The Australian Government has released a series of reports which focus on addressing the problem of violence against women in Melanesia and East Timor.

The report by AusAID's Office of Development Effectiveness, entitled Violence against Women in Melanesia and East Timor: Building on Regional and Global Promising Approaches, reveals that women in Solomon Islands experience very high levels of domestic and sexual violence.

The Solomon Islands Country Report was launched by the Minister for Women, Youth and Children Affairs, Hon. Peter Tom, and the Australian Deputy High Commissioner Ms. Alison Duncan. The Prime Minister's wife, Madame Doris Sikua was also present and gave a key note address.

Giving her remarks, the Australian Deputy High Commissioner, Ms. Duncan told women of Solomon Islands that the Australian Government is serious about tackling the problem of violence against women - both at home and across the region.

Within the region there is a desire for change from many in society. Over 700 individuals and representatives of government, non-government and international organisations took part in the review.

"Not only is violence against women a serious human rights issue impacting on the lives of women, families and communities, it also poses major development challenges," Ms .Duncan said.

Madame Sikua also made in her opening statement that addressing the issue of violence against women must begin at the family level and upwards to the international forum. She stressed that women are human beings just like everybody else and deserve rights and respects.

The regional report and country report for Solomon Islands outlines a comprehensive framework for action to address violence against women in the community. Currently important work is being undertaken by civil society groups and government, but challenges to ensuring women are safe in Solomon Islands remain.

The report's findings will assist the Solomon Islands to build a framework of action to increase women's access to justice and support services and to prevent violence against women. By strengthening efforts to prevent violence against women, we can begin to change attitudes and practices in the community that encourage and condone violence.

"The report encourages all actors - governments, civil society and donors - to work
together and agree on how to implement the framework for action," Ms Duncan said.

The Australian Government will use the report as a positive platform to build effective partnerships with the government of Solomon Islands and local and regional stakeholders to address violence against women across the region.

As a first step, Australia recently made a five year commitment to working with Oxfam Australia to support the Family Support Centre, Western Province Council of Women and the Women in Law Association to stand together against violence for a long term development program called "Standing together against violence".

The package of reports includes a regional report Violence against Women in Melanesia and East Timor: Building on Global and Regional Promising Approaches and supplementary country specific reports.

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