every male in this country to know from a young age that there is no excuse for a male to lay his hands on a female or an infant with violent intent or with the intent of sexual abuse. Boys need to know that it is above all morally incorrect and illegal. Boys need to know how serious the consequences will be if they break this law. Fathers need to tell their sons; teachers need to tell their students; any male of authority needs to be instilling this information into the boys of this nation. Our Prime Minister should be shouting it from the rooftops!
Violence against women is a male problem and needs to be fixed by men. It sounds confronting that all men must take accountability for a problem that is one perpetrated by a few, but if Scomo’s statistics are correct, 41 Australian women die every year at the hands of a partner or former partner. If we let this statistic remain then there is something deeply wrong with our country.
I had hoped that one of our elected leaders would have taken a public lead in the wake of the tragedy of Hannah Clarke and her three children but I was disappointed so I guess it falls on the rest of us to start fixing this issue. Without our leaders in Canberra spearheading this shift in culture, it’s going to be slow going but we as men should make a start.
In the near future, I hope our leaders make a meaningful and public stand on domestic violence- but I wouldn’t expect the current Prime Minister to challenge the status quo. Until a leader has the courage to make the necessary stand on family violence, it is down to the individual male to challenge this issue.
On the off chance that Scomo wants to make a meaningful stand, I know you love a slogan Mister Prime Minister so try this one, “We men must do better.”