Outgoing Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, has used her valedictory speech to call domestic violence "family terrorism" and "a serious abuse of human rights," and says the problem has grown in the last year.
Batty, named 2015 Australian of the Year for her championing of the fight against domestic violence, will tonight see her honour handed over to another as the 2016 title is bestowed. Giving her final speech as AOTY, she spoke warmly of her experiences in the past year and said Australia was slowly inching in the right direction.
"When I was named Australian of the Year 2015, I had no real expectations, I could never have predicted the journey ahead. I felt that I had been given this award because of Luke's death," she said, referencing the murder of her son by his father in 2014.
"I'd made it to this point because of of a traumatic and horrific event that was beyond my control, but I was reassured very quickly that it was not because of Luke's death, it was because of the way that I had responded and reacted to it."
"My [acceptance] speech was also my very public pledge and promise that I would address family violence within our society, so my path was clearly set for the year ahead. It kept me on track, and ensured that when I look back, I was doing exactly what I had said that I was going to do. I never thought it possible to be this busy. I was completely swamped. The year has been filled with over 250 speeches, reaching over 70,000 people, and more major interviews that I can count."
Batty spoke of her experiences meeting victims of family violence, sharing stories and telling of her ambitions for her time as Australian of the Year.
"Every day people will say positive and encouraging things out of compassion and out of respect. This has helped my inner confidence and self belief and managed to squash my nagging self doubt. I have grown in a way that I never thought possible," she said.
"I do admit that at times I was totally overwhelmed and utterly exhausted. There was just so much opportunity to make a difference and I found myself wanting to say yes to everyone and everything. I couldn't wait for change. I had to make it happen within my year, being the Australian of the Year, and before I ran out of time. "
However, she acknowledged despite her best efforts, domestic and family violence in Australia remained an unacceptable -- and indeed, growing -- part of society.
"Family violence is still an epidemic and it will be for some time. It is a serious abuse of human rights in our advanced and privileged culture and must continue to be addressed as an absolute priority, by both our Federal and State Governments, and by our current leaders, as they also recognise the impact family violence has on their workplace," Batty said.
"Family terrorism is in our neighbourhoods and poses more risk to our local communities than the terrorism we are terrified of from overseas. We have to readjust our priorities."
"The statistics show those affected by family violence tragically increased during the time I have been Australian of the Year. In my opening speech I spoke about one woman a week being murdered and now I speak of two."
Batty was careful, however, to point out that men are both part of the problem and part of the solution, citing how many men had rallied around her cause.
"This is overwhelmingly men's violence towards women and to quote the Prime Minister, not all disrespect of women ends in violence, but all violence begins with disrespect. The overwhelming majority of men that I know and have met, are also part of this journey," she said.
"They are equally appalled by what is taking place and are keen to remove this epidemic from our communities for the sake of of the women in their lives, and particularly their daughters. They recognise that both men and women need to work together for the safety of our future generation of young girls."
In closing her remarks, Batty addressed the Australian of the Year finalists, urging them to use the honour as a platform to improve Australian society.
"You will be swamped and overwhelmed and I encourage you to be big, to be bold and to be brave. As an Australian of the Year finalist, embrace this opportunity, and maximize all possibilities with both your head and your heart," she said.
"You can make this opportunity as big as you'd like it to be and do amazing things. But, at the same time, remember the award was given to you, not to your cause, and not for the experiences and achievements that may have defined your past. It was given to you for the potential you have to make Australia a better place."
The Australian of the Year winners will be announced Monday night from 7.30pm. Follow along on Twitter at @AusOfTheYear, or follow HuffPost Australia as we bring you the results live.Suggest a correction