A coalition of advocacy groups has intensified calls for Australian governments to increase investment in preventing sexual violence and supporting victims, and adopt a greater focus on intervention for perpetrators.
The prime minister was supposed to host a women’s safety summit that would have opened on Thursday, but the event has been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak that forced 14 million people into lockdown.
While the summit is rescheduled for September, 22 organisations have joined forces to lobby governments for change now.
The groups have drafted a joint letter to ministers on the national women’s safety taskforce, asking for concrete commitments across a range of fronts, underlined by funding for the length of a 12 year national plan to reduce family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. The current plan to reduce violence against women and their children expires next year.
Joanne Sheehan-Paterson, the chair of the National Association of Services Against Sexual Violence, noted it had been four months since 100,000 사람들 attended the March4Justice, “speaking out about the sexual violence that plagues our workplaces, 학교, institutions, homes and public spaces”.
“We need deep, systemic change and that starts with greater government investment in sexual violence prevention and services,” Sheehan-Paterson said.
Susie Smith, the co-chair of Embolden, 말했다: “The summit has been delayed, but that should not delay the conversation about fixing what should be core government business.”
“We know what’s needed to improve safety, and there are people knocking on the door of our services that can’t afford to wait”.
The letter to ministers notes that since the commencement of the current national plan, “Australians have become aware of a social issue of epidemic proportions, and they expect more in response”.
It says one of the limitations of existing interventions is they have not been focussed on inter-jurisdictional coordination, so “better and more formalised coordination is required” through a national partnership agreement.
The letter identifies 12 objectives, including expanding support for primary prevention work, and addressing early intervention – which the group says is a “significant gap in Australia’s approach to preventing and responding to family, domestic and sexual violence”.
The group says sexual violence needs to be elevated in the next national plan because incidents of domestic and family violence remain high, and there has also been increased reporting.
There also needs to be tangible efforts to reconfigure the justice system, including funding systemwide training around risk-identification and expanding perpetrator interventions to break the cycle of violence.
Jacqui Watt, the chief executive of No To Violence, said men at risk of using violence have to wait an average of two to three months to access the services that “are designed to keep them in view, as well as shift their behaviour to prevent future harm”.
The group says the next national plan should include funding for piloting accountability programs and safety intervention approaches “which sit beside or outside the criminal justice system”. It also wants consideration of the family law framework, and state and territory systems, including the family violence and child protection systems.
Reform is also needed to recognise that children are victims in their own right, and require unique interventions and supports to help them recover from trauma. There is also a call for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations to set priorities, with delivery implemented by Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
“Throughout the first national plan, initiatives have not always succeeded to their full potential due to short funding cycles,” the letter says. “This negatively impacts services’ capacity to attract, train and retain specialist staff and plan service delivery, as well as clients’ experience of services”.
“It is impossible to retain and build the strongest workforce possible when there is a constant fear of losing funding – more funding is needed”.
When the prime minister, Scott Morrison, flagged the summit in April, he said the event would include “keynote addresses, panel discussions and workshops focused on issues affecting women’s safety as well as a series of roundtables that will contribute insights and help determine priorities for the next national plan”.
Morrison said the roundtables would focus on issues “including prevention of violence and sexual violence, online abuse, coercive control, policing and justice systems, respectful relationships, frontline service responses and violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women”.
Shortly after the event was announced, the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, called on Morrison to broaden the scope of the event to include economic security issues as well as safety.