Domestic violence isn’t a joke. It’s a crisis - Women's Agenda

Domestic violence isn’t a joke. It’s a crisis

“Oh I do, I f—ing love it, I f—ing love it, I f—ing love it.”

These were the joking words from John Singleton about violence against women that made me once again put my head in my hands and consider my own set of expletives.

Because if John took two seconds to look around he’d know domestic violence isn’t a joke in this country. It’s a crisis.

Day after day, article after article we are seeing figures come out that articulate the real picture.

One woman has been killed every five days in a domestic violence related incident this year. One in three women will experience physical violence in their lifetime. Domestic violence costs the nation about $13 billion a year each year.

It’s easy to see we need this to stop. What’s less easy is figuring out how.

This is the challenge the Commonwealth Government’s new Advisory Panel to reduce violence against women faces. As one of its members I’m ready to take it up and with a panel lead by the likes of Ken Lay, Rosie Batty and Heather Nancarrow I’m confident we can continue the current momentum for change.

The challenges are many and varied but there are three key things this panel will have to look at.

Firstly, how do we make sure that federal, state and territory governments put the buck passing aside and work together. Developing a national Domestic Violence Order scheme that ensures orders are valid no matter where they were issued is a priority. It’s a practical first step that will make women safer.

If successfully implemented, it would be great to see this lead to more coordinated responses across Australian governments to address violence against women.      

Secondly, we need whole of government approaches to this. Addressing violence against women can’t happen only from the Office for Women. This isn’t just a “women’s” issue.

When we’ve just seen new research showing one in four young men believe violent and controlling behaviour is a sign of strength it’s an education and awareness issue. 

When approximately 23% of homeless women are on the streets as a result of domestic violence, it’s a housing a homelessness issue.

When Australian women and girls with disability are twice as likely as women and girls without disability to experience violence we need to be looking at residential and institutional services that could be leaving these women open to attacks.

It’s an issue for justice departments, health departments, schools, Attorney Generals and – of course – Treasury. Unless everyone makes addressing violence against women a priority we are doomed to continue failing women and children.

Thirdly, one thing I have learnt from many years working with women escaping domestic and family violence is perpetrators will always find new ways to exert power over their partners.

New technologies are emerging every day that facilitate this and we must stay on top of it to ensure we are aware of the dangers, that governments are putting appropriate protections in place and women are kept up to date with the possible uses.

We saw the capacity Simon Gittani had to monitor Lisa Harnum’s movements and the terrible effect this had. And technology continues to evolve. We now know GPS trackers and mobile phone spyware are increasingly being used in new forms of violence against women and it won’t end there.

This is the world of our young people. Their social lives, learning and leisure are increasingly connected to these technologies and they are way ahead of us. But we can’t let it escape us to the point where we can’t give them the protection they need.

Finally, the challenge, not for the panel but for Prime Ministers, Premiers and Ministers around the country is to ensure that a lack of funding is not holding us back.

We cannot continue to have plans that go nowhere because our governments do not, as Waleed Ally so eloquently put it, #showmethemoney. 

Adequate services, access to justice, education, intervention programs and housing options must form part of any serious strategy to address violence against women.

All of these things are available at the moment but they are being crushed under the demand they experience.

Because I and my many colleagues are not joking when we say it’s a crisis. And sooner rather than later we’ll need a crisis response. 


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