STATEMENT FROM EMMA WALTERS
Today I have spoken in support of John as ‘the woman’ at the centre of all of this. Despite a lot of rumour and innuendo there is no-one else involved but John and I. The truth of this story is that it is simply about my husband and I trying to put our lives back together.
I also want to be clear that John will not be resigning. It’s not what his members want, it’s not what I want. John has spent 35 years dedicated to tirelessly defending the health, safety and living standards of tens of thousands of construction workers and their families. He has always put his members first, at times at the expense of our family, but this is a sacrifice we willingly bear. His resignation would serve as a devastating loss to the union movement and would bring more unnecessary suffering to our family.
Together we have been through a lot. John’s behaviour didn’t happen in isolation, we were both in a really dark place after years of intense pressure. The collapse of the Grocon wall which killed three innocent people, where John assisted first responders – a traumatic incident that could so easily have been avoided, the false accusation arising out of the Trade Union Royal Commission, the charge of blackmail, the arrest by two carloads of heavily armed police – both state and federal, on a quiet Sunday in front of our children – all of this has created a heavy burden. The emotional strain our family has endured is not something I would wish on any marriage.
I want to be very clear though, that while John and I have at times deeply hurt one another, there has never been any form of physical violence in our marriage or in our home.
We have embarked on a process of healing. Both of us are taking responsibility for our behaviour and we are getting help from professionals to be sure we never hit rock bottom again.
John has had the courage to confront his own behaviour and to change, and to encourage others to seek help before they get as low as we did. It’s sad to see that so many people have completely disregarded this. Instead they have preferred to pile on the efforts to tear both of us down. These issues have been used to persecute a political agenda, and it is our family who have been harmed.
It’s disappointing that high profile leaders of the union movement who I have known for years and counted as my friends, have been in the media talking about how devastated they were. All of them have always known I am the woman at the centre of all of this, and not one of them has picked up the phone to hear my side of the story. In fact, they have all actively worked to silence me and my story in favour of the Labor Party’s line.
Engaged leaders would approach these things differently. What hope have they given other people working through these issues? These are complicated matters which require understanding and support for families going through them – but instead the message has been don’t talk about it, don’t get help, don’t take responsibility because you risk isolation, persecution, and financial pain. For those of you who claim to stand up for family values, why then are you trying to tear mine down when we need your support the most.
I love John deeply, I respect the work he does, and I hope others learn to respect it too. I look forward to putting this chapter of our lives behind us. I can only hope we are given the space to continue healing so we can create a brighter future for our family.
STATEMENT FROM JOHN SETKA
The last three years have been incredibly difficult for me and my family. We’ve been under huge stress and trauma.
The decision by the Trade Union Royal Commission to arrest and charge me with trumped up blackmail charges, put a lot of pressure on everyone. We’ve all dealt with the stress in different ways.
Being arrested in a very public way – taken off the street in front of your wife and children by two car loads of heavily armed police officers – then having the threat of 15 years prison hanging over our family, just for doing your job. It was really awful.
I didn’t know until I started counselling earlier this year, just how much I had been affected by the fake charges and my malicious prosecution. I should’ve seen how much it was affecting Emma, too.
I tried to be strong and get on with my job of standing up for workers after that.
And Emma tried to get on with her work.
But the truth is, inside we were falling apart.
I take responsibility for that. I should have got help sooner.
I screwed up. And it’s up to me fix it.
Firstly, I want to apologise to my wife. I never meant for her to be affected by my stress or behaviour. I’ve sent messages and used language that I am deeply embarrassed by and regret. It’s not okay for us to speak to each other like that. There’s never been any physical violence in our relationship but we’re coming to terms with the fact that words can be just as hurtful. But despite the pain and suffering we love each other deeply.
The CFMMEU has always stood against domestic violence. I’ve been a member for 35 years and led the union for the last 6. And I’ve always said a man who is violent towards a woman is a bloody coward. And not a man at all.
I have dedicated my life to making workplaces safe for our members. But making homes safe is just as important. I’m determined not just to learn from my own mistakes, but to help other men learn from them too.
The CFMMEU is already doing a lot to make change, but we can do more. We’re working on a project to see more women in the construction industry, but I intend to use my own experiences to discuss family violence with my members. Unions have been leading the way on these conversations and I will work with experts, including women in our union and at Trades Hall, to make more changes together.
I just want to reiterate that I have never ever denigrated any family violence advocate nor do I condone the Men’s Rights Movement. I hope something good can come out of all this, I want to learn from those advocates about how we start the journey to change men’s behaviour, including my own.
Finally, I want to say to my brothers and sisters in the union movement and Labor party – we are stronger together. I want to thank all the people who have reached out to me, to understand and care about the impact that standing up for our beliefs has had on us, and to offer support at this difficult time. I am disappointed in the people who have never spoken to us, but still passed judgement anyway. That’s not unionism.
I never want any family to go through what mine has gone through again. This is a federal government hell bent on destroying unions and the people who believe in and need them. I won’t let them destroy me, my family or the union movement.