5 March 2020
Dear Women’s Safety Ministers,
As specialists with years of experience working with and for women and children subjected to violence, we know that long-term, major reforms are needed over the coming months and years to achieve lasting improvements to safety and justice.
We also know there are key changes your governments can make immediately that will dramatically improve the safety of many women and children within weeks.
As well as committing to comprehensive reform to prevent all forms of violence against women, we urge you to action these five desperately needed changes at your meeting on Friday:
1. Fully fund the specialist services that improve women’s safety, and hold men who use violence to account, including:
- The safety planning, risk assessment and wrap-around individual support provided by specialist women’s services,
- The safe at home programs and emergency accommodation services provided by specialist homelessness providers working specifically with victim-survivors of violence,
- The legal assistance and representation provided by specialist women’s legal services, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, community legal centres, Aboriginal legal services, and Legal Aid,
- The perpetrator intervention, men’s behaviour change programs and fathering programs provided by accredited men’s behaviour change experts,
- The specialist and culturally-safe services that are best able to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women from migrant and refugee backgrounds,
- The disability advocacy and domestic violence services needed to support women with disabilities to overcome the barriers to achieving safety after violence from a partner, carer or in an institutional setting,
- The safe phones program, which has been found be effective in delivering victims/survivors greater technology safety,
- LGBTIQ+ services and LGBTIQ+-specific resources, programs and targeted community education campaigns,
- Supporting community-based services to lead the conversations needed to change the attitudes and behaviours that enable violence, including empowering bystanders.
2. Remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and emphasis on shared parenting in the Family Law Act 1975, to ensure a child’s safety and wellbeing are the key considerations, so that courts are determining the best parenting arrangement for their needs and circumstances.
3. Initiate a standard screening, risk assessment and referral process nationally, to ensure public health, social and community services are trained to identify key safety risks early for people experiencing violence in their relationships, and able to refer them to the services that can help them achieve safety and recover.
4. Agree to institute improved AVO standards to make clear what is expected of police, magistrates and courts to hold perpetrators accountable, and ensure women and children subjected to domestic and family violence are able to rely on these orders to achieve safety and justice.
5. Ensure victims/survivors seeking help can access free translating and interpreting services, so that regardless of their disability, cultural or language background, or geographical location, any woman reaching out for help to build a safer future is able to access the assistance she needs.
As with all initiatives for improved community safety and wellbeing, these urgent steps must be taken in a way that responds to the factors that shape people’s experiences of violence and encounters with institutions. These can include: the ongoing impacts of colonisation, race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, religion, dis/ability and age, as well as the community attitudes, geographical isolation and the poor connectivity experienced by women in remote, rural and regional areas.
Further to these five immediate interventions, we note that the national alliance tasked with bringing together organisations to develop solutions, Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA), has presented comprehensive advice on the major long-term reforms needed including the Blueprint for Reform for women on temporary visas experiencing violence, and that Women’s Legal Services Australia has mapped out the steps required for Safety First in Family Law. These solutions will require meaningful and sustained investment. AWAVA, its members and allies stand ready to work with governments to design and implement these reforms together.
This national crisis cannot be solved overnight. But actioning these five changes will bring immediate and substantial improvement to the safety of many women and children currently at risk, and will save lives. We urge you to do your part.
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance
- Embolden (SA peak body of domestic, family and sexual violence services)
- Women’s Legal Services Queensland
- Women’s Legal Services Tasmania
- Ruby Gaea Darwin Centre Against Sexual Violence
- Sexual Assault Support Service Tasmania
- Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Service North Queensland Inc.
- Emma House Domestic Violence Service
- Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services WA
- North Queensland Women’s Legal Service
- Equality Rights Alliance
- WESNET – The Women’s Services Network
- Annie North Inc
- Domestic Violence NSW
- Women’s Legal Service NSW
- economic Security4Women
- Limestone Coast Family Violence Action Group
- National Rural Women’s Coalition
- CASA Forum – Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault
- Ending Violence Against Women Queensland
- Seras Women’s Shelter Inc.
- Mackay Women’s Services
- Association of Women Educators
- National Council of Single Mothers & their Children
- YWCA Canberra
- Women’s Safety NSW
- Mitcham Family Violence Education and Support Service
- Centre for Non-Violence
- Eastern Region Domestic Violence Services Network Inc. – Koolkuna
- Communicare Women’s Support Services
- Carnarvon Family Support Services
- WRISC Family Violence Support Inc.
- Women’s Centre Far North Queensland
- Migrant Women’s Support Program of Women’s Safety Services SA
- Lucy Saw Centre Association Inc.
- Penrith Women’s Health Centre
- Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health
- Macleod Accommodation Support Service Inc.
- inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence
- North Shore Women’s Benevolent Association Limited
- Mid Coast Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service
- safe steps Family Violence Response Centre
- Darwin Aboriginal & Islander Women’s Shelter
- Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for Change
- Accountability Matters Project
- Domestic Violence Action Centre Toowoomba
- Gold Coast Domestic Violence Prevention Centre
- Domestic Violence Crisis Service Canberra
- Immigrant Women’s Support Service
- Sonshine Sanctuary Association
- Beryl Women Inc.
- Edon Place and Centre for Women & Co.
- Lou’s Place
- Cairns Regional Domestic Violence Service
- Women’s Information, Support and Housing in the North
- Settlement Services International
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
- Northern Territory Council of Social Service
- Domestic Violence Victoria
- Project Respect
- Melaleuca Refugee Centre
- Dawn House Inc.
- Western Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service
- Bramwell House (Salvation Army)
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria
- WASH House Inc.
- Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association Inc.
- Immigration Advice and Rights Centre
- Australian Women’s Health Network
- Centre Against Sexual Assault Central Victoria
- Open Support
- Women’s Legal Service (South Australia)
- Family Violence Prevention Legal Services National Forum
- Women’s Legal Services Australia
- No To Violence
- Take It Seriously
- YWCA Australia
- Refugee Advice & Casework Service (Aust) Inc.
- Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia
- Salvation Army National Family Violence Stream
- Economic Justice Australia
- Eastern Domestic Violence Service
- West Connect Domestic Violence Services