At 5.45pm on Saturday police were called to a home in Brewarrina. An 18 year old woman was suffering serious injuries and she died at the scene. A man has been arrested, charged with murder, and NSW police say initial investigations suggest the incident was domestic violence related.
This woman, who is yet to be named, becomes the 33rd Australian woman killed by violence this year. We know this because Destroy the Joint researchers are counting dead women.
What else do we know from the past week?
We know that the 32nd Australian woman killed through violence this year was found in the boot of a car last week and that her partner has been arrested.
We know that a 14 year old girl, Rachel, whose mother took her own life after a long experience with domestic violence, is lobbying the NSW government to include domestic violence education in the school curriculum.
We know that her petition has gathered 68,000 signatures and that she met with NSW’s Minister for the prevention of violence Pru Goward on Friday. We know that Minister Goward described Rachel as a ‘remarkable young woman’ and will report back on the matter.
We also know that action on domestic violence has eluded Australia for far too long.
We know that the Queensland domestic violence taskforce, led by Dame Quentin Bryce, recommended school programs on healthy relationships.
As of yesterday we also know that the Social Services Minister Scott Morrison plans to axe a program that has taught more than 7000 high school students about healthy relationships and domestic abuse for the past 12 years. The Sun-Herald reported that the award-winning REALskills program in Tweed Heads will close, as will the accompanying support service. Eamonn Duff reported that the principals of five affected high schools sent a joint letter to the minister explaining they had been left “shocked and dismayed” by the decision.
“The loss of the program will have a significant impact on the capacity of the schools in this area to meet the welfare needs of students,” they said.
It is another instance where the government’s rhetoric and reality are difficult to reconcile. On the one hand, the issue of domestic violence was elevated to something of a priority at the most recent COAG meeting. Yet two weeks later we learn a program aimed at prevention and educating young Australians about healthy relationships is being closed.
Whilst commending Rosie Batty as an extraordinary Australian of the Year, the government was cutting funding for frontline services supporting victims of domestic violence.
“The Abbott Government is giving with one hand and taking with the other when it comes to funding to change cultural attitudes of gender inequality that lead to domestic violence,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens spokesperson for women, said.
“While the Abbott Government has announced $30 million for an advertising campaign, it is cutting funding from established school programs about healthy relationships. It’s perverse for the government to be cutting off progress already being made at the school level, while talking about the importance of reaching children through its advertising campaign.”
How long before Australia can expect some consistency from its leadership in tackling this scourge? How many more women will pay with their lives before we see a concerted campaign that encompasses high-level leadership, adequately funded programs to prevent family violence and meaningful services and support systems for family.
Anyone at risk of family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault can seek help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, either online or by calling 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).