Australia launches ‘world-leading’ bid to end violence against women and children within a generation | Domestic violence

The Albanian government is setting an ambitious goal to end violence against women and children within a generation with the release of a new national plan on domestic violence that calls for better emergency housing and helping men develop “healthy masculinities”.

The new plan calls for reforms to how Australia’s media, schools, legal systems, technology companies, the health sector and the perpetrators themselves act, with the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children making dozens of proposals to improve violence prevention and response .

“Violence against women and children is not inevitable,” the report said. “By addressing the social, cultural, political and economic factors that drive this gender-based violence, we can end it in one generation.”

Commonwealth, state and territory governments have all endorsed the plan, which does not contain specific funding requirements or commitments, but is rather a broader blueprint for change.

A third of women have experienced physical violence, and one in five have experienced sexual violence. Intimate partner violence is the leading preventable cause of illness and death among women aged 18 to 44, with one woman killed by a partner every 10 days on average. The report states that violence against women and children costs the economy $26 billion a year.

The Covid pandemic saw an alarming increase, with two-thirds of women experiencing violence saying the violence started or escalated after the pandemic began.

“Too many of us are being re-traumatized in trying to engage with systems that are meant to ‘protect’ us but fail,” said a statement from members of the Independent Collective of Survivors, which was included in the report. “Systems that create barriers to access and have costs beyond our capabilities because services are not designed for the reality of our lives.

“Systems that wait until the worst has happened before reacting, then blame us for not reporting or leaving.”

The national plan includes two separate five-year action plans with a stand-alone action plan for First Nations women to be developed. It lays out several areas for improvement across state and federal jurisdictions, with a strong focus on boosting housing and engaging men and boys in prevention processes.

“The current rates of domestic, family and sexual violence are unacceptable,” said the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth. “We want to make these changes now so that the next generation of women and children can live in a society free of violence.

“We need sustained and collective action across society.”

The plan calls for better support for men and boys to develop healthy masculinities and positive peer relationships, challenge homophobic or transphobic views, help men build skills to be good fathers and encourage people – especially men – to better challenge sexism and harassment as spectators.

There are also proposals for more funding for men’s behavior change programs and offender interventions, including addressing the “underlying trauma of participants” in these programs. Other recommendations include addressing societal attitudes that excuse or trivialize violence, and attitudes that require victims to stop or leave the violence themselves.

Separately, the plan calls for improved housing support for those escaping violence, increased housing stock and better helping people with low literacy or language barriers navigate rental markets.

The Director of Monash Sex and Family Violence Prevention Center Kate Fitz-Gibbon called the plan “world-leading.”

“It sets the ambition to create whole-of-system responses that not only support victim-survivors to survive, but to thrive beyond their experience of violence,” she said.

“This national plan represents a much-needed decade-long commitment to eliminating the national crisis of domestic, family, and sexual violence.”

Legal and policing changes include recommendations to minimize the number of times a victim-survivor has to share their experiences; building LGBTQ+-specific anti-violence services; better training of police, lawyers and judges on family violence; and promote greater consistency across states in laws, legal responses, and support.

More immediate proposals from the government include increased paid domestic violence leave and cheaper public transport and childcare to benefit parents fleeing violence, with inequality between the sexes identified as a major driver of violence.

The Federal Minister for Women and Finance, Katy Gallaghersaid the government was focusing more broadly on addressing gender inequality through reforms to childcare and paid parental leave.

“No amount of violence is acceptable and it is vital that we speak frankly about some of the factors that contribute to violence against women and children and what we will do to address some of the underlying causes,” she said.

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency call 000. International helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org.

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