Phase three launch event


Hello there, everyone, on behalf of the chief warden and I, welcome to all of you to the launch, the phase three Stop it at the Start campaign. I would love to tell you that I organised that fire alarm just to get your attention. Sad truth is, I think it was just a technical issue. I do have to be careful, though, because just before COVID, I did an event with Gordon Ramsay and the exact same thing happened. So, I need to be mindful I do not get a reputation for this. But ladies and gentlemen, it is so wonderful that you could be here firstly in this extraordinary building.

Hello to you there. Thank you so much to the Commonwealth Bank for inviting us here into this amazing building where the art alone is astonishing. But also thank you so much to the Commonwealth Bank for hosting our morning tea here on this wonderful International Women’s Day. You have chosen to be amongst an extraordinary line-up of women here today who will be hearing from over the course of our chat coming up. So my name is Catriona Rowntree. I am thrilled to be your host for this morning.

Now, you may recognise me possibly from the last thirty years, being in your living room via the telly, the last twenty five years bringing the world to you via Getaway. It is also a delight for me to be here as a mother. I will be taking notes throughout the morning. I would, of course, first like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of this land and paying our respect to their Elders past and present, and also to extending that respect to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are here with us this morning. Hello and welcome.

So, today on International Women’s Day, held annually, of course, on the 8th, right around the world, we recognise and we celebrate the achievements of women. This year the theme, I’m not sure if you know it is choose to challenge, which just aligns beautifully with our launch with this campaign as well. Stop it at the Start is aimed at calling out behaviours to reduce violence against women and their children.

So, shortly, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to welcome to the stage how perfect for us, the Minister for Women who has just arrived here as the bells were going off. Also, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Honourable Marise Payne, who will give our opening address. We also are fortunate enough to have the Minister for Families and Social Services. Senator, the Honourable Anne Ruston will be speaking with us too.

We have a fantastic panel who will be joining us a little bit later. I will try to not ask too many questions of Maggie Dent, about children, I mentioned I’ve got two very cheeky boys. Maggie has four sons and of course, is the best-selling author, educator and parenting specialist. Kerry, and I promise not to ask too many rugby questions. Kerry Chikarovski, of course, is with the board director of Our Watch. And we also have members here this morning from the creative agency. And also we have who you will know here well.

We also have Sian Lewis, who is the Commonwealth Bank group executive of Human Resources. I heard a crazy fact about Sian that she was in charge of around 30,000 people. And as I asked for that fact to be checked, Sian actually walked past and she said it’s 48,000 people. So, we genuinely appreciate your time this morning. All right, then, first and foremost, please, I welcome to the stage, Minister Payne.

Of course, Minister Payne has been the Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2018, also appointed the Minister for Women in 2019 and gender equality and to make sure that gender equality is taken into consideration with policy development. Prior to this, she served as the Defence Minister for three years and was the first woman, I do believe, to hold that post. She has been with the Liberal Party in New South Wales since 1997 and is absolutely passionate about the Geelong Cats, which I, sorry, I just had to had to make mention of and of course, making her beloved community of the Western Suburbs reaching its full potential. Would you please welcome the Minister to the stage right now?


Thank you very much, Catriona, and good morning, everyone, and it is fabulous to be here this morning on a very important International Women’s Day.

I want to also acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we’re meeting this morning, pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. And I also want to acknowledge all of the aunties and the mothers and the sisters and the nieces who are such extraordinary leaders in our Australian Indigenous community.

I’m very pleased to be here today with my friend and colleague, Senator Anne Ruston, the Minister for Families and Social Services, along with, as we see, a range of business, sporting and sector leaders to launch the next phase of the Stop it at the Start, Prevention of Violence Against Women campaign.

I want to really welcome to New South Wales my friend Michelle Lensink, the South Australian Minister, welcome to New South Wales, for Human Services. With whom Anne and I work closely on the Women’s Safety Taskforce. And it is a pleasure to see you in person, Michelle, after a year at least, of virtual meetings. Welcome.

Can I acknowledge Sian Lewis as well? I understand the significant responsibility that tens of thousands of staff can present. I started as Minister for Human Services with 35,000 staff and 400 physical locations across Australia and moved from that role to being Australia’s Minister for Defence. More than 80,000 personnel and countless domestic locations and international as well.

So, Sian, what you do for the Commonwealth Bank is a very, very important role. And can I also acknowledge the head of the Office of Women, Catherine Hawkins, who is here with us this morning, and our Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. Thank you both very much for joining us.

As I looked at the attendance list today and now as I see so many of you here in front of us, I recognise that many of you who are here today dedicate much of your personal and your professional energies to ending violence against women and children in Australia and in our region. Extraordinary people, many of you on the front lines helping those whose lives are impacted by family and domestic violence. I see people who advocate on behalf of those who otherwise would not have a voice. And I recognise many of you as well, who conduct research, who document and identify the drivers of violence against women and children. Your endeavours help to build our shared understanding of violence against women so that we can develop the best possible evidence-based prevention and response plans.

I particularly want to thank the Commonwealth Bank for hosting this event. I know CommBank does much more than host conversations like this, and that leadership is important. Now more than ever, is the time for individuals, business, the community and government to come together to discuss family and domestic violence, the attitudes that lead to violence and to contribute to stopping that violence. As Australia’s largest bank, I commend CBA for your strong focus on improving financial well-being for all Australians, including those particularly in vulnerable circumstances, like survivors of domestic and family violence and financial abuse. Indeed, financial abuse can be a reason, a customer may disclose experiencing domestic and family violence to their bank. While in government, we can work to promote gender equality in the safety of women and children. Absolutely it is organisations like yours, Australia’s largest bank, that also make an enormous difference to the rate of change and to the change itself that we want to see in this country.

As Australia’s Foreign Minister and as Australia’s Minister for Women, addressing violence against women and their children is one of my highest priorities. We know that the levels of domestic, family and sexual violence in this country and in our region are not acceptable. The statistics are not easy to say or to hear. One woman is killed every nine days by a current or former partner. Every day, twelve women are hospitalised because of domestic and family violence. Every two minutes, police are called to a domestic and family violence matter.

