Nov 2016- March 2017 Quarterly Update
Welcome to AWAVA’s latest update. After a brief hiatus and holiday period we are a little later than planned with this one, making it more like half-yearly update! While updating you on our work, we also aim to give you some hand-on tools and materials for you to use in your work.
Our advocacy efforts are currently focussed on three main portfolios of work that relate to ending violence against women and children, which we recognise as a cause and consequence of gender inequality. These three areas are:
- The role of specialist women’s services in responding to and preventing violence against women and children
- Supporting the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022
- Access to justice for women and children living with or at risk of violence
The role of specialist women’s services
AVAVA’s message continues to be clear: if you care about ending violence against women and children, you need to care about services. As awareness rises about government efforts to eliminate violence, demand for services has also continued to rise: a predicted and positive outcome, but one that must be met with a greater investment of funding.
The National Partnership on Affordable Housing (NPAH) remains a significant component of family and domestic violence spending; it is a key source of funding from the federal level for safe and appropriate housing for women and children and also provides significant resources to the domestic and family violence specialist services, which assist with key “wrap around” services, such as specialist women’s services. However, since 2015 the NPAH has been subject to yearly roll-over, which provides funding uncertainty for specialist services.
During the lead up to the COAG meeting on housing and homelessness in November 2016, AWAVA worked along-side members of the community to advocate for funding security for these services and called for the extension of the NPAH, which was to end in June 2017. The joint open letter signed by 209 organisations including AWAVA can be found here. AWAVA also wrote to State and Territory Premiers, Chief Ministers and Women’s Safety Ministers asking them to help those attempting to build their lives free from violence by urging the Commonwealth to take leadership and recommit to long-term, fully indexed extension of the NPAH.
AWAVA has also advocated directly to relevant Ministers and Senators about the important role NPAH plays in providing specialist services working to prevent and end violence against women and children, and continues to promote the findings and recommendations within our policy brief on the role of specialist women’s services.
On the 9th of December, the Commonwealth Government extended the NPAH for another year (to June 2018) while Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments continue to work on long-term homelessness reform. However, attention has now shifted to the larger overarching National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), which funds domestic and family violence services and other homelessness as well as social housing. Indications from the Commonwealth Government that its contribution to NAHA is under active consideration for reform have raised concerns, given the importance to women of social housing and the critical need for accommodation and support services for victims/survivors of domestic violence.
AWAVA will continue to participate in discussions surrounding these reforms, and their interaction with the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children, and will continue to advocate for adequate, secure and sustainable funding and protection for specialist services.
Supporting the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Summit on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children was held in Brisbane during the 27th and 28th of October 2016. The Summit brought together delegates, including Commonwealth, State and Territory Premiers, Chief Ministers and Women’s Safety Ministers and featured presentations about progress and best practice in the area of women and children’s safety in each state and territory and across Australia. AWAVA’s Chair Julie Oberin attended this event and we also made online submissions to a series of roundtable discussions on several topics. The roundtables identified a number of key insights and suggested actions – summaries can be found here.
Third Action Plan
The Summit also saw the release of the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. AWAVA welcomed the Third Action Plan, particularly the plan’s recognition of the role of specialist women’s services, which AWAVA advocated for throughout the development of the Third Action Plan. However, AWAVA like many other peak bodies and community groups continues to believe that a much larger investment of funding is required to genuinely address service needs and strengthen prevention efforts to end violence against women and children. AWAVA’s media release welcoming the Third Action Plan can be found here.
AWAVA will continue to communicate with and work alongside the Department of Social Services (DSS) to support and provide constructive feedback and recommendations to the implementation of the Third Action Plan. In particular, we look forward to being engaged in the working groups under the Third Action Plan and hearing more about the work of the National Plan Implementation Executive Group (IMPEG), which comprises representatives from the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments who provide oversight of the National Plan implementation and evaluation.
Social Compass has been commissioned by the Department of Social Services to seek the views of a range of stakeholders as part of an evaluation of 1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. Service providers and peak bodies were encouraged to take anonymous survey in March 2017. The survey and evaluation reports have not yet been publically released. 1800RESPECT released a media statement in February 2017 indicating an increase in the number of calls that were answered, following the introduction of the new First Response triage model in August 2016.
AWAVA continues to ask for further information about the functioning of 1800RESPECT (such as data about referrals) and the steps the service is taking to support women in overcoming barriers they face when accessing the services. We will continue to advocate for collaboration with other women’s services, greater transparency and information sharing with community stakeholders.
Access to justice for women and children living with or at risk of violence
Tech-facilitated abuse and image based sexual abuse
AWAVA has previously called for the creation of a new offence in the Australian criminal code to criminalise the unauthorised sharing of intimate images (image-based sexual abuse and exploitation). The Australian Government has expanded the role of the e-Safety Commissioner, appointing Julie Inman Grant to the role in November 2016. A new portal will be established later this year to enable women to report imaged based sexual abuse, and the Government has committed to releasing a discussion paper in the first half of 2017 to work towards the establishment of a civil penalties regime (instead of a criminal offence). AWAVA has worked with the e-Safety Commissioner on terminology, contributing to a shift from using the term ‘revenge porn’ to the term ‘image-based abuse’, and looks forward to continuing working with the Commissioner in the next phase of her office’s activities.
