26/08/2015 1:55 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Domestic Violence Is A Workplace Issue

Crowd of people.
Leontura via Getty Images
Crowd of people.

I start by offering my respect to all victims of domestic violence. To those who have stood in the public gaze, resolute in the face of such violence, women such as Rosie Batty and Kristy McKeller, your courage points to a path we as a society desperately need to travel.

What if you could make a difference. By listening. With compassion and without judgement. Would you do it?

What if you could go a step further, by making your workplace an environment where such conversations could take place, without fear of recrimination. Would you do that?

Could you take the step of working with agencies who understand the dimensions of the issues and who can offer practical assistance to help those who work for and with you?

And in response to that practical assistance could you develop policies and workplace practices that support those in need?

I have seen, first hand, violence perpetrated against women and children, almost entirely by men, around the world in the course of my long career as a soldier. I have stood beside the shattered remnants of families, crushed by the crimes committed against them, despairing that they will ever be able to live in hope again.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor, the Solomon Islands, Bougainville; all so far from Australia; all so remote from the lives we lead.

But here is the rub. I have come to understand that the terrible things that happen in war zones -- murder, rape, assaults, the stripping away of dignity, the absence of hope -- they are just as much present in our own communities, in our own families, as they are in other more seemingly troubled countries. It's just that they happen behind closed doors, away from the lens of a war correspondent, ignored by neighbours or even family members, unspoken but just as life shattering.

If it was just the statistics the picture would be grim by any measure. So many women present in our workforce today are affected by domestic violence and for many of them their workplace is a refuge from that violence.

But it is not the statistics -- it's the lives. It's the hopes and aspirations that we, all of us, men and women, should have as our birthright as Australians. Aspirations and hopes that are smashed and rendered useless sometimes by those who are seemingly closest to us.

And it's not just individual lives, as terrible as this violence is. It's how, as a consequence we define ourselves -- as Australians, as leaders within our communities, our companies, our institutions and our Nation.

And so, as leaders we can make a difference. We can hear the previously unheard voices and see the previously unseen desperation.

It's a workplace issue because in the most cut and dried sense it directly impacts on the bottom line.

Decreased staff performance, high turnover and absenteeism are all are direct, measurable impacts. This is as true for victims as it is for perpetrators.

But of course, the work environment is not so black and white: employee health and well-being also subtly improves workplace culture and employee satisfaction. If we, leaders in the workplace, offer clear policies and procedures and clearly communicate to our employees that they are not alone; that disclosing their circumstances will not result in adverse consequences at work, then we are taking positive steps to address the issue, ensuring that we are not bystanders when such things do happen.

Would you do this? How could you not.

This blog first appeared in August 2015.

This is a transcript of a speech David Morrison delivered to the Male Champions of Change lunch in Sydney this week.