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Our Watch welcomes the Australian Press Council’s new domestic violence reporting guidelines

March 02 2016 By Joanna Cooney, Media and Communications Officer

Yesterday, the Australian Press Council, responsible for promoting good standards of media practice, released Advisory Guidelines on Family and Domestic Violence Reporting.

Our Watch welcome’s the APC’s decision to show leadership in the development of ‘best practice’ reporting on this important social issue. 

The media have an important role to