Indigenous women over the age of 15 years are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than non-Indigenous women. Women with disability bear a significant burden in terms of violence. We also know that violence against women does not just occur in the home. Violence against women can occur online, in the community and in the workplace. And violence comes in many forms. We have all been shocked by the distressing revelations and allegations in recent weeks that particularly relate to the treatment of women in my workplace, in the Australian Parliament. They are distressing and disturbing, even horrifying to those of us who are hearing of them. And speaking of them.

But that’s nothing to the distress and the damage caused by those who are surviving through the experience of assault or of harassment. And clearly, as a national workplace, the parliament is starkly not immune from the sorts of issues that have impacted workplaces around our country and, frankly, around the world for far too long.

As I said last week on Friday, at UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day lunch, it has to change. It must change, and the only way it will change is if we as parliamentarians own the problems, own the failings. And make the necessary changes ourselves.

By its very nature, a parliament is a highly contested, highly politicised workplace. But I do know, after years of experience, that the political system does have the capacity to work together to address this issue and these challenges. And we will. It cannot wait.

Like too many other workplaces, the corporate world, the judiciary, tertiary institutions, sporting organisations, the arts, defence forces, we, like so many of these are facing these issues and we will deal with them. That it has been a non-partisan, multi-party approach that brought us to the determination of the independent inquiry and review process that included the leadership of the opposition, the Australian Greens, the independents and other minor parties has been absolutely essential. That independent review into the workplaces of parliamentarians and their staff was announced by the Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham, on Friday.

The aim of the review is to ensure all Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces are safe and respectful. And that our national parliament reflects best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. The review will consider recommendations to ensure that the people who work in parliamentary workplaces are treated with dignity and respect and have access to clear and effective mechanisms to prevent and address bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

I want to acknowledge again our Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, who will lead that review. On my part and on the part of the government, I assure you, I assure Commissioner Jenkins, that we will work together as a parliament to address this. We will work together on change, on changing and stopping the behaviours of perpetrators, on a system that provides the sort of safe workplace to which every person has a right.

As Minister for Women, I have spent the last 18 months or so, almost two years listening to Australian women, almost 20 roundtables around our country, over 300 people, more than 30 hours of discourse, of listening to their priorities and their concerns and ensuring that the policies that government articulates and implements, give women an equal opportunity to live lives of value. To be safe and to contribute is an absolute priority for this government.

It is one of the reasons why we invested over $240 million into the 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement, focused on women’s economic security, women’s leadership, women’s safety and participation over the next five years. It’s why we’re supporting women in leadership, including in STEM, in entrepreneurship and in sport. It’s why we continue our unwavering commitment to support women and children who experience violence and to support measures to stop violence from happening in the first place.

Violence against women and their children is preventable, and through the fourth action plan of the National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children, 2010 to 2022, the Commonwealth, the state and territory governments have prioritised primary prevention of violence against women. That is to stop the violence before it starts. We’ve prioritised primary prevention because we know it works. There is clear evidence that in order to reduce and prevent violence against women, we need to change attitudes and behaviours that lead to this violence.

I acknowledge much of this evidence has been led by national primary prevention organisation Our Watch. And I note that Our Watch Board Director, Kerry Chikarovski, and CEO, Patty Kinnersley, are here with us today. The research shows that we need to challenge attitudes that condone violence against women, challenge gender stereotypes and roles, promote women’s independence, leadership and decision making, and strengthen equal and respectful relationships. The Fourth Action Plan is supporting a range of primary prevention initiatives, including community-based primary prevention, work in specific settings such as schools and universities, the media and online and through national awareness-raising campaigns like the one that gathers us here today. Stop it at the Start.

Our national conversation is shifting, there is growing awareness of family, domestic and sexual violence, as well as those supports that are available and what can be done to prevent it. There is, however, much more to be done, that’s why we’re ensuring also that support is available to women and their children who are experiencing violence, including through funding for 1800RESPECT and through the men’s line.

In 2021, we can reflect on the difficult year that was 2020. It was a challenging year for so many people, and we do know that at times of crisis, the risk of violence can increase against women and children. Our states and territories on the front line, their agencies and the bodies that they fund reported an increase in the complexity of cases in responding to violence during this time. And through the Commonwealth government, we provided a $150 million coronavirus domestic violence support package to support women and children through experiencing domestic family and sexual violence during the pandemic.

That funding, overwhelmingly delivered to the states and territory governments, supported the investment in specialist services to support women and children, most at risk of violence during the pandemic services such as crisis accommodation, frontline services and perpetrator intervention programs. We also, through the Commonwealth, boosted capacity for our national programs, including, as I’ve said, 1800RESPECT, Men’s Line Australia. The support for Trafficked People program, the men’s referral line to meet that additional demand and complexity during the pandemic.

Since 2013, as a government, we have made a very significant investment to prevent and respond to violence against women and their children of over a billion dollars. But we are coming to the end of the current National Plan to reduce violence against women 2010 to 2022. A plan that has spanned multiple governments of different political colours, and so now we have a real opportunity to consider the progress that we’ve made over the last 10 years, the challenges that continue as we plan the next decade and beyond, and therefore, what more needs to be done?

Minister Ruston, the cabinet and I are working together to develop the next National Plan, which will succeed the current plan when it concludes in 2022. We’re working closely with our state and territory counterparts through the Women’s Safety Taskforce to develop the next National Plan. And we’ll particularly look forward to working with stakeholders, those who are represented in the room today and elsewhere across the country on this important work.

Preventing, reducing violence against women is a shared responsibility. It will take the shared efforts of all levels of government. Of business, of non-government organisations and of the community, I am hopeful that we have the right foundations and we have absolutely, have the will in Australia, to ensure together that all women will be able to live free from violence and abuse. I look forward to seeing our campaign launched today, thank my colleague Anne Ruston for her leadership in bringing this forward, and I look forward to watching it with you.


Thank you so much, Minister Payne, and thank you so much also for emphasising the importance of primary prevention. That is something that we all agree on here. And as you say with those statistics that you mention, it’s shocking to read. It’s shocking to listen to. But we need to hear that as our call to action. And that is what brings us here now for this campaign. So, it aligns perfectly as we hear from our next speaker, Minister Ruston, who, of course, is the Minister for Families and Social Services, who oversees a huge range of social issues, as you can imagine, from mental health to families and to our children, to people with disabilities and their carers, to seniors, and focused on reducing violence against women and their children. Would you please welcome our Minister, Minister Ruston.


