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Community attitudes towards violence against women


The National Community Attitudes toward Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) is the world’s longest-running survey of community attitudes towards violence against women. Results from the latest survey are mixed; levels of awareness have generally risen but there are still areas of concern.

NCAS is funded by Department of Social Services (DSS) as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. It was initially developed on behalf of the Australian Government in 1995, drawing on an earlier 1987 survey. The last three national surveys took place in 2009 and 2013 (led by VicHealth), and in 2017 (for which Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety—ANROWS—was responsible).  

The survey collects information from males and females aged 16 years and over about their knowledge of, and attitudes to, violence against women, attitudes towards gender equality, and intentions should they witness (or be a bystander to) abuse or disrespect towards women.  

  • Most Australians (72 per cent) are aware violence against women is common (up from 68 per cent in 2013)
  • While most Australians (81 per cent) recognise women are more likely than men to suffer physical harm from domestic violence, this has dropped from 86 per cent in 2013
  • There has been an ongoing decline in awareness that men are more likely than women to commit acts of domestic violence. In 2017, 64 per cent recognise that mainly men, or men more often, commit acts of domestic violence; dropping steadily from 71 per cent in 2013, 74 per cent in 2009 and 86 per cent in 1995
  • In 2017, 81 per cent of Australians recognised that women are more likely than men to suffer physical harm from domestic violence—down from 86 per cent in 2013
  • One in five Australians believe domestic violence is a normal reaction to stress, and that sometimes a woman can make a man so angry he hits her without meaning to
  • One in three Australians believe that if a woman does not leave her abusive partner then she is responsible for the violence continuing
  • Fewer than half of Australians (49 per cent) recognise that levels of fear from domestic violence are worse for women than for men
  • Just over one in six people (16 per cent) agree that many allegations of sexual assault made by women are false , 72 per cent disagreed with this statement
  • Nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of Australians agree that men making sexist jokes about women when in the company of their male friends does no harm.
  • Two in five Australians believe many women exaggerate how unequally women are treated in Australia. 

 Agreement that certain behaviours are a form of domestic violence/violence against women, 2009 and 2017   

Attitudes to violence against women

Source: NCAS Summary Report, p. 43. 

The report suggests the majority of Australians have a good understanding of violence against women, support gender equality, reject attitudes supportive of violence against women, and say they would act, or would like to act, when witnessing abuse or disrespect towards women.

Whilst there has been some improvement, there are many areas that remain of concern. For example, one in three people still do not have an understanding of violence against women and one in five do not consider controlling a partner’s finances as a form of domestic violence; there is still some way to go in eliminating negative attitudes and violence against women.

Clients of the Parliamentary Library can request assistance to interpret the statistics or find other relevant data by contacting the Parliamentary Library. 


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