The Australian public will now have four weeks to provide feedback on the Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, after the government received a wave of backlash when it initially announced a review period of just two weeks last Friday.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston confirmed in a statement to SBS that Australians would have until 14th February to provide feedback on the draft plan, instead of the initial January 31st deadline.
“Minister Ruston contacted state and territory ministers who make up the Women’s Safety Taskforce over the weekend and they have jointly agreed to extend the timeline for public comment by four weeks, particularly in light of the COVID-related workforce pressure the sector is under,” the statement read.
“The draft national plan is the culmination of 18 months of extensive, detailed and thorough consultation with victim-survivors, advocates, sector representatives, academics, business leaders and the broader community.”
“As we have said throughout this 18-month process we are open to considering all feedback and following this issue being raised.”
When Friday’s draft plan was released, outlining the government’s strategies for the next decade in eradicating domestic and gender-based violence, activists, survivors and domestic violence groups around the country publicly declared their disgust.
Yanyuwa woman and NT senator Malarndirri McCarthy tweeted her outrage:
“Survivors, frontline workers & advocates have been given 2 weeks to comment on the draft national plan to end violence against women & children. The community shouldn’t pay for Morrison’s failure to deliver. I urge all NT stakeholders to contributes.”
ACT-based entrepreneur Craig Thomler remarked that “…picking a time when many families are on holidays is oddly disrespectful & another bad decision by the Morrison government.”
Senator Jenny McAllister tweeted:
“When you give survivors & advocates just two weeks in January to comment on your national plan to end violence against women & children, it suggests that you don’t really care about what they may have to say.”
“These aren’t the actions of a PM who wants to listen.”
Feminist commentator and comedian Jane Caro added that “…a 2 week consultation period for a national plan to stop violence against women & children is derisory! A home renovation would get 4!”
Caro was one of several prominent community leaders and influential figures to back a petition launched that same day, calling for the review period to be a minimum of six weeks.
The petition’s website explains the ill-timing of this consultation period, since many Australians will struggle to respond before the end of January, with extra challenges brought on by the pandemic and the school holidays still taking place.
“The government have taken nine months to prepare the Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032, a 10 year plan,” the statement reads.
“They announced the National Summit on Women’s Safety in April and it was held in September 2021. Yet the consultation period is only two weeks long.”
“This speaks volumes about the seriousness with which the government is taking this issue. By comparison, a home reno regularly takes four weeks consultation.”
Brittany Higgins took to Twitter to declare her anger, calling the initial tight deadline as “breathtakingly disrespectful”.
“The [government] have given community organisations and experts just TWO weeks to contribute to the upcoming 10-year Violence Against Women National Plan,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Two weeks to map out the next 10 years of the fight against gendered violence in Australia.”
Fellow activist Grace Tame retweeted Higgins’ post, adding:
“This. A perfect example of the Govt’s consistent approach to dire issues.”
“I’m tired of being told we shouldn’t complain because “at least they’re making a plan”. Rubbish. Dig deeper and there’s nothing there. No genuine commitment, no legitimate action, just hollow words.”
Over 8,000 people signed the open letter Higgins posted on Twitter.
“The tiny window of consultation diminishes this issue to our society and is shallow and disrespectful to our country,” the letter read.
“We request, advise and demand this period to be extended to a minimum of 6 weeks as we are in the midst of a pandemic and school holidays will not have ended prior to the consultation closing.”
Author of “See what you made me do” and director of community organisation Women for Australia Jess Hill told SBS News the initial timeline for consultation was an “insult to victims and survivors everywhere”.
“That this government … has limited public consultation to a paltry two weeks is ludicrous and downright offensive,” Hill said.
“One thing is abundantly clear; our members see this plan as a cynical and reactionary attempt by the Morrison Government to recraft the narrative around this government’s appalling record on gendered violence in the lead-up to a critical federal election.”
Research fellow at the Global Women’s Institute for Leadership Blair Williams believes that the initial fortnight consultation period shows disrespect to the experts who have contributed to the draft.
“It lacks transparency,” she told SBS News. “This isn’t exactly out of the ordinary for this government, but at the same time, they do need to do better, and we can’t just accept that as a pattern.”
“It essentially seems like [the government’s] not thinking very hard about this, or they’re being strategic about [the two-week deadline].”
While there was growing anger regarding the initial consultation period, some individuals have praised other aspects of the draft plan.
Stella Avramopoulos, CEO of family and domestic violence services charity, Good Shepherd, welcomed the draft plan’s goals to establishing a National Family, Domestic & Sexual Violence Commission.
Avramopoulos told Pro Bono News that economic security was an important factor in family violence and that experiences of the pandemic highlighted how many families were financially vulnerable.
“Any support that prevents families sliding into financial vulnerability will assist in reducing family violence,” Avramopoulos said.
“On the recovery side Good Shepherd sees that the effects of family violence can last a lifetime.”
“More support for recovery programs will assist people rebuilding lives but also lessen the likelihood of families having to revert to a previous situation because of financial circumstances.”
“Now we know that the federal government is committed to real change, it’s our job to take our expertise to government so the plan comes to life,” she said.
“We look forward to working closely and regularly with government while we continually generate policy ideas to help.”