Thank you very much, Catriona. And can I thank Marise for what I think are probably some of the most important words that we will hear this year and acknowledge that they are the words that Australia needs to hear, and we’ll keep saying them until we get the change that we need to make sure that we have got the best possible Australia for all women and their children and every Australian because every Australian has the right to live safely. Can I also acknowledge the land, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who are in the audience with us today.

It’s fantastic to be here on International Women’s Day to launch this amazing campaign. And can I acknowledge that the piece of the puzzle that I think has probably been missing over recent years has been the engagement and involvement of the private sector. And I acknowledge the Commonwealth Bank. And Sian thank you so much for the leadership that you are showing in this space, because it’s tremendously important that if we are going to make the change we have, all of us have to play a role. And I think the change leadership that’s being shown by Commonwealth Bank in this space is to be commended.

So, today we’re here to launch the third phase of the Stop it at the Start campaign, which is a national primary prevention tool, to make sure that we play our part in making sure that we stop violence against Australian women and their children. I have absolutely no doubt that everybody who’s sitting in the room today has exactly the same goal as Marise and I, and that is that we want to be part of the change that stops violence. We don’t just want to make sure that we reduce it. We want to make sure it no longer exists.

But to do that, we have to make sure that everybody in our society understands that it is not OK. Domestic and family violence is not OK. And it should never be part of Australian life. It should never even occur to somebody that the use of violence is a solution to a problem that they may have. But unfortunately, that is not the reality that everybody in our society sees. And unfortunately, until we make the changes that we need to make, that will continue. So, what we’re here today, we are here today is to say that that must change. So, as part of the National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children, we are announcing today the third phase that follows on from the first two phases of the Stop it at the Start campaign. The first phase back in 2016 had an extraordinary impact on the Australian thinking.

Evaluation tells us that the first two phases significantly increased the audience understanding across the whole of Australia about what disrespectful attitudes could do in our community and also the understanding that it is actually our children that need to make sure that they never establish these disrespectful attitudes in the first place. So, the understanding of the link between disrespectful behaviour and attitudes and violence against women, we have seen a significant improvement in the understanding of that correlation. During the first two stages of the campaign, about 70 per cent of adults that we surveyed had remembered seeing the campaign. 60 per cent said that they had taken some sort of positive action as a result of seeing the campaign, such as having a conversation with a young person about their relationship.

We just think it is so terribly important that leaders, so adults have the confidence to be able to speak to young people so that they can understand what it is to have a respectful relationship and in doing so, change the culture of the Australian psyche so that we have a culture of respect. But as Minister Payne said in her remarks, it is absolutely critical that we take hold of the momentum that we have at the moment with it being a conversation that is in the public discourse in a very large way to make sure that we actually take hold of the opportunity for behavioural change. So, in March 2019, the government, the Morrison Government, committed $16.7 million to deliver the third phase of the Stop it at the Start campaign.

We’ve also received funding from a number of other states. And I acknowledge Michelle Lensink, the Minister from South Australia who has state government, has contributed, along with the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, to take the program up to an $18.8 million price, which gives us the greatest opportunity to be able to make an impact.

With phase one, our advertising materials were really about just creating an awareness of that correlation between disrespectful behaviour and violence against women. The phase two advertisements showed how our words and actions can be misinterpreted in the lives of young people and making sure that we reiterated the role that we need to play about positively shaping the attitudes of young people by our own actions and making sure that we lead by example.

With the third phase of the Stop it at the Start campaign, we’ve shifted the focus away from awareness to action. We want all members of our community to recognise the opportunities that each and every one of us have to make change by putting and making sure that we are actually active in stamping out disrespectful behaviour in our communities. We need to take the opportunity to intervene when our children are doing things that we think aren’t respectful, challenging disrespectful attitudes and behaviours is absolutely essential when you see it. We need to challenge, all of us need to challenge, ourselves that we must do better and to role model healthy and respectful relationships wherever we might be.

The challenge our community to come together, because as we said, every single person in Australia has a role to play in changing those attitudes. The Stop it at the Start stage three will go to air on Sunday this week with advertisements running across a whole range of platforms, that we supported by other tools to make sure that people have the resources when they hopefully are triggered by the campaign, the advertisement to actually take action and go and find out for themselves what they can do and how they can help in this attitude change process. We’ve also made sure that we’ve got resources that are specific to our Indigenous communities and our culturally and linguistically diverse communities, because often they require a different set of tools to make sure that they come along the journey of this respectful community that we want to build for all Australians.

Like you, I’m very excited about the opportunity of rolling out this campaign because I think they will spur conversations in the home, in the school, in the schoolyard, on sports fields, in our community, because it must, we must have these conversations across the whole of the country. So, what we’re saying is, if you see disrespectful behaviour, don’t ignore it, don’t excuse it, call it out for what it is. Because even though we know that not all disrespect ends in domestic violence, we know that domestic and family violence always starts with disrespect. So, we all want an Australia that is free from domestic violence. But it can only be a reality if we all work together to make sure that that happens. So it now gives me great pleasure for us to be able to show you the stage three of the Stop it at the Start campaign, which will go to air next Sunday. So thank you very much.

The 60 second Unmute Yourself television commercial plays.

We open on a family backyard BBQ. It’s a normal summer’s day. A boy is throwing a ball against a fence, a little too close to the girl standing there. She calls out “stop!”

His parents see this and the dad looks concerned. He says to himself and his wife, “He needs to stop doing that”.

The girl calls out again, “I said stop!”

The wife hesitates, uncomfortably and says, “He probably just likes her…?”

The dad doesn’t know whether to say something. A darkening shadow appears over the fathers face.

Cut to a boys soccer match. We see a father trying to motivate his young son. “Map up! You’re playing like a girl!”

The son looks exhausted, and frowns.

We cut to the Granddad, who looks over at his son, not sure whether to speak up. A darkening shadow appears over his face.

We see two sisters walking down a street. We hear texts coming through on the younger sisters’ phone.

The younger sister slows to a stop and the older sister turns to her.

We cut to a close-up on the phone screen and we see a series of texts from her boyfriend coming through.

