Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, was unimpressed enough with his sharing of women’s personal notes about their abuse in his speech to tweet: “Scott has just finished his opening keynote address at the Women’s Safety Summit in which he appropriated private disclosures from survivors to leverage his own image. Gee, I bet it felt good to get that out.”
The last line was a reference to the Prime Minister’s reported comment to Ms Tame after her arrestingly candid National Press Club speech, in which she revealed detail of her sexual abuse by a teacher as a 15-year-old.
It’s a lot to get past but for those willing to offer Mr Morrison the “good faith” he requested, there were some reasons for hope.
Some words written for him and ministers Anne Ruston and Marise Payne implied their government finally gets it that violence against women is a gendered (and intersectional) issue, that men must be held accountable and large amounts of money must be devoted to prevention and response.
Scott Morrison is not renowned for calling on men to own violence against women.
“All of us, but Australian men in particular, carry both private obligations and public expectations to change this behaviour,” he said on Monday. “Men have a large part to play, as do families, friends, businesses, sporting organisations … prime ministers.”
Every day, women are forced to change their behaviours “because men won’t: holding their keys like a weapon, going for their run before it gets dark. Having to say to their friends, ‘Message me when you get home.’ Ignoring innuendo, and putting up with comments.
“Respect for women in Australian society is not what it should be,” he said.
Many experts and advocates remain unconvinced this summit will prove anything more than window-dressing.
They have reason to withhold their judgment given it has taken so much airing of women’s pain in 2021 to achieve so little change.
The summit may turn out to be too little, too late, but if there’s real commitment behind Morrison’s lines, we could conclude it’s a start.