78. According to the Destroy the Joint Counting Dead Women researchers, that’s how many women have died as a result of violence against women this year in Australia – more than one woman a week.
It’s a staggering number, and a wake-up call to the community – we need to end violence against women, and we need to act NOW.
Every year, from November 25 – December 10, there is a global campaign called 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence.
YWCA Canberra, in partnership with the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Toora Women Inc., Doris Women’s Refuge and Beryl Women Inc., hosted a day of action on Friday December 11, to highlight this issue and call on our Government to do more to end violence against women.
We gathered at Parliament House to mark a moment of silence for each woman who has lost her life as a result of violence in Australia this year.
Frances Crimmins, Executive Director of YWCA Canberra, and Andrew Leigh MP spoke on what actions we need to see to end violence against women in Australia.
Our specific requests for action from the Government are:
1. Adequate resourcing to provide access to respectful relationships education for all young people in Australia.
Primary prevention is crucial to the long term elimination of violence against women. This means providing respectful relationships education for young people that includes a focus on gender equality and diversity that is consistently delivered across Australia.
It is important that prevention efforts are focused on the middle-years, for children aged between 9 -12, as this allows the lessons to become embedded prior to non-gender equitable attitudes becoming entrenched.
Our Watch has recently released the world’s first framework for primary violence prevention, which supports our call for a focus on gender equality, and a whole of community approach that begins with education in our schools.
Primary prevention efforts also need to be further reinforced through targeted secondary intervention for young people at risk of perpetrating violence.
We call on the Government to undertake a comprehensive review of the access provided across the country to respectful relationships education that aligns with best-practice principles, and with the Our Watch framework for primary prevention. Pending the outcomes of such a review, we also call on the Government to adequately resource schools to provide best-practice primary prevention so that it can be continuously and consistently delivered.
2. Better resourcing for front-line services
As awareness of violence against women increases, demand on front-line crisis and support services also increases significantly.
In Canberra, calls for help to the Domestic Violence Crisis Service surged by almost 50 per cent over the past five years. The service received 17,697 calls to its emergency line in 2014-15, which was a rise of 35 per cent from 2010-11 figures.
It is crucial that frontline support services in all states and territories receive adequate, consistent and ongoing funding to meet this demand, to ensure that no woman is required to wait for the support she needs.
3. Access to gender-responsive crisis and other housing support for women escaping domestic violence
Family violence is the number one cause of homelessness among women and children in Australia. While housing vulnerability is a significant and growing issue across the ACT, the shortage of transitional housing options for families escaping violence is of profound concern. Lack of affordable accommodation is the leading reason women return to abusive relationships. Without a significant increase in the supply of transitional housing for those escaping family violence, many women will leave abusive partners only to find they have nowhere to go.
While chronic under-resourcing is an issue across the homelessness support sector, women and children fleeing domestic violence have specific needs and complex issues which are not addressed by mainstream providers. A recent evaluation of ACT specialist homelessness services identified women with children as one of the groups who are more likely to experience a mismatch between their needs and their eligibility for specific service providers.
Services that utilise gender-informed practice provide tailored support that recognises the impact of trauma and violence, provides an environment that is safe and respectful, and includes case management that attends to the range of needs and issues that women and families face. Generalist homelessness services with little privacy are not safe spaces for women to disclose family violence, may not be appropriate for accommodating children, and are not specifically oriented toward providing the gender-aware and trauma-informed responses that specialist services provide.
At a time when governments across Australia have committed to preventing domestic violence, it is inexplicable that transitional housing for women and children escaping such violence continues to be underfunded. As demand continues to rise, the chronic lack of crisis accommodation and recent funding cuts to specialist domestic violence accommodation are unsustainable. To help break the cycle of violence, it is imperative the Government restore funding to specialist housing support for women and children escaping domestic violence, and ensure that future tendering processes do not disadvantage specialist services for women and children.
4. Ensure specialist women’s legal services have access to adequate and ongoing funding to provide support to women fleeing domestic violence.
5. Ensure all domestic violence crisis services are responsive to the needs of diverse/marginalised groups.
Women from marginalised groups are more likely to experience violence, and often need specific support outside of mainstream service provision.
Women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds need consistent access to translating and interpreting services, and information on accessing support should also be provided in multiple translations, or in an accessible format so that all Australian women are able to comprehend and access help.
Similarly, women living with disability may need additional support in accessing domestic violence support services, and face multiple barriers to mainstream support avenues. Often women from both of these cohorts are isolated and not connected to the broader community, and this needs to be taken into consideration when delivering outreach or awareness raising programs.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 45 times more likely to experience violence than a Caucasian woman – this is compounded by the complex and multiple disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community, and needs to be addressed as a holistic approach to improving health outcomes for this community more broadly.
Finally, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) women are also at a higher risk of experiencing violence, and this violence can be exacerbated by cultural attitudes towards LGBTQI people.
We urge the Government to consider the needs of diverse and marginalized groups consistently when developing policy on domestic violence, and to ensure that appropriate consultation occurs to incorporate lived experience into any new policy measures.
Head to our campaign page for more information on 16 Days of Activism.