He texts, “Where are you?”. “With my sister” she texts back. He texts in quick succession: “You’re lying. Are you with someone else? Message me back or else!”

The younger sister hesitates before she says, “He does this all the time… He just misses me.”

A darkening shadow appears over the older sister’s face.

We cut to a shot of a man having an arguement with his girlfriend. Their words are unintelligable, but they’re angry.

The boyfriend raises the phone in his hand, as if to throw it. The girlfriend cowers at the wall.

We cut to the young girl from the first scene, the family BBQ. She’s cowering against the fence, as the ball hits near her head. She cries out “Stop!”

We cut back to the dad, and see a mute symbol showing next to his face which is darkened by a shadow.

We see the mute symbol and the shadow disappear. Dad says, “Doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse.”

The mum considers this, and looking at the scene with fresh eyes says, “Yeah, we need to chat to him.”

She calls to her son, “Hey!” and the son looks up.

We see the mum and dad having a conversation with their son.

A voiceover says “We all have the power to end violence. If you see disrespect, unmute yourself.”

Violence against women. Let’s Stop it at the Start. For tools and support, visit

Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra.

The 60 second Unmute Yourself television commercial stops playing.



What do you think? It’s confronting. I know it’s confronting, but we also know that these campaigns work.

Thank you so much, Minister Ruston, for also acknowledging in your speech that it’s one thing to have awareness, but we now need the call to action. But equally, I think something that I’ve been able to see travelling the world for the last 25 years is we also need visual tools. And that word tools really stood out for me as I was watching those ads. And we do need to acknowledge that some people need visual guidance. We can’t just accept that everybody gets the reading material. We need a campaign like this and we know these campaigns work. For me, growing up, we had the Keep Australia Beautiful campaign. We had quit smoking, stop drinking. Campaigns do actually work.

So, in a sense, I think there was so much reason for optimism here today. But you have to be creative with those campaigns. You need a great team to pull a campaign, an ad like that together. Where do you start? Where do you go? It’s got to be precise. So let’s have a chat now to the creative team who put that ad together, who put the whole campaign together. It is remarkable.

So, I would like for you to have a chat right now to the team from BMF. I would like to welcome the chief, say that three times, Chief Strategy Officer Christina Aventi and the group creative director Pia Chaudhuri from BMF Australia. Thank you so much for joining us.


Hi, I’m Christina. I have had the privilege of working on this campaign for the Department of Social Services and its Communications Branch, and,


I’m Pia Chaudhuri, the Group Creative Director overseeing the creative product of this campaign.


And before we start, we would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet on today. OK, Stop it at the Start, phase three.

Before we actually go into, I guess, the foundations of phase three, I wanted to just talk a little bit about the sort of long term platform that we’ve built over time. Then we’ll talk about the build. It’s time to unmute and then we’ll talk about some of the communications challenges that we face right from the beginning onwards. First up, if we just rewind to about 2015, intervention and conversation was predominantly around end stage domestic violence.

We didn’t commonly talk of respectful relationships. We thought, sayings like “boys will be boys” – I’ve said that a thousand times in my forty six years, was perfectly OK. The thing about this is when you look at that, it’s quite systemic. It’s quite complicated. We were talking about the symptoms and not the root causes. And around the world, these kind of campaigns focused on something more curative rather than preventative. Now, if we fast forward to now, we know there’s a lot that we have to do and there’s a lot that has to be done. But there has been positive shifts in the right direction. Something like respectful relationships is now common parlance, something we refer to day in, day out.

And the thing about this is when you’ve got a deeply gendered issue and you’ve got this centre of gravity in something called respect, you get lots of different people on the same page very quickly. And in respect, you take this problem right back to the beginning and you start to understand the influences that determine what respect looks like, what it talks like and how it shows up. It’s quite a ripple effect and I want to just touch upon that now, that difference between end stage intervention and primary prevention and why it is such a critical part of the communications mix. If we just take that river metaphor, that river analogy for a second at the beginning, what we were doing and this is the case that these kind of campaigns all around the world is we were jumping in and saving drowning person after drowning person, OK?

We were focused on fixing the problem because it’s what we could see. We weren’t actually focused on looking at where the problem was originating. But if we swim upstream, then we start to understand the cause and why all the people were drowning. In this case, it was disrespect. And I know that seems really obvious now, but as Senator Ruston was saying, back then, we didn’t see the link between disrespect and domestic violence and that it’s learnt at a very young age and the excuses that we make allow it to grow. And therein lies probably one of the main communications challenges that we faced early on. Comments like these, “he did it because he likes you”, how could that possibly lead to the impacts that you see on the right there? How can I be complicit in that? That comment, there is something that sometimes is sort of well-intentioned. It’s designed to diffuse the situation. Sometimes it’s even motivated out of love.

Now, there’s a long sort of chain of transmission there. It’s a long cause and effect chain. It’s very hard to see ourselves as complicit in it, but it all adds up. And therein lies one of the main communications challenges. It’s due to this thing called the value action gap. And we use this in behavioural social marketing a lot. And what the theory is here is that when we identify with a value so strongly, so, in this case, respect, we’re almost blind to how our actions run counter to that. Now, some of those biases that you see up there, these all reinforce gender stereotypes, OK. And they grow in the mind of a young person. Now, over time and on repeat, these become the norm. And what we needed to do was really shut down those excuses.

So, we had to take a step change approach. In the first instance, we really needed to land disrespect as the seed of domestic violence, really put a line in the sand and show that multiplier effect. In the second phase, it was all about linking it to our own actions and impacts so, that we understood that, “Yeah, actually I am part of the problem. I am complicit in those unwitting things that I say every day.” And if we all do it, it all adds up. And that’s really critical to making sure that we understand that cause and effect chain. And then we’ve got phase three, which is all about speaking up in a moment of disrespect.

Now, with that, what you’ll find is that the phase three actually builds on all the meaning we’ve built in phase one and all the meaning that we’ve built in phase two. We could never have gone straight here. We kind of needed phase one to get everyone on the same page and to prime them to take out that main sort of you know, cause and effect, that it does start with disrespect. The thing is, the other reason we have to have stepped change is because there’s a communication barrier at every phase. I talked about that one earlier on at the start of the campaign. And when it comes to speaking up, it has its own communication barriers. Probably the main thing here is that there’s a lot of social risk attached to intervening.

