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Australia faces national emergency as family violence death toll climbs: Natasha Stott Despoja

June 06 2016 By Hannah Grant, Media Manager

At least seven South Australians have been killed as a result of domestic violence this year. Our Watch Chair Natasha Stott Despoja has stressed that Australia faces “a national emergency” on family violence.

"The statistics are chilling. The latest tragedy is the murder of Adeline Yvette Rigney-Wilson and her two children,” Ms Stott Despoja said.

“The death toll keeps climbing. We are in June and according to Destroy The Joint 32 women have been murdered this year in Australia.”

“In 2015, 79 women were murdered. The majority of those victims were killed by a male family member. We are in crisis and it needs to be addressed”, she said.

In a step toward ending Australia’s scourge of domestic violence, South Australian Minister for the Status of Women Zoe Bettison will be joining 60 community stakeholders on Monday to assist in driving nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children. 

The South Australia-based organisations, government departments, education bodies and other groups will be meeting with Our Watch in Adelaide to learn about Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia and find out how they can contribute to this evidence-based national approach.

Our Watch Chief Executive Officer Mary Barry said it was a positive sign that South Australia is so receptive to Change the story and interested in a consistent approach to preventing violence against women and their children.

“In Australia, one woman almost every week is killed by a current or former partner. However, the good news is that violence against women and their children is preventable and Australia has a unique opportunity to lead the world on this issue,” Ms Barry said.

“We know that to prevent violence against women we must work in a consistent and coordinated way across all areas where we live, work and play such as schools, workplaces, and media and in communities and governments”.

The Change the story framework outlines that although there is no single cause of violence against women and their children, the evidence shows there are certain factors that consistently predict - or drive - higher levels of violence against women. These include beliefs and behaviours reflecting disrespect for women, low support for gender equality and adherence to rigid or stereotypical gender roles, relations and identities.

“Throughout 2016, we hope to see South Australian workplaces, schools and individuals commit to Change the story, because by working together we can create an Australia where our homes, workplaces, schools, public places and communities are inclusive, equitable and safe for all,” Ms Barry said.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children recently recommended that all commonwealth, state and territory governments should commit to a long-term national primary prevention strategy and Change the story framework. 

The Change the story framework was developed following extensive consultation with more than 400 stakeholders around the country in a partnership between Our Watch, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth).
In partnership with VicHealth, Our Watch is now developing Change the story: implementation and evaluation guide, which will provide organisations and government with practical assistance to plan, implement and evaluate prevention initiatives that align with Change the story.

Media contact

For enquiries or further information: Hannah Grant, Our Watch, mobile 0448 844 930, email Hannah.Grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

About Our Watch 

Our Watch’s (previously the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children) purpose is to raise awareness and engage the community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.
Our Watch was conceived of and brought into existence in 2013 by the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria. The Northern Territory, South Australian, Tasmanian and Queensland governments have also since become members of the organisation.
Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.