Women’s safety: The time for action is now

It’s time to talk about the wicked problem tearing apart our families and haunting our communities.

On average, men’s violence against women sees one woman killed every week in Australia, while a child’s life is cut short tragically soon every fortnight at the hands of a parent.

Domestic and family violence costs our country over $21 billion every year, while the toll it takes on those who experience it is immeasurable.

It is all of our problem, and we can all see that much more can, and must, be done.

It’s time to talk – and it’s time to take action.

From today across Monday and Tuesday 6-7 September, leaders, experts, survivors and advocates will gather virtually for the National Women’s Safety Summit, to discuss the key issues affecting women and their children’s safety, including frontline responses, prevention, coercive control, sexual violence, and the ways in which violence often intersects with other forms of abuse, such as racism, ageism and ableism.

It’s the shadow pandemic for which there is no vaccine. Our support systems, already buckling under the demands of responding to the most commonly known elements such as physical and sexual violence, are also working furiously to address variants such as image and technology-based abuses, amidst the overly vocal minority voices that seek to discredit our main sources of protection and even deny there’s any infection at all.

As with any public health crisis, we know that what’s needed is an evidence-based approach across the board, from prevention all the way through to response and recovery. And we need to have shared understanding and messages to our communities to help prevent violence before it starts, call it out when we see it, and support those affected by it.

That’s why we’re calling for national definitions for domestic, family and sexual violence to be established, beginning with discussions at the National Women’s Safety Summit, including recognising coercive control as a pattern of abuse. We’re also backing the call for 12 key actions to help take the Women’s Safety Summit from talk to action, including for governments to:

  • Build stronger foundations in our community to prevent violence before it starts
  • Prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community led initiatives
  • Increase capacity across our communities to recognise and respond to early signs of abuse
  • Increase and extend investment in specialist support services
  • Increase and expand the focus on sexual violence
  • Shift the burden to the person who uses violence
  • Recognise children and young people as victims in their own right
  • Expand research to build evidence-based services
  • Reform the Family Law system
  • Tailor initiatives and responses to community needs
  • Expand victim-survivor choice and control through expanded pathways for support and accountability beyond police and criminal courts
  • Invest in programmes with long-term funding, to give them enough time to work

We further support Djirra’s key calls on the Women’s Safety Summit to:

  • Establish a separate, dedicated National Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children
  • Increase investment into early intervention and prevention
  • Ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s economic security
  • Establish a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Gathering/Summit
  • Funding decisions should be determined by need, not geography
  • Reinstate a dedicated funding stream with increased, longterm and secure funding for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLSs)
  • Establish a nationally consistent, mandatory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection notification and referral system
  • The National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) Forum must be represented on the advisory groups informing the National Plan
  • Self-determination – Solutions by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
  • Support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data sovereignty
  • Housing must be included as a focus area of the National Plan
  • Expand geographical reach of fourteen existing Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLSs)
  • Women in prison must not be forgotten in this National Plan

There’s no vaccine for violence against women – but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. We all have a part to play in creating a safer Australia for women and their children, and initiatives such as the National Women’s Safety Summit are key in defining the National Plan for getting there. By listening to the calls for action from women’s safety experts and advocates around the country, we can help increase our immunity against violence and be safer, together.