As a parent, you’re like, “well, how is this going to impact on my relationship with my child? What will other people in the community think? Will they think I’m overreacting?” So, what we have to do is de-risk intervening. Build that confidence, build that self-efficacy. And we do that in a few different ways. One of the ways is, we make sure we have receiver, responder, and the community responding and showing that it’s normal and that it’s OK. To increase that confidence, to intervene. But people are always looking for excuses and reasons to exit communications. It walks a really fine line.

We had over 81 focus groups, 346 respondents, CALD, Indigenous, countless hours of research. And no matter what you do, it’s a case of sort of snakes and ladders. The minute you have a communication win, you can fall straight down. We looked at idea, execution, facial expressions, showing intent, but not too much intent, making sure we didn’t trigger trauma in victims. Even scenarios we thought were OK were met with cynicism and we had to address them.

So, I guess the challenge there creatively is, how do you make sure you have the right message for as many people as possible without being generic or vanilla-ising your communications. Because that’s the danger when you’re trying to appeal to all people. We’ve got to make sure this has an impact, OK. We’ve got to make sure this has cut through. Otherwise, these messages are going to fall on deaf ears. So, we leant into, I guess, creative technique and tactics to make sure this had the force and the impact it needed to really land these messages. And I’m gonna hand over to Pia to talk through that.


So, obviously, the campaign we’re here to talk about today is called, “If you see disrespect, Unmute Yourself”, it was born out of this idea of we’ve all experienced those moments where you’ve witnessed an act of disrespect and you’re in that should I, shouldn’t I, experience of I’m not really sure what I can do right now. Perhaps if I don’t say anything, it will just go away. This whole campaign obviously is about dramatising that moment and giving people the tools, a very simple tool of asking them to unmute themselves in that moment to change potentially a boy’s future and a woman’s life.

We actually came up with a campaign prior to COVID, and it has become an unexpectedly resonant symbol, the symbol of 2020 in some ways. But yes, I did want to highlight that. And before we go on, so, obviously we’ve talked a lot about the kind of heuristics that have gone into the campaign. But I just wanted to talk a little bit about the nuances of the dialogue and the performance. So, obviously, the mute symbol is just one small part.

However, every single scene, every character, every line of dialogue was directed to within an inch of its life in order to create the exact emotion. So, lines like “he probably just likes her” had to be delivered uncertainly – the mother, she had to be uncertain about showing this because deep down, she knows that it’s not the right sentiment. “Man up. You’re playing like a girl.” The dad is not the villain in the piece. He wants to be encouraging to his son. It’s just a saying to him that he hasn’t really thought about. And then the younger sister, you know, she’s in a coercive control relationship. However, “he does this all the time. He just misses me.” She’s just trying to dismiss what is clear to her older sister in that case.

And obviously, the same goes for the unmuted responses here. The dad had to be resolute in his response. The grandfather very clear that what was being said was not acceptable. However, he couldn’t be sarcastic. He’s not you know, he’s not being snarky with what he’s saying. And then the older sister, very firm and definitive with her, “do not put up with that”. That lots of design choices also went into the creative. So, we chose a gritty, greyed, quite naturalistic, but we wanted it to feel real. We wanted to put people in those moments and feel like they could relate. We also used a design divisive shade to kind of accentuate those moments when people are contemplating whether or not to speak up and light, when they finally decide to unmute alongside that, in the longer film, you would have seen that there’s an audio device that comes in over the mute symbol and it’s layered.

So, it builds this sense of dread as we lead towards that escalation point where we see the fighting couple at the end. And then that final scene, it’s there for a couple of reasons. But obviously to close that cognitive loop, to link that disrespectful behaviour in the beginning to the fight that we see at the end. Creatively, we decided to do this through a match cut.

So, we recreated that exact composition of the girl in the backyard with the older woman in her apartment. We even made choices like painting the backyard fence the same colour as the wall to really create that cognitive loop effect. Those are some of the creative choices that have gone into this campaign. But obviously, we hope it goes some way to helping the victims of domestic violence and family abuse. Thank you.



Thank you so much to both Pia and Christina. We are now going to strike a lectern, as we say, as we set up a few chairs for our panel conversation. I must say, Christina, thank you so, much. Well done on giving us context to this campaign. As you say, hundreds of hours of research go into what you refer to as having cut through, because what is the point of having a campaign if we do not have that cut through? And Pia, you also mentioned the importance of having those visual tools as well. And I was struck by when you said because I related to it, we’ve all been in this situation. We’ve all been in this situation when we’ve overheard things and we’ve seen things. And I suppose for me, I’m grateful that that’s acknowledged, but also that we need now to know the tools.

And sometimes it is as simple as just give me the line, make me feel comfortable and safe in that environment as well. So, thank you. Thank you for referring to that and equally for giving us the behind the scenes context of how much work goes into a campaign like this that we hope to change society. It’s so, very important. Well, ladies and gentlemen, our chairs are now set up. So, I will welcome to the stage our four remarkable women. I mentioned to you earlier that we are so fortunate to be here today with so many incredible women, but particularly our four panellists. So, we of course have Minister Ruston who is here today, and something that I didn’t mention about Minister Ruston, blessed to call Renmark in South Australia home, for me, I married a farmer and I’ve been creating a garden from a sheep paddock and I have no nurseries near me.

So, I go by catalogues and hello Ruston Roses, we actually have a member of the family here who created this unbelievably successful business. So, I am not worthy in that realm as well. So, I’m sorry, I just have to mention that because I’m so in awe of your family and all that you’ve achieved before, making it to this extraordinary role as well. I know that many of you will know Sian Lewis, who is here today. Sian, lovely to have you here, who, of course, has been with the Commonwealth Bank group since 2018, executive of human resources. Unbelievable experience in the banking sector, in business, of course too, I believe with Westpac earlier we’ve had a chat about that. We also sort of made mention that here we are on International Women’s Day.

