2022: A HISTORIC YEAR FOR AUSTRALIAN WOMEN: Australia has recently appointed the first Domestic Violence Commissioner Michaela Cronin.
WEL notes that violence against women is at last being recognised, making it everyone’s business. Violence in the home includes violence against the elderly as well as domestic violence and also the murder of young children, often following divorce or separation. In 2018, the Australian Institute of Health and Safety reports that one in six Australian women has experienced violence from an intimate partner, and two out of five women experiencing head injuries have permanent brain injury. Two women are murdered every week in Australia. Men must take responsibility for the actions of other men and not look the other way, calling it a “domestic”, otherwise they are colluding in a very common crime, so there must be more awareness for bystanders. Clementine Ford advises women and girls that violence “is not your fault“: interview on One Plus One, Oct 2018. And Julia Baird, SMH, says that “women are burning with a cold fury while men are groping under dresses.
URGENT Delegates from women’s organisations will attend the federal Women’s Safety Summit in September 2021, advocating for 12 priority areas in sexual violence. In a joint letter to federal Safety Ministers covering: 1. committing to responding and preventing sexual violence; 2. expanding victim-survivor support pathways; 3. intervention in gendered violence; 4. intervening with violence perpetrators. To support these actions and sign up to the 12 part petition visit www.safetysummit.org.au to add your name to thousands of women organised by the FairAgenda action group, who are also calling for national affirmative consent laws, as in NSW, that must reflect that sexual consent must be clear.
The ABS Report of March 2018 tells us that one in two Australian women are too scared to walk alone in their own suburbs at night, making us one of the least safe in the developed world. And the Community Council of Australia reports that 49% of women do not feel safe walking alone at night – the gap is highest of any nation in the OECD.
Congratulations to Jess Hill, winner of the 2020 Stella Prize for her book “See What You Made Me Do“. In her acceptance speech she said that “it needed to be written because the problem of domestic violence must be solved”.
WEL applauds Rosie Batty, 2015 Australian of the Year, who tackled crimes of domestic violence and brought them to the forefront of the news. We look forward to the efforts of David Morrison, 2016 Australian of the Year, who promises to continue efforts to stop domestic violence and inequality in our society. And visit ourwatch.org.au an organisation to prevent violence against women and children, awava.org.au – Australian Women Against Violence Alliance – funded by the Australian Government, familyviolencelaw.gov.au for government help, also Shine Lawyers shine.com.au who can provide legal help in cases of domestic violence.
The new Crimes Amendment (Abolition of Defensive Homicide) Act came into operation in 2014. The Act addresses the issue of homicide in the context of family violence by simplifying self-defence and introducing jury directions on family violence. The previous law had not worked as intended to protect women who kill abusive partners. The Domestic Violence Research Centre Victoria (dvrcv.org.au) and Victorian Women’s Trust (vwt.org.au) explain how homicide laws must consider violence against women.
The Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services has advice on violence towards women and children. The Victorian Minister for Women and Prevention of Violence can be contacted by free call 1800 015188, or visit dhhs.vic.gov.au.
In the U.K. there is a program giving people the right to ask police if their partner has a history of domestic violence. If police find the person they are checking has a violent past they can arrange support for the partner.
The Australian reports that Western Australia will introduce laws against domestic violence, requiring a “presumption of imprisonment” for offenders who breach violence restraining orders three times. And we hear that in the ACT public servants will be trained to identify domestic violence.
Violence in Aboriginal communities is at last being recognised as criminal and not part of any cultural tradition. CLICK for “Rights of indigenous women”.
CLICK for the article by the late WEL Victoria member, Anne Gunter, supporting the Victorian Family Violence Bill. The Victorian Government has changed the law to remove provocation as an excuse for violence.
The Federal Government is moving to reduce violence against women. In 2014, the Prime Minister spoke in support of White Ribbon Day, denouncing violence against women. CLICK for CEDAW (the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women) that Australia is to join. CLICK for the National Council Report on Violence. And CLICK here for the draft submission to the National Council on Violence by WEL Australia, in response to the Council’s request for community input. WEL Australia will include the issue of respectful relationships for the 2021 Federal election.
