Too late for this government to claim it takes domestic violence seriously

Why it’s too late for this government to claim it takes domestic violence seriously

On the first sitting day for Parliament in 2019 the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce a $78 million funding package for violence against women.

“Our government is fully engaged in working together to combat violence against women. It must stop,” Morrison is expected to say in a speech on Monday. “We can’t ask women and children to leave dangerous homes if they have no place to go. And where it is safe, women and children survivors should be helped to remain in their homes and communities.”

Call me ungrateful but the gall is quite something.

In the first six weeks of 2019 six women have been violently killed in Australia. In five of those cases the person charged was the victim’s current or former partner. Already this year Australian police will have dealt with around 30,000 domestic violence matters. To put that another way that’s one incident every two minutes.

Around 500 women and girls will have already been admitted to hospital this year with injuries inflicted by their partner.

It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, and, I’ll keep saying it until it’s no longer the case. What other crime would be tolerated like violence against women without a full-scale coordinated emergency response?

If sharks had claimed 6 lives or put 500 people into hospital or required police attendance every two minutes already this year, can you imagine it going virtually un-noticed? What about terrorism?

It’s implausible because those ‘dangers’ are treated as being sufficiently serious to warrant immediate action at any cost.

As far as I can tell, the Prime Minister has publicly referenced violence against women twice this year.

First, he praised the former Prime Minister John Howard for intervening in a domestic violence incident he witnessed on the street while out walking in early January.

Second, he responded to the tragic murder of Palestinian student Aya Maasarwe in Melbourne by attending a memorial, meeting with her father and writing her family a letter.

He has not, as far as I can tell, referenced the bigger picture of violence against women in this country. He has not, as far as I can find, made mention of the fact that 69 women were killed in Australia in 2018, the majority by their current or former partner.

Any additional funding in the realm of violence against women is welcome: it is needed desperately.

The two programs Prime Minister Morrison will announce today as a step towards renewing the national plan on violence against women in the April 2 federal budget are welcome. But $78 million is merely a drop of water when a firehose is needed.

After the May budget was handed down last year, three academics from Monash University delivered a frank assessment of the federal government’s commitment to funding efforts around domestic violence: All talk, no action.

“The 2018 federal budget demonstrates an ongoing failure of the Turnbull Government to match its expressed desire to take violence against women seriously with the necessary national funding commitment.

The budget allocates just $18.2 million to frontline family violence services and to increasing national awareness of the issue. This is inclusive of funding provided to community legal services that provide vital legal assistance, and the $11.5 million committed over two years (2018-19) to 1800 RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and information referral service.

In comparison, at the state level in 2017 the Victorian government allocated $1.9 billion to address family violence by implementing the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. In an early sign that the state of Victoria intends to continue to outdo the federal government, the Victorian Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence earlier this month announced that the state budget 2018-19 will include $42.5 million towards preventing family violence.”

It’s no secret that the coalition’s “women problem” is proving to be endemic and only growing. From its poor treatment of women to the rise of strong female Independents holding the government to account to the formation of a new group WomenVote borne from the discontent of women being ‘wilfully ignored’ by politics for too long: women of different ages and persuasions are increasingly unhappy and unimpressed with the Liberal party.

Against that backdrop, the making of an announcement about the ‘importance’ of tackling violence against women with a small funding boost seems predictable but not sincere.

If the announcement followed a demonstrable commitment from the PM and the government he’s been part of, to turning the tide on the intimate terrorism and funding this scourge, perhaps it could be perceived as more convincing.

Instead on the first day of parliament, a few months out from a federal election, it seems a cynical grab for a shred of credibility on an issue that matters to women. It’s far too little, too late for a government that has consistently failed to provide adequate funding to the myriad services that women and children depend on when experiencing violence.

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