And can you believe we even need a day like this? There’s something so, almost odd about that in a sense. So, we welcome your thoughts here today. Maggie Dent, who is a legend in her own lifetime in a sense. And I mentioned as a mother, I will try not to ask too many personal questions, but I’m so, grateful that Maggie is here, Australia’s favourite parenting author and educator, passionate about having a positive voice for children of all ages. Many of you may know the podcast on the ABC Parental as Anything. Welcome, Maggie. Thank you so much for being here. And Kerry Chikarovski, who with the greatest respect has been in my life for many, many years. Kerry said a lot of people say that. I’ve been around for a while for me growing up here in Sydney.

Of course, Kerry, the head of the Liberal Party, I believe the first woman to hold that role here in New South Wales. My next step with Kerry was cheering on our rugby team from the stands. We are passionate about our sport. We love our rugby. And of course, many of you know that she’s put that into practise as a board member with New South Wales Rugby Union, of course, women’s rugby union, the Humpty Dumpty Foundation and Adopt Change. And it’s wonderful to hear your voice, because we also agree on the impact that sport in general, but particularly women in sport, can have.

So, thank you very much for joining us. I’m respectful of the time constraints so I will get straight into our questions. Of course, here we have the Women’s Day, International Women’s Day, ethos is ‘Choosing to Challenge’ aligning beautifully with our campaign, Stop it at the Start, we mentioned the fact of the importance of primary prevention. So, if I could turn to you, firstly, Minister Ruston in regards to possibly explaining what primary prevention is and the importance of would it be right to say, getting in early?


Look absolutely. And I think that’s the whole basis of the campaign. And as you rightly point out, the theme of today’s International Women’s Day, it couldn’t go better in terms of actually you know, speaking up it’s all well and good to think, but unless you’re actually prepared to take action, you missed the entire point. But it’s interesting, I mean, clearly, everybody in this room understands very, very well the drivers behind domestic and family violence. But more broadly in the community, I think there still are a number of people. Well, we know from the research that there are still a number of people that hold violence excusing attitudes towards things.

We know that you know that there are many out there who think that a behaviour is justified simply because somebody got angry. They didn’t really mean it. They just got angry. And you know that even to the extent where we’ve, through the research, even seen that some people actually say, well, he only hit her because he was really angry. And so, what we need to do is that we need to change those attitudes before they become entrenched in young people. And that’s what is the absolute basis of this. And, you know, the whole fundamental development of this campaign has been around unless you can actually convince adults that some of the things they do as examples to younger people in our society, then younger people pick up those attitudes and then take them forward believing that they are acceptable. And in the process of doing that, you do get these behaviour excusing attitudes developing in young children.

So, the purpose of this is to say if we as adults actually have a think about what we’re doing and the example that we’re setting. Then hopefully we actually can break that cycle because unless we can break the cycle and stop domestic violence from happening, domestic and family violence from happening in the first place, all we are going to do is to continue to put a Band-Aid on a problem. Are we gonna continue to read about the statistics that Marise talked about, those horrible statistics we all find confronting. We’ve actually got to stop those statistics happening in the first place. And I think the campaign, now that it’s got to its third stage, is giving people the tools and the confidence that they actually can start intervening at that level so we can Stop it at the Start.


And how important is it to have a visual campaign like this. You know, I mentioned that there is reason for hope. If we look at history, if we look at the campaigns that have gone before us, they have been proactive and they have worked with whether it is stopping smoking. I mean, in a sense now, I mean, my children wouldn’t even consider smoking at all. But that has all come about from campaigns like this. So, why do you see it’s important to actually have this visual campaign?


Well, I mean, part of the campaign is having all sorts of different tools because different people are receptive to different things. We know that generally the quickest and easiest way to recept something is when you see it. And if you can see it and you can imagine yourself in that situation, then it makes it a lot easier. And you know, that cognitive loop of I didn’t actually I think this and I hold those values very dearly, but I don’t actually see that over here that I’m actually completely counterintuitively behaving against those core values.

And I think if you can paint the picture, you know, follow the bouncing ball, it gives you a much better chance of being able to see how that’s happening. But there are a whole heap of other tools that sit behind that, the initial campaign that we will make available to people and they can get them online because once you’ve actually got that concept in your mind, “hey, hang on a minute, yes, I can do something.” We then need to provide the tools by other means. But it’s that first sort of like hit you in the face. No, that’s a terrible analogy. Can I cancel that one entirely?




Impact. But it is a very confronting thing that you see visually. We will then lead you to that behavioural change.


And Christina, you mentioned that too, you’ve got to have the cut through like you’ve done the research, but you can’t really go softly, softly about it, can you? We actually want change from this. That’s what it’s all about. Kerry with your background in regards to government as well as business as well as sport, which we touched on before, just specifically with government. How important is it that they get involved?


Well, I think the most encouraging thing about the debate in relation to domestic violence over the last several years is that it’s a bipartisan approach. It’s all levels of government. It’s federal, it’s state, it’s local government. Everyone is now accepting that this is not a problem for someone else. This is not a problem that you can just push away and think, “oh, yeah, it’s a family thing.” I mean, I was giving the example not long ago that when I was a kid growing up and when I first went into parliament, which was in the 90s.

People wouldn’t come to you with domestic violence issues. Constituents wouldn’t, they wouldn’t come in the way that they do now because it was a domestic and there was no recognition that a domestic for one family was actually a domestic which impacted all of us as a community. And that’s massively changed. And I give credit to, as I said, both sides of the house, particular credit to the federal government over the last 12 months, where it’s been a real issue because of the COVID impact. So, I think you know, the big things governments are doing are one, making sure with campaigns like this that people understand it’s not just a personal issue, it is actually a community issue. And I think the other thing they do very well and they keep getting asked to do more of it.

They keep getting asked to fund services. And that is clearly a key part of what they do as well. But they also provide leadership. I mean, you know, the ministers both being here today, standing up and saying we are not, as a community, going to accept this anymore, supported by all the ministers around the country, all the opposition leaders, all the domestic violence shadows, saying to the community, “we all have to accept responsibility”, is a huge, huge part of what the governments are doing.


You’ve got to have the holistic approach. It has to be a ripple effect right across our community to create a better community.


Absolutely. And, you know, I’m very proud of the fact that all federal government and all the state governments in all the territories now support Our Watch because they’ve recognised that the prevention side of domestic violence, making sure it does stop at the start, making sure we get those messages to young people is a – as I said, a government responsibility. It’s a business responsibility. It’s a community responsibility. And we are all working towards a society in which there is no violence against women and their children.


