Urgent action is needed to address the “root causes” of violence against women in Australia, a group of politicians have demanded in a joint statement.
In the past 10 days, five women have been killed by men. A woman in the regional Victorian town of Bendigo, who was found unresponsive next to her two children in her own home on Sunday night, became the 56th such victim this year according to the Australian Femicide Watch’s Red Heart Campaign.
“We must tackle the root causes of violence against women, and transform harmful social norms, with well-funded, expert-led respectful relationships education in schools, sporting associations, workplaces and across all aspects of society,” wrote Senator Larissa Waters, Bridget Archer MP, and Alicia Payne MP.
The three women have spoken on behalf of the cross-party federal Parliamentary Friends of Ending Violence Against Women, calling for a “renewed focus on this epidemic of violence to turn the tide on these horrific gendered killings”.
The group cited the organisation Counting Dead Women Australia, which has confirmed that seven women — Katherine Safranko, Heather Dean, Krystal Marshall, Thi Thuy Huong Nguyen, Lilie James, Analyn ‘Logee’ Osias, and Alice McShera — were killed violently in October. That organisation tallies the total at 43 for 2023.
“We need funding for the frontline services that provide emergency housing, wrap-around support, legal advice, counselling and healing, and long-term affordable housing,” the politicians have said.
“We know that First Nations women are eight times more likely to be murdered as a result of violence, and we know that there is violence in every suburb and community across the country.
“We also know this is an issue that crosses party lines and work across governments has started”.
Violence against women, by some metrics, is getting worse in Australia. The Red Heart Campaign, led by journalist Sherele Moody, indicates that the average number of domestic violence-related deaths is one woman per week. In 2022, that number became 57, a figure Australia is expected to top in 2023.
The city of Sydney is currently reeling from the violent murder of a 22-year-old school sports coach, Lillie James, at the hands of a man she had been dating for five weeks. Vigils have been held in the city and flowers laid at St Andrews school where the woman worked.
“Violence against women is a national emergency and must remain an urgent priority,” Patty Kinnersley, CEO of Australia’s national prevention of violence organisation Our Watch, said off the back of the news.
“What we know is that almost all perpetrators of violence against women are men, and almost all perpetrators have two key elements in common – they do not view women as their equals and do not respect women.”
View this post on Instagram
Earlier this year, two national action plans were adopted at all levels of government which set out 10-year targets for ‘ending’ violence against women and children. A 25% reduction in female victims of intimate partner homicide per year has been set and funding provided for the Healthy Masculinities project and the Stop It At the Start campaigns.
In schools, governments are also funding the Respectful Education programme which aims to address misogynistic beliefs at a young age. A national peak body for Indigenous family safety is also being established as well as the possibility of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family, Domestic, and Sexual Violence Commissioner.
“Governments at all levels must continue to prioritise this issue with funding and leadership, and each of us must drive the cultural change we need to end the epidemic of violence against women in our communities,” the politicians said.
For activists, campaigners, and women at risk, changes cannot come soon enough. In the wake of James’ death, many shared the words of lawyer and activist Tarang Chawla on social media who wrote that “For all the violence elsewhere that we condemn, Australia has a problem that we urgently need to fix”.
“Lilie … may your memory finally be the one woman’s death that brings long overdue change.”