Country visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
In February 2017 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Šimonović made her country visit to Australia. AWAVA took on an informal coordination role to help ensure that as many civil society organisation as possible could meet with the Special Rapporteur. The meetings were attended by a variety of organisations including women legal services, ethnic communities’ representatives, women with disability advocacy organisations, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders family violence prevention services.
Prior to the visit, AWAVA made a submission to the Special Rapporteur in which we highlighted strengths and weaknesses of the Australian Government’s legislative, policy and program responses to violence against women as well as the funding situation that puts women’s services in a state of uncertainty. As we stated in the submission, this is a critical gap in the Government’s otherwise positive approach to preventing and responding to violence against women, and steps to remedy this gap need to be prioritised. You can access the full text of the submission here.
You can also find the End of Mission Statement by Dubravka Šimonović by following this link.
Parliamentary Inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence
The Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs is conducting an inquiry into how Australia’s family law system can better support and protect people affected by family violence. As well as supporting the work of our member organisation Women’s Services Australia, AWAVA is preparing our own submission, which is focused on funding needs and the role of specialist women’s services in the area of family law. More details to follow in the next update.
The Committee encourages people with experience of family violence and family law to complete an anonymous online questionnaire (open until 30 June). The Committee also invites members of the community to express interest (by 30 June) in making a short statement to the Committee by telephone. We would urge our friends and supporters to use these opportunities and provide their input. Please share this information with other people and organisations who may be interested.
Oct – Dec 2016
- Submission on Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016, 2016
Jan – March 2017
- Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017
- Submission to the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences 2017
- Submission in response to the exposure draft of the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and other Measures) Bill 2017 (Cth) and corresponding Public Consultation Paper 2017
Annual Face to Face meeting with the Advisory Group
In March 2017 AWAVA held its annual face to face meeting of the Advisory Group. We value the opportunity to hear from members around the country about their work. As a result of the meeting, we have developed an outline of AWAVA’s priorities for the next three years, which will focus on strategic engagement and representation, enhancing equal access to justice and accountability, promoting effective responses to improve women’s safety and recovery, primary prevention and institutional change and (in collaboration with the other National Women’s Alliances) development of an international agenda.
We’ve had to say good bye to Megan Morris, who’s taking up a role overseas, and Teena Saulo, who is leaving to focus on her doctoral studies. We have welcomed Anahita Surya back in the capacity of Administration and Communications Assistant. We’ve also welcomed Tina Dixson who is replacing Megan in the capacity of Policy Officer.
16 Days of Activism
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign (16 Days of Activism) ran from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on the 25 November through to Human Rights Day on the 10 December. It aims to raise awareness and galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
During the 16 Days of Activism, AWAVA ran a social media campaign focusing on the role of specialist women’s services in ending and responding to violence against women, linking this to the need to maintain NPAH (see above). The campaign on Facebook and Twitter focused on the importance of promoting and protecting specialist women’s services, including community controlled and women-centred services, in the efforts to end violence against women. We are thankful to everyone who joined, shared and responded campaign’s messages.
Commission on the Status of Women, 61st session in New York, March 2017 (CSW61)
AWAVA’s delegation to CSW61 was led by Julie Oberin (AWAVA and WESNET Chair) and included Dixie Link-Gordon, Ashlee Donohue, Pauline Woodbridge and Margaret Augerinos. A parallel event led by Ashlee and Dixie highlighted the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to ending violence against women. CSW is a valuable space in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women can mobilise and connect with broader global and national networks. The National Women’s Alliances have a role in supporting this participation and we can build on the work at CSW61 to lead sound practices for representation. Other events in which AWAVA delegates presented and participated included events on women-led spaces as an element of economic empowerment and technology safety. Through joint submissions from the National Women’s Alliances, AWAVA contributed input on the Australian Government’s priorities for CSW61 before the meeting.
The role of specialist women’s services brochure
In consultation with the Advisory Group, AWAVA is currently developing a 2-page brochure about the role of specialist women’s services in response to violence against women. This brochure can be used to raise awareness on the importance of specialist services as well as a supplementing material when applying for funding. Watch this space.
2017-2018 Federal Budget
On 9 May AWAVA will participate in the 2017-2018 Federal Budget Lock-up briefing for community stakeholders. This allows us to analyse the budget in relation to the government’s commitment on reducing violence against women. We will be releasing our response to the Budget shortly after it is publicly released.
We are currently seeking our friends and supporters’ contributions regarding specific areas of concern and/or any issues that need to be followed up or analysed in the Budget. Please send us your questions by COB 5 May to Tina at firstname.lastname@example.org .