Sian, can I can I point to you in regards to business? How important is business in regards to taking this role seriously how can they help? Kerry actually mentioned a line just you know, off the cuff that would people would go to work. It’s just a domestic. How did things change?


Sure. So, firstly, can I congratulate the Minister and everyone involved in the campaign? I think it looks amazing. I think it’s going to have a big impact.

I get asked a lot, why would CBA be involved in this area? And while there’s lots of social and community reasons for it, it’s economically rational. We are destroying the lives of productive and contributing members of our community. It just does not make any sense. So, I think for business, community, government, everybody as individuals, to be concerned about this. There is all manner of reasons why business should be involved to CBA have been involved for over five years.

And it has been a journey of kind of learning. We’re not the experts in domestic or family violence, but we do know that financial abuse lies at the heart of an awful lot of family violence, coercive behaviour, and we support the wellbeing of Australians. A strong Australia means a strong Commonwealth Bank. And so, helping to understand the impacts of financial abuse within that domestic and family violence context, I think is very important. We’ve talked a lot about stopping it at the start, and I think that happens in the workplace in terms of making sure that we’re talking about respectful relationships, creating a culture where people feel OK to speak up and to seek help and support.

This week we’ll actually be launching bystander training so, that our people can actually find that way through to step in where they see something that they feel is disrespectful. We’ve also introduced unlimited leave for anyone who’s a victim of domestic and family violence and five days paid leave for those people who are friends or family are going through domestic and family violence. So, I think as well as the actual practical reality of being able to work through the issues, the symbolism of the fact that we say we need a policy and we want you to access the policy is a very important one beyond CBA internally. We’ve also launched Next Chapter, which is a partnership with many people, but it offers a financial independence hub to anybody, regardless of who you bank with.

Anyone can go and get specialist counselling, financial counselling, referral to other support services. And what we’re really trying to do is after the crisis period where people emerge from an abusive relationship, help them in the long term, get back on their feet so, that they can really stabilise their financial position and start re-contributing to their lives and often, of course, the lives of their children. So, we’re partnered with Good Shepherd in that and they provide the specialist financial counselling and referral to other support services and of course, if necessary, access to an interest free loan, if that’s appropriate in the circumstances. It’s also, financial abuse is a not particularly well understood area.


The term you know, Marise touched on it, coercive control. Really it’s only in the last maybe year that people have understood it. Can you just explore that a little bit? What does it mean and why is it important for women to be financially independent? How can business help there?


Sure so, financial abuse is when somebody controls either your money, your access to money or even sometimes access to work or ability to get to work and of course, begins then to limit your world and your ability to act freely. We discovered, shockingly, that perpetrators of abuse were actually using transactions, you know, when you send someone some money. Thanks for the meal last night, people were actually using that to send abusive messages to their victims after the point at which they’d left an abusive relationship. We discovered that, we’ve now stopped abusive transactions or transactions that carry abusive messages being relayed but who knew?


Who knew?


Who knew? But that just shows how organisations need to think really carefully about how their product, in effect, can be used and abused for a perpetrator and be on the front foot. So, it’s about understanding that women need to understand how to manage the financial lives and also to recognise the signs, which is very difficult because many of us have joint accounts and jointly work with our partners to manage our financial affairs. And so, really raising awareness of where this might fall into an area where you’re now having your choices restricted, I think is really important.


I think that something that we all agree on, particularly with this campaign, is let’s get in young and let’s Stop it at the Start, as the title says, I feel as a mother, it’s also important to give the subject and give our children context as well. I spoke to my children just recently about respect and I realised to their credit, they’ve already gone through this whole campaign, successful campaign in regards to bullying. So, they’re malleable, they’re open to learning, a very different childhood to what I grew up with where it wasn’t even talked about at all. I suppose I really need to ask now in regards to children and Maggie, this is your domain. How important is it? Can you give us some tips? How do we open conversations?


Yeah and look, I think this is exactly it. Starting at the start. I’m going to say that we’re all marinated by our experiences particularly, the research shows the first five years are critical in how we create mindsets and belief systems about ourselves. And this is where, you know, being able to deconstruct some of those conditionings. That’s exactly what you’re doing and well done. And I want to particularly say thank you, when you the boy was throwing the ball that instead of what’s been happening. And this is one of the things I discovered in my research, is that when boys have behaved disrespectfully often, they are either hit, hurt, shamed and punished. But nobody has actually sat with the boy and said, this is why this isn’t OK.

And this is another thing you could say if you’re in that situation. So, again, when we unmute our families, we do have to give them some dialogue around that. I think that we want them to know we wanna raise our boys to be you know, happy, healthy men it doesn’t happen by chance. But we’ve also got two sides to the thing that’s happening at the moment, and that is we’ve got to stop treating girls like they’re not capable and that boys are tough. That is absolute rubbish. If a girl falls over, I’ve heard it and I keep hearing it in early childhood. Oh, sweetheart are you OK? Like she’s wimpy and if a boy falls it’s, “Kid, get up”.

Now because what we’re doing is we’re not letting the authentic expression and that’s where respect comes from, is that every single child matters. And if they have got behaviours and you know, behaviours that aren’t acceptable, our job is to lift that what I call emotional competence, emotional intelligence. But we can’t just keep punishing them. And that’s one of my biggest, biggest messages. The other one in that I’ve been called and I think we’ve got a few strong women here have probably been called too bossy. So, when does that be replaced by assertive? Do you know what I mean? We get kind of demonised because we are strong and whereas we’re not letting our vulnerable, sensitive boys also stand and be OK.

Because the man box still want you to be the loudest, most powerful and everything. So, again if we get right down in those early years, which is really where I hope your program eventually goes into early childhood. That’s how you’re going to change this. And I am going to tell you that there’s so many beautiful stories now coming out from families who have stopped thinking boys were tough and have now gone and helped their tender heart to understand something they did wrong, which they then can appreciate, feels bad. But of course, if you just once again make them feel bad, we push anger and rage underneath, without understanding and that is the key part of this, what are the words we use for both our girls and our boys to help them understand that that choice was a poor choice.

