The Australian Government wants more women and children to feel safe, and will pour millions of dollars into existing support services.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently joined Federal Minister for Women Michaelia Cash to announce A$100 million in government funding.
The money will be used to improve front-line support and services, leverage innovative technologies to keep women safe, and provide education resources to help change community attitudes to violence and abuse.
Turnbull, who was sworn-in on September 15 as Australia’s fifth PM in five years, described violence against women as one of the “great shames” of Australia.
“It is a national disgrace. Already this year, 63 women have been killed by their partners or a family member. In New South Wales, in the last three days, three women have been killed in these circumstances and one baby. Three incidents in three days; this is a disgrace,” he said in a public statement.
The PM believes stopping violence is a matter of human respect and dignity.
“Disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women, but all violence against women begins with disrespecting women. We, as leaders, as a government, must make it and we will make it a clear national objective of ours to ensure that Australia is more respecting of women. Women must be respected. Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is unacceptable at every level. At home, at the workplace, wherever,” he said.
“I’d say that as parents, one of the most important things we must do is ensure that our sons respect their mothers and their sisters. Because that is where this begins. It begins — violence against women begins with disrespecting women. And so this is a big cultural shift.”
Minister Cash revealed the situation is dire for Indigenous women, who are 34 times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of family violence. In response to this, the package includes A$21 million for specific measures to help Indigenous women and communities.
The minister says the main barrier to women receiving help is the lack of streamlined services.
“We don’t want women having to travel between different services telling their stories 10 times. Because often they tell their stories once and they don’t want to have to do it again, so we’re going to be working with the states and territories in identified domestic violence hot spots to provide people on the ground in certain centers that are able to provide that one stop advice for women,” she said.
“We’re also going to be working with hospitals because as we know many women will end up in hospital, if we can get a service to them at the hospital — again — that will provide them, I hope, with the assistance that they need.”
The latest package is in response to initial advice of the Council of Australian Governments’ Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children. The panel is chaired by Ken Lay and deputy-chaired by Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, who has passionately advocated for greater awareness about violence against women.
“I’ve spoken at over 250 events and reached over 50,000 people trying to get this message across of how serious family violence is in our society. There have been thousands of people through decades working so hard to get to this point where we accept and acknowledge this is a gender issue,” Batty said.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of people today recognising that this is a huge signal that no more research, well, more action. It is very moving, it is very moving. We have still a long way to go. But by recognising the gender issue that exists, by the Prime Minister stating that we need to respect and value the contribution of women as equals. And that we have a vision of an Australia that is proud of respecting women. That sends the message far and wide and I am really, really pleased I was able to be here today.”
Immediate practical actions to keep women safe include:
- A$12 million to trial with states the use of innovative technology to keep women safe (such as GPS trackers for perpetrators), with funding to be matched by states and territories.
- A$5 million for safer technology, including working with telecommunications companies to distribute safe phones to women, and with the eSafety Commissioner to develop a resource package about online safety for women, including for women from CALD communities.
- A$17 million to keep women safe in their homes by expanding successful initiatives like the Safer in the Home programme to install CCTV cameras and other safety equipment, and a grant to the Salvation Army to work with security experts to conduct risk assessments on victim’s homes, help change their locks, and scan for bugs.
- A$5 million to expand 1800RESPECT, the national telephone and online counselling and information service, to ensure more women can get support.
- A$2 million increased funding for MensLine for tools and resources to support perpetrators not to reoffend.
- Up to A$15 million to enable police in Queensland to better respond to domestic violence in remote communities, and for measures that reduce reoffending by Indigenous perpetrators.
- A$3.6 million for the Cross Border Domestic Violence Intelligence Desk to share information on victims and perpetrators who move around the cross border region of Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.
Immediate measures to improve support and services for women will include increased training for frontline staff and trials of integrated service models:
- A$14 million to expand the DV-alert training programme to police, social workers, emergency department staff, and community workers to better support women, and work with the Royal College of General Practitioners (GPs) to develop and deliver specialized training to GPs across the country.
- A$15 million to establish specialized domestic violence units to provide access to coordinated legal, social work, and cultural liaison services for women in a single location, and allow legal services to work with local hospitals, including for women from CALD communities and women living in regional/remote areas.
- A$5 million for local women’s case workers to coordinate support for women, including housing, safety, and budgeting services.
- A$1.4 million to extend the community engagement police officers in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
- Up to A$1.1 million to help remote Indigenous communities prevent and better respond to the incidence of domestic violence through targeted support.
- A$5 million will also be provided as a longer-term measure to change the attitudes of young people to violence, through expanding the Safer Schools website to include resources for teachers, parents, and students on respectful relationships. This will build on the A$30 million national campaign (jointly funded by the Commonwealth, states, and territories) to change young people’s attitudes to violence, which will commence in early 2016.