The annual 16-days of activism to stop violence against women in Australia begins today with White Ribbon Day and will finish on 10 December, Human Rights Day.
Violence against women is a serious problem throughout the country and Tasmania is no exception.
Research indicates that, nationally, on average one woman is killed every week as a result of intimate partner violence. Domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children.
The cost of violence against women to the Australian economy is estimated at $15.6 billion per annum.
Studies also show:
- One in five women experience harassment within the workplace.
- One in five women over 18 has been stalked during her lifetime.
- There is increased risk of mental health, behavioural and learning difficulties from childhood exposure to intimate partner violence.
- Children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to perpetrate this violence.
- Domestic violence impacts an employee’s ability to perform tasks in the workplace.
- Violence against women in the workplace impacts on the organisational climate and employees’ sense of wellbeing.
It is of great concern that hardly a day goes by where there is not a media story about violence against women in Australia.
Women have the right to feel safe and live without fear of violence, however one in six Australian women has experienced violence from a current or former partner. At the time of writing, this year alone 63 women have been killed.
For Indigenous women the situation is even worse – they are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence.
Certainly domestic violence as an issue in Australia has been brought clearly into focus following Rosie Batty’s naming as Australian of the Year in January. Rosie was a victim and her young son, Luke, was killed by his father during a brutal attack last year.
The state and federal governments are to be applauded for their efforts of late to address the issue, no doubt spurred by Ms Batty’s advocacy.
In September, the federal government unveiled a $100 million package of measures to provide a safety net for women and children at high risk of experiencing violence.
The package aims to improve frontline support and services, leverage innovative technologies to keep women safe and provide education resources to help change community attitudes to violence and abuse.
In announcing the package, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged that more needed to be done to deal with this scourge.
“COAG (the Council of Australian Government) has made domestic violence a national priority, and governments are acting. But recent events show we are not moving fast enough,” he said.
The package, he has promised, is just part of the Government’s longer term response to domestic and family violence. The COAG advisory panel’s final report, due early next year will advise on what further measures could be introduced.
“We look forward to working with states and territories to trial innovative new technologies to keep women safe, to train more frontline staff to recognise and respond appropriately to women experiencing violence, and to provide better resources and infrastructure to police working in remote Indigenous communities,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We will work with businesses and community groups to keep women safe from being tracked and harassed through mobile phones, and provide integrated services through dedicated domestic violence units in domestic and family violence hotspots
“We look forward to working with all Australians to say that enough is enough; that women and children must be safe in their homes and on our streets; and that domestic and family violence is never acceptable.”
The Tasmanian government’s $25.6 million four-year package of measures – announced in August – to tackle the problem has been well received.
It will boost funding for crisis accommodation and see rental properties leased to support victims seeking to escape. As well, new counsellors will be hired, psychologists will be posted in schools and specialist prosecutors will be trained and hired.
It also says to women ‘you are not alone’ and, as Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma said so eloquently at the announcement; it will shine a spotlight on what has been a dirty little secret within society.
But what can the average person do to assist?
White Ribbon Australia (www.whiteribbon.org.au) offers a lot of advice and helpful hints on actions people, particularly men, can take.
At the very least I would encourage all Tasmanians to buy a white ribbon today, proudly pin it on and say no to violence against women.
Lindy O’Neill is the Chief Executive Officer of UnitingCare Tasmania, the community service agency of the Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and a member and former Chair of the Tasmanian Women’s Council