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Long-term holistic investment, the solution to violence against women

September 02 2019 By OUR WATCH MEDIA

On Friday 9 August the Council of Australian Governments launched the Fourth Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

Total Commonwealth Government funding for Fourth Action Plan activities 2019-22 Image

In this Plan the Commonwealth, state and territory governments agree on a joint approach which recognises the problem of violence against women as an ongoing national crisis needing bi-partisan commitment and nationwide action at all levels.

As announced prior to the election, the Commonwealth Government is contributing more than $300 million in funding to the Plan. Approximately $68.3 million, around 20% of this funding package, will support primary prevention, with Our Watch receiving just over $20 million for a range of initiatives. 

Our Watch welcomes this ongoing recognition of the need for primary prevention. We also continue to support the need for a comprehensive approach that embraces appropriately funded prevention, early intervention and response work. This includes the significant service and response system reforms that our colleagues in the sector continue to call for and which we strongly support.

Prevention work is critical because international and local research shows clearly that the underlying drivers of violence against women are gendered. They include sexist and discriminatory social structures that privilege men, norms and attitudes that condone violence against women, associate masculinity with dominance and aggression, and promote harmful male peer relationships. 

These gender inequalities are deeply embedded in our society, entrenched in our economic systems, such as in pay and hiring biases, and reinforced by our media and entertainment, and even our sports, and cannot be transformed overnight.

Without addressing these underlying drivers of violence, we can’t stem the tide in the long term. To achieve wholesale change across the population and to unravel bias interwoven into our social systems is the task of primary prevention. 

Progress is being made.  Already research has shown significant changes in community attitudes towards violence against women and shifts in media reporting. What was not long ago a taboo subject, too often dismissed by police and ignored by media, is now high in the public’s awareness, with many describing it as an unacceptable crisis.

Prevention efforts are taking place now across Australia in many influential settings, including workplaces, schools and in the sporting sector.

When awareness of violence being unacceptable grows, reporting increases. This represents a tipping point where demand for services increases as women feel more able and supported to seek help.    

This is why holistic approaches including prevention, early intervention and response must go hand in hand if we are to achieve both short-term change in relation to specific, current incidents of violence, and a sustained, long-term reduction in overall prevalence at a population level.

The task can seem enormous, but we know from the success of other large-scale population-wide public health and safety initiatives such as anti-smoking and road safety programs that social transformation is possible. By applying a multi-pronged approach that includes awareness and social change, legislative and policy reform, and the expansion of service and support systems, much can be achieved. 

There is still much more to be done but this Fourth Action Plan is a strong roadmap for prevention. Our Watch looks forward to contributing to its implementation, and to working across the sector and with governments and communities to achieve a future where women and their children live safe from all forms of violence.

Pictured: Total Commonwealth Government funding for Fourth Action Plan activities 2019-22 (Source: Australian Government, Our Investment in Women’s Safety, accessed August 2019)