Visit the Australian Law Reform Commission at alrc.gov.au. WEL Victoria made a submission and supports the campaign for Family Violence Reform. WEL is particularly concerned that most women and children should not have to leave their homes. For women who must leave, visit www.nextstepsaustralia.org.au where household goods can be obtained. CLICK for more information.
A High Court decision will allow people who suffer psychological illness as a result of rape or other traumatic events to sue for compensation years later. And a study by Access Economics on the cost of domestic violence to the Australian economy, commissioned by the Australian Government Partnerships against Domestic Violence, has found that domestic violence cost $8.1 billion in 2002/03.
The Victorian Office of Women’s Policy has released a report entitled “Safe at Work? Women’s Experience of Violence in the Workplace“. The report points out the problems faced by many women at work. Employers should note that legal remedies will cost them far more than preventative measures and work safety provisions.
WEL Victoria’s Freedom from Violence action group recommended measures to ensure the safety of women at work. Besides ways to prevent sexual harassment, we suggested that workplace safety officers should have a specific mandate to attend to particular ways women could be put at risk in the workplace by poor arrangements such as inadequate lighting of buildings [inside and out] for women working late at night. With far more casual work and the extension of the working day to virtually any hours the risks to many women are increased, both at work and on the way home. Workplace safety should not merely cover equipment and training, but all conditions under which employees work. Many women threatened with violence could or would not talk about it to their employers. This is where a safety officer should be available to hear their concerns. This has now given rise to the “#ME TOO” campaign.
Time for Action: The National Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2010-2022 Executive Summary: It is time to break through the walls of silence, and make legal norms a reality in the lives of women because sexual assault and violence are not merely personal or unseen problems, they should be regarded as public concerns that affect all. The accumulation of case upon case of violence against women and their children is a burden which our society must not sustain. Victims and their families must be helped to ensure safer futures not just for individuals but for the conscience of the nation. The cycle of the abused becoming abuser, the splintering of families, and the subsequent splintering of support groups and communities, endangers the future of generations of Australians. The Australian Government has committed more than $86million in funding to support this program, which is the first of its kind to focus on prevention, including building respectful relationship among young people and working to increase gender inequality to stop violence occurring in the first place. This plan is available from fahcsia.gov.au.
The former Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, has launched a $1.1 million workplace program combating violence against women, stating that we need to pull the issue of family violence out of the shadows and challenge the notion that this is a private issue, and this means standing up against violence in all spheres of our lives, whether it be at home, in our schools or workplaces. “In the past year a reference group of 20 members has been established and in August 2011 the group met for the first time to endorse a project work plan and terms of reference. The new program is structured around three key elements – the appointment of ambassadors for positive workplace cultures, accreditation of workplaces that are safe places for women and awards for workplaces that introduce prevention strategies and speak out about violence,” Ms Ellis said. “I am encouraged to see some of Australia’s leading organisations including Universities Australia, the ACTU and NSW Police already taking a stand on violence against women by taking part in this program and I urge all workplaces to get involved. Nearly one in three Australian women experience physical violence and almost one in five women experience sexual violence over a lifetime. Violence cuts across all aspects of our community – it knows no geographical, socio-economic, age, ability, cultural or religious boundaries”.
Sexual Assault A 10-year investigation (2008-2017) of all States by the ABC finds that, of 140,000 sexual assault reports, police did not believe 12,000 reports and 18,000 reports were withdrawn by victims (1 in 5) and 40 percent were unresolved or rejected. Police are strongly urging women to withdraw their reports. The effect of this on victims is devastating as police say it is not worth pursuing as only one in three reports leads to arrest so women feel invalidated and fear the court process. Police also call women “deserving” and “bringing it on themselves”. One victim was not recorded even though she tried 3 times! There is a call for a National Enquiry on how police respond to reports. Visit: abc.net.au/news/2020-01-28/how-police-are-failing-survivors-of-sexual-assault
United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, stated that violence against women and girls makes its hideous impact on every continent, country and culture. It is time to focus on the concrete actions that all of us must take to prevent and to eliminate this scourge – the U.N. family, civil society and all individuals. Remember that November 25 is the annual U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Previous Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, stated that the time has well and truly come to have a national public conversation about how it could still happen that so many Australian women have experienced violence from their partner. He said “It is my gender – it is our gender – Australian men – that are responsible. On violence against women, we have a simple, clear policy in two words – zero tolerance”.
CLICK for “Provocation no Excuse“.