On 26 June 2014, the Senate referred the following matters to the Senate
Finance and Public Administration References Committee (the committee) for
inquiry and report by 27 October 2014:
- the prevalence and impact of domestic violence in Australia as it
affects all Australians and, in particular, as it affects:
- women living with a disability, and
- women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds;
- the factors contributing to the present levels of domestic violence;
- the adequacy of policy and community responses to domestic violence;
- the effects of policy decisions regarding housing, legal services, and
women's economic independence on the ability of women to escape domestic violence;
- how the Federal Government can best support, contribute to and drive the
social, cultural and behavioural shifts required to eliminate violence against
women and their children; and
- any other related matters.
Conduct of the inquiry
The inquiry was advertised in The Australian newspaper and on the
committee's website. The committee invited submissions from individuals,
organisations and government departments by 31 July 2014. However, it continued
to accept submissions until the end of 2014. On 26 August 2014 the Senate
granted an extension of time to report until 2 March 2015
and a further extension until 18 June 2015.
The committee received 165 public submissions as well as confidential
submissions. A list of individuals and organisations which made public
submissions, together with other information authorised for publication by the
committee, is at Appendix 1.
The committee held public hearings in Melbourne on 12 September 2014, Canberra
on 15 October 2014, Sydney on 4 November 2014, Melbourne on 5 November
2014 and Brisbane on 6 November 2014. In 2015 the committee held hearings in
Darwin on 10 March 2015 and Canberra on 11 June 2015. A list of the witnesses
who gave evidence at the public hearings is available at Appendix 2.
Submissions, additional information and the Hansard transcript of
evidence may be accessed through the committee website at: www.aph.gov.au/senate_fpa.
The committee notes that some details which may potentially identify
individuals have been removed from Hansard to protect women at risk of domestic
On 19 March 2015 the committee tabled an interim report. The
recommendations from that report are at Appendix 3.
The committee acknowledges that some communities prefer to use the term
family violence or family violence and abuse over the term domestic violence.
The committee notes the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and
their Children 2010-2022 (National Plan) uses the term domestic violence,
whereas the Commonwealth Family Law Act 1975 uses the term family
violence. For consistency, the committee has chosen to use the term domestic and
family violence generally throughout the report. However, where other specific terminology
has been used in a particular context, the committee has used that terminology.
The gendered nature of domestic violence
The overarching terms of reference for this inquiry refer to the
'prevalence and impact of domestic violence in Australia as it affects all
Australians' (emphasis added). The committee recognises that this term of
reference encompasses all victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender.
The committee understands Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data demonstrates
that men are more likely to be the victims of violence in the community.
Further, the committee acknowledges there are some men who are victims of
domestic and family violence. However, the committee accepts the analysis of ABS
data by Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS),
to the effect that:
The Personal Safety Survey demonstrates a qualitative
difference between the violence women and men experience. It shows women are
most likely to experience violence in their home by a current or former partner
that is domestic violence. In contrast, while men report high levels of
violence this is unlikely to be domestic violence. Men are most likely to
experience violence in a place of recreation or entertainment by a male
stranger and the most common type of known perpetrator against a man is an
acquaintance or neighbour.
The [ABS' Personal Safety Survey], illustrates that domestic
violence is gender-based violence.
The committee acknowledges that further work is required to address
domestic and family violence against men and the data on its prevalence, noting
that only 22 per cent of the respondents in the Public Safety Survey undertaken
by the ABS were male.
The committee acknowledges that there are a complex range of social and
personal factors that can contribute to the incidence and severity of domestic and
As part of its submission, VicHealth provided the committee with its 'Preventing
violence against women: A framework for action', which highlighted a broad
range of contributing factors to the incidence and severity of violence:
support for violence against women;
or experiencing family violence as a child;
to other forms of interpersonal or collective violence;
and acceptance of violence as a means of resolving inter-personal disputes;
isolation and limited access to systems of support;
education or employment;
labour force status;
and illicit drug use;
characteristics and poor mental health;
and marital conflict; and
The Australian Women's Health Network also highlighted structural
barriers such as gender inequality and gender role socialisation and social
norms which can ignore or support violence against women.
Other submissions highlighted factors that can contribute to the
incidence and severity of domestic and family violence in particular
communities. For example, The Central Coast CALD Domestic Violence Sub-Committee
submitted that domestic violence in culturally and linguistically diverse
(CALD) communities could be exacerbated by:
of awareness of what encompasses the definition of family and domestic violence
in Australia within CALD communities;
of education and knowledge to access services and support programs for victims
of domestic violence;
protocols in place for preparedness for new arrivals (whether migrant or
humanitarian) concerning emergency numbers to call when domestic violence is
cross-cultural training to key crisis emergency services, both government and
non-government agencies, in order to recognise and understand the barriers of CALD
communities and challenges;
cultural and religious beliefs which contribute to family and community
of knowledge and understanding of the availability of free interpreter services;
masochistic nature of society that values notions of masculinity and gender
of infrastructure i.e. housing/crisis accommodation and resources to enable
women from CALD backgrounds to leave domestic violence;
multilingual resources that women experiencing [family and domestic violence]
can access; and
of knowledge of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's provision
on domestic violence and requirements of non-judicial evidence especially for
those who are on temporary spouse visa.
The National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum submitted
that it 'recognises other contributing factors in the high incidence and
prevalence of family violence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
cultural practices that mitigate against interpersonal violence;
of children; and
While the committee acknowledges there are many contributing factors to
the incidence and severity of domestic and family violence, it would also like
to stress that these cannot be seen as direct causes of domestic violence. As
Australia's ANROWS submitted to the committee:
There is no single cause of domestic violence. It is best
understood as a result of the interaction of factors at the individual, family,
community and societal levels encompassing, for example, attitudes to women and
gender roles within relationships, family and peer support for these attitudes,
and social and economic gender inequality in the broader societal context.
Alcohol and economic stress can be triggers, or contributing factors, which may
exacerbate domestic violence but they are not causes.
The committee thanks those individuals and organisations who made
submissions and appeared at hearings. It particularly acknowledges the people
who told the committee of their personal experiences, as well as organisations working
in the sector and their staff, who go above and beyond to assist victims of
domestic and family violence.
Structure of the report
The report consists of 10 chapters as follows:
2 details the effects of domestic and family violence;
3 covers the national framework;
4 examines the prevalence of domestic and family violence;
5 looks at national data collection;
6 explores primary prevention measures;
7 considers early intervention measures;
8 investigates crisis support;
9 outlines the legal framework;
10 covers longer term support.
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