In 2013, the World Health Organisation found that more than one
third of all women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate
partner violence and that these findings show it is a 'global public health
problem of epidemic proportions requiring urgent action'.
In Australia, women are over-represented in intimate partner
homicides. 89 women were killed by their current or former partner between
2008-10 which equates to nearly one woman every week.
However, in 2015, the statistics to date shows that this number is increasing
with two Australian women killed by domestic violence each week.
Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety
(ANROWS) notes that data from the 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal
Safety Survey shows that one in three Australian women have experienced
physical violence and Australian women are most likely to experience physical
and sexual violence in their home at the hands of a male current or ex-partner.
The most commonly reported reason for seeking assistance from
specialist homelessness services was domestic and family violence.
A study of Victorian women demonstrated that domestic violence carries an
enormous cost in terms of premature death and disability. As VicHealth stated: 'It
is responsible for more preventable ill-health in Victorian women under the age
of 45 than any other of the well-known risk factors, including high blood
pressure, obesity and smoking'.
In addition, more than one million children in Australia are affected by
domestic violence which can leave them with serious emotional, psychological, social,
behavioural and developmental consequences.
The committee acknowledges that the cost of domestic and family
violence is great in terms of lives lost, the effects on children, physical and
mental health, employment, risk of homelessness and financial security. The
economic cost is also substantial with a 2009 study by KPMG finding that
violence against women, including domestic violence, cost the nation $13.6
billion and this was expected to reach $15.6 billion in 2021-22 if steps were
The committee heard there are a broad and complex range of
social and personal factors that can contribute to the incidence and severity
of domestic and family violence. These include gender inequality, social norms
and attitudes as well as exposure to violence, social isolation, relationship
conflict, income, divorce or separation and the use of alcohol and drugs. The
committee is particularly concerned by the statistic that alcohol is involved
in up to 65 per cent of family violence incidents reported to police (see
The terms of reference referred to the prevalence of domestic
violence as it affects vulnerable groups including 'women living with a disability'
and 'women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds'. The
committee recognises these are not the only vulnerable groups which also include
culturally and linguistically diverse, non-English speaking new and emerging
migrant communities, people experiencing mental health issues, people in same
sex relationships, transgender and intersex persons.
The committee recognises that there is no silver bullet to stop
domestic and family violence. Rather, a coherent, strategic and long term effort
by all levels of governments and the community is required to take effective
The committee heard the areas which will make a real difference
understanding the causes and effects of domestic violence (chapters
1 and 2)
the need for cultural change which involves prevention work to change
attitudes and behaviours towards women (chapter 6);
a national framework and ensuring ongoing engagement with
stakeholders (chapter 3);
early intervention measures (chapter 7);
effective data collection to ensure programs and policies for
women, their children and men are evidence-based (chapters 4 and 5);
coordination of services (chapter 8);
more information sharing between stakeholders (chapter 8);
better legal responses/enforcement to hold perpetrators to
account (chapter 9);
sufficient and appropriate crisis services (chapter 8); and
providing long term support to victims of domestic and family violence
Work in these areas is underway and it will take time to see
the effects of this work flow through. The long term nature of this challenge
is recognised in the National Plan to reduce Violence against Women and their
Children which spans the period 2010-2022.
Over the course of the inquiry the committee spoke to many
people working in the sector, policy and law makers, victims, as well as people
in the community who have been appalled at the unacceptable toll domestic and
family violence has taken in women and children’s lives. The committee was
heartened by their view that there is the beginning of a genuine shift in
attitudes on violence and also the will to fund, educate and resource the
programs, services and victims of domestic and family violence.
The committee believes this report has the potential to become
an important contribution to community awareness of the challenges, collective
effort and commitment required to prevent and ultimately eliminate domestic and
family violence. It should be read in conjunction with the large body of work
completed and underway in this area, including the report by the Queensland Special
Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence, chaired by the Honourable Dame
Quentin Bryce AD CVO, the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, along
with the work of COAG and the Second Action Plan.
The committee is of the view that for all the work being
undertaken to have real and lasting effects, there must be a sustained effort
at all levels of government to act to prevent this unacceptable crime wave
against women and their children from continuing.
Senator Katy Gallagher
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