Male parliamentarians have signed a pledge to work towards reducing violence against women following the first meeting of a new cross-party group which aims to make a stand on the issue.

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The sub-committee met on Wednesday in Canberra to discuss “pervasive and appalling” rates of violence against women that are reported around the world, a communique signed by members states.

Co-convenor Mal Washer, the federal Liberal member for Moore, said it was up to men to a make stand.

“This is, unfortunately, a very common problem still, not only in this country but in surrounding countries in our region,” he said.

“It’s a men’s problem that we need to address.”

One in three Australian women have been the victim of domestic violence. One in four children have witnessed it.

Some 20 per cent of women have suffered sexual assault.

The communique from the Male Parliamentarians for the Elimination of Violence against Women states that violence against women costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion each year.

“We, the members of the sub-committee, recognised that we have an undeniable responsibility to address this problem: as men, as community role models and as national policy makers,” it said.

The MPs and senators took the White Ribbon pledge “not to commit violence, not to condone violence and not to stay silent about violence”.

They also vowed to discuss the issue with family and friends and at least once in the next six months raise awareness on the issue within their constituency.

The meeting was attended by Dr Washer, independent MP Rob Oakeshott, Labor’s Kelvin Thomson and the Coalition’s Ken Wyatt and Ewen Jones.

A number of senators signed the communique but didn’t attend the meeting.

Violence Against Women Advisory Group chair Libby Lloyd was the guest speaker at the sub-committee’s inaugural meeting.

She said her goal was to see every man take the White Ribbon pledge.

“The most important thing to eliminate violence against women is that men become committed and involved and do everything they can to make our community safe and free from violence,” she said.

A national plan to measure and reduce violence is expected to be released by the federal and state governments next year.

“I think we’ll see it in the first days of the new year,” Ms Lloyd said.

White Ribbon Day coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Thursday.

The men’s group is a sub-committee of the Australian Parliamentary Group on Population and Development, and is open to members of federal, state and territory parliaments.