Chief Commissioner Ken Lay speaks at the Royal Women's Hospital White Ribbon Day breakfast

  • Friday, 23 November 2012 10:41

Chief Commissioner Ken Lay's speech at the Royal Women's Hospital White Ribbon Day breakfast on November 23rd 2012.

Good Morning.

Walking to work this morning and I was reflecting

  • On Melbourne being a beautiful city
  • On Melbourne being one of the most liveable cities in the world
  • It is relatively safe to work our street (even Jill Meagher case is so rare)
  • But on White Ribbon Day it does cause you to think about the many thousands of Victorian who do not feel safe
  • Those who are subjected to horrors of violence in the family setting

Before I begin this morning I would like to acknowledge a number of people:

  • Dr Nicolas Radford -  director on the Women’s Hospital Board
  • Ms Dale Fisher - Chief Executive of the Women’s Hospital
  • Associate Professor Les Reti  - Clinical Director of Gynaecology, Cancer and Perioperative Services at the Women’s
  • Chris Gamble -  the Women’s Executive Director of Human Resources and IT
  • Police colleagues and,
  • Other guests

Thankyou for asking me to talk to you this morning

Violence against women is an issue, which is often discussed in terms of statistics

  • Statistics are easy to talk about publicly
    • 51,000 family incident reports
    • 17,000 arrests
    • 36,000 offences
    • Statistics give a sense of the magnitude of an issue.
    • Statistics are clinical and generally sterile
    • They do not reflect the emotion or true horror of the crimes being committed. 

So this morning

  • I am not going to talk about statistics
  • I am not going to talk about our work in this area
  • I am not going to talk about the wonderful work of our partners
  • Nor will I talk about the enormous strain that the increased reporting is putting on police and the courts

This morning I want to make you feel uncomfortable

  • I want to talk about the ugliness of family violence
  • the reality that is men bashing often defenceless women in their homes
  • the reality of a men terrorising their children.

So let’s just review a number of real cases studies that police have been involved in:

A couple are in a short-term relationship (not that unusual these days)

  • they break up
  • the man wrongly accuses the woman of stealing his  property
    • the accusations are vitriolic and threatening
  • he then
    • punches her in the face
    • kicks her repeatedly
    • rapes her
    • stomps on her head – partially crushing her skull and
    • then keeps beating her for hours
    • he walks away – leaving her for dead.

Amazingly she survived with

  • a partially crushed skull
  • she now has a plate in her head and
  • has permanently lost sight in one eye.


Then there is the little girl whose stepfather started sexually abusing her when she was 7 1/2 years old.

  • She grows up thinking that this is normal.
  • The “relationship” progressed to become fully sexual as she grew up. 

There is a lot of attention around the high-profile cases

  • the heinous murder of Jill Meagher
  • and the horrible murder this week of Sarah Cafferkey

But the reality is that these awful and horrible crimes are isolated cases, however,

  • Relentless gross violence happens day in day out in every part of our city and state
  • Sadly, the vast majority of violence against women still happens in the home, and is committed by a husband, partner or boyfriend.

So let me describe a day for my people.  This is not an unusual day, just another day of violence in our city’s homes.  This again is our reality!

In one local government area on no special day in particular


We are called to a house where a man has beaten his girlfriend up by punching her to the stomach. Both were drinking all night and he is extremely violent and unpredictable when we get there.


We go to an incident where a man had gone to his ex-girlfriends house and tried to abduct her .

  • She escapes and runs into her bedroom where he follows her and the blocks her in.
  • A friend comes to help her out and the ex-boyfriend punches this guy in the face.
  • The woman escapes as her ex-boyfriend threatens to kill her.

1pm – We respond to a neighbours call to police because of screams of distress in the house next door.

  • We arrive to find a couple arguing and the male having thrown furniture and plates around the house and at the victim.
  • A small child was there, saw the whole thing, and was crying and distressed.


We go to a house and find a man who was previously arrested for breaching his intervention order and bail conditions. He was breaching those conditions again. Another trip to the Court


We find a man who was wanted for assaulting his girlfriend. When we try to arrest him at his mother’s house, he assaults both our police officers and we find he had also bashed his mother.


We go to a house where a 14 year old girl has held a knife to her mother’s throat as she was not happy about her mother’s treatment of her.

4 am

We respond to a neighbours call about hearing screaming and glass breaking. 

We send two divvy vans. 

  • When we get there – we hear the glass smashing and a woman screaming. 
  • We find a large pool of blood and broken glass everywhere.
  • We find a woman lying on a bed with a cut on her arm.
  • We try to arrest the man who starts to fight my two people and we wrestle him for five minutes until we are able to handcuff him and take him to St Kilda Road.

Victoria Police responds to close to 140 incidents, such as the ones I have described, every day

  • in every suburb of Melbourne
  • from Doveton to Toorak – from Hawthorn to Epping
  • that’s close to one every 10 minutes
  • and these are the ones we know about.

As I said before, we often talk about these crimes in terms of numbers and statistics so we can better understand and explain the magnitude of the problem

But as I said earlier, for me this takes us away from the reality of seeing women with

  • broken eye sockets
  • missing teeth
  • broken arms and
  • broken spirits.

It also takes us away from the reality of the effect this has on our most precious assets, our children.

Many children

  • live in fear of violence occurring everyday
  • they tiptoe around the house - just in case
  • they don’t argue with their parents like normal children - just in case,
  • they grow up thinking it is ok to assault women
  • they grow up believing it is ok to be assaulted either physically, sexually or emotionally

We have made changes at Victoria Police to better respond to victims

  • We have improved our processes
  • We train our recruits differently
  • We run programs internally and externally to help deal with the issue
  • We work better with other parts of government.
  • Sadly, from time to time we don’t get it right

And while we’re not perfect – we are genuinely trying damn hard to get better.

But in the end – police are not the problem.


  • The problem is every one of us who laughs at that revolting joke which severely degrades women – knowing we shouldn’t.
  • It is those of us who verbally abuse and physically intimidate women in the way those young French women were abused on a Melbourne suburban bus a couple of weeks ago.
  • It is every one of us who doesn’t say something when we start to suspect something isn’t quite right with our friends.
  • Some of us create the environment in which these people – who are mostly men – think it is ok to do what they do.
  • It is a major issue for all whether at a local state or transnational level
  • violence against women is a public health problem; it is an education problem, it is a police problem, it is a government problem, it is a whole of society problem .
  • Violence against women is not ok, it is not acceptable.  

White Ribbon Day is an important campaign to raise awareness of violence against women

  • It is a male led campaign that believes that most men are good and that good men abhor the violence we have heard about today
  • It is the responsibility of every good man in this room to help stamp out violence against women