This could be a better choice next time rather than just you’re wrong. And that’s one of the big things we’ve got to stop doing to little boys and our teen boys, because quite often had no intention to hurt they gave her a shove because they shove their mates when they like them. We’ve got to decode the line in the sand that says this is appropriate when you’re mucking with boys. It’s not appropriate here, but we’ve got to do it without the shame and the blame.


Considering changes in behaviour that we’ve experienced maybe since the 1960s, just plucking a decade out of the air. Is there reason for hope?


Oh, heavens, yes. And I think we need to look at it’s just so, sad that the violence that they can see online and the pornography they can see online is messing with this shift that’s happening so beautifully. Particularly like fathering, our fathers now step up with big tender hearts and talk about how to store breast milk and how to be the equal co-parent. We were heading in such a good direction and then the digital world is just messing with them in a way that we really have to learn how to stop that, contain that and will deconstruct that.


And you feel quite strongly that parents have to parent.


Have you noticed? I really do. We can’t leave it. We can’t just assume because I’ve got a smartphone now and you’ve spoken to them about how to use it responsibly. No, we have to have endless conversations about why this is absolutely not respectful and that we want our boys. And I’m going to say this and it could be upsetting, we want to grow them up to one day, have beautiful, loving, tender relationships with great sex. And porn is not the pathway for that. So, can you see again, it’s building their emotional competence, but their understanding on that journey is not contaminated by what they’re seeing? That’s really toxic and unhelpful.


So, it’s all about communication, connection, stepping up. I just have to wrap it up in regards to your insights on International Women’s Day.

Sian, I can’t help but ask you to explore what you said to me earlier and that it’s almost a shame. It’s joyful. It’s fabulous that we have this day of celebrating achievement amongst women, that it is a little bit of a shame that we require it because I don’t there is – is there an International Men’s Day? I’m not quite sure, there is?


Every day.


Thank you, (CROSSTALK) I’m glad I asked. So, what did you mean by the comment.


I always feel slightly conflicted because it’s great to have a day that recognises 50 per cent of the world’s population and the achievements they bring to the world. But even today, someone came out and said, can we say “Happy International Women’s Day”?

I’m not sure that we can, because for every move forward that we celebrate, we’re here every year talking about the things that still need to be done and another barrier to women really fulfilling their rightful place in humanity. And I think so, I think I wish for two things. I either wish for a day when a time when we don’t need International Women’s Day because it’s so, accepted that men and women are equal and we all contribute equally that it’s not required. Or we get to a day where we have a great day, but we can say “Happy International Women’s Day” without having to caveat it with the journey still to go.


Absolutely. Would our panel members like to add their thoughts for International Women’s Day while we’re here?


So, in 1993, I established the first independent standalone women’s ministry in the country, and there was much discussion at the time as to whether we should call it Women 2000. And the idea being my staff was suggesting to me that by the time we got to the year 2000, which was a good seven years away, there would be no issues that continue to impact on women. I thought that was a bit ambitious. So, we called it the Ministry for Women instead. But I think the whole point of that was we have to approach these days with optimism.

We have to say, yes, we still have it. But if you actually do look at the journey that we’ve been on, and I put my hand up here with my other hat on, you know, who would have thought in 1993 that we would be talking about women and rugby? Who would have thought that we would have had the Olympic champions, the rugby champions that we talk about, are the girls, they won the gold medal. The boys didn’t. Who would thought we would have been talking about having a Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, which unfortunately has been deferred for a year. But all those conversations, you know, fastest growing female sport in the world is rugby, but it’s amongst a whole lot of female sports that are growing AFL, rugby league, cricket.

You point to it because when I was a kid and that’s a very, very long time ago, none of those sports were available to girls and women. Now they’re all available. So, it goes to that whole point that we want to be talk about in this whole space, about respect, about that gender diversity, about that gender equity, but we’re actually now able to talk about it. And as I said, that’s, you know, 1993-2021. It’s been a journey. There’s a journey to go. And I’m sure we’ll still be here. You young ones will be sitting here in 20 years’ time, celebrating International Women’s Day. But it will be about all the achievements, hopefully not about what we have to do yet.





I’m a bit passionate about this stuff, you might have worked it out.


I think as we’re starting to see the younger generation embrace diversity much better than older generations, I have enormous hope that we are heading in the right direction where we’re going to accept people for who they are, not their culture, not their gender, not their anything, and that we can learn to accept them as they are, have compassion for them and absolutely appreciate that they’re on this earth trying to create a meaningful life like the rest of us, and that we absolutely need. We’re biologically wired to be social beings and that we get better at that.


And Minister Ruston, go for it.


I know I like the idea of International Women’s Day because it gives us something to strive for. And I think Sian and I were talking in that conversation that she was referring to. And I said I was asked by a media commentator when I first became the Minister for Social Services what my goal in being the Minister was. And I said that my department no longer needs to exist. And whilst that’s probably something that’s perhaps out of my reach during my term as the Minister, it at least sets the agenda about the goals that you want to achieve and where you want to go. And I think by having International Women’s Day and all of the things that it stands for and everything that it celebrates, it gives us a pathway and a journey and somewhere to aspire to be.

And I think, if we’re all looking in the same place at the same time, then hopefully we’re all going in the same direction. So, I think it is just tremendously important that we continue to have that beacon that says that’s where we want to get to. And we all keep looking at every year, every day we take a step towards it. And that’s part of this campaign. I mean, who would have thought at least 10 years ago when the campaign started, eight years ago, when we started looking at the campaign for Stop it at the Start. That we’d be sitting here today and actually providing the tools and the confidence to people to actually take action. Back then, it was such a long way away, but here we are today. So, I think it’s terribly important as an aspirational goal, which we will achieve one day.


Absolutely. Thank you so much, Minister Ruston, Sian, thank you, Maggie and Kerry, of course, to Marise, thank you so much for being here. It is so wonderful to have you here as a part of this. Christina and Pia as well. Thank you very much. We are living through such an extraordinary time, aren’t we, particularly for women. My goodness. The last few weeks it is as I guess that is just it is just changing rapidly. So, thank you for taking the time to be here and more importantly, to watch the progress. We understand it has context, but there is reason for hope and optimism beginning right here, right now. This is where it starts. Thank you very much for being here. You’re more than welcome to stay for morning tea, we’d all love to have a chat, but thank you once again for being a part of the launch of this campaign. Enjoying your morning.