Steve Irons MP Federal Member for Swan

Achieving the aim of zero abuse to children

3 December 2014

 

Stop child abuse As the year draws to a close here in Parliament House, there are many things our minds turn to as Christmas rapidly approaches. Madam Speaker, I take this opportunity to wish you and your entire family a joyful and safe Christmas. I send that same wish to all my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the chamber and their families.

This is an adversarial place and, particularly around this time of the year, we should be a little more charitable to each other. I thank all the staff in Parliament House; please enjoy your Christmas break and know that we appreciate all the work you do for us. I thank my staff—Jonathan, Candice, Shannen, Gail and Karen—for all your work and the support you give me in my electorate of Swan. I could not do my work without you.

To everyone in the electorate of Swan, I wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I now turn to my family and, in particular, my wife, Cheryle, who supports me in every way. Cheryle is the hardest-working volunteer I have ever had. She completes my life and I cannot speak highly enough of her commitment to me and my work as a parliamentarian. Cheryle and I are passionate about many social issues, but if there is one thing we both want to see happen it is to achieve the aim of zero abuse of children. This is a discussion this country needs to have.

Throughout Australia’s history child abuse has often been dismissed, particularly by those who had the power to hold to account those who would seek to commit such acts, as we saw for many years with the forgotten Australians and the child migrants. In my first speech in this place, I said we should apologise to all the children who were never removed from an abusive environment, whether it was with carers or within their own family environment.

Cheryle and I discussed last week the fact that as we approach Christmas, which is supposed to be a time of joy, there are still many children in metropolitan, rural, remote and regional areas throughout Australia who are living in fear of abuse. They are not looking forward to Christmas because they know the abuse will continue, and increase, when they have to spend time in that abusive environment instead of going to school.

Over the past decade discussion about child abuse has, however, become more prevalent—and for that I thank governments along with the victims’ advocates. I know this issue is close to the hearts of everyone in this place who believes in the protection of innocents and the protection of our most vulnerable. There are many people who think an abused child is better off with its parents even though they may be the abuser or abusers. Well, I do not agree with that. People who think that way might never have been a victim of abuse, and they need to understand the fear of an abused child. From conversations I have had with victims of abuse, the last place they want to be is with their abusers.

Today I call for everyone in this place and our nation to focus on saving our children from abusers. I do not care what culture the abusers come from or where they live; there is no excuse. Our role is paramount in changing the processes that abused children are put through. We need to remove children from an abusive environment the second we know about it; and they should not be returned to be abused over and over and over again because of some ‘progressive’ mindset that infects the processes of saving abused children. Anyone who abuses a child should have no rights at all; and, as I said before, this country needs to have that conversation.

In closing, I ask our nation to look out for our children and protect them from any sort of abuse. Be brave and interfere if you suspect abuse; and bring it to the attention of the authorities. In the short time I have left, I would like to mention a personal aspect of this. Both Cheryle and I have family members who have suffered from abuse, and we are very strongly in favour of making sure that children who are abused are never returned to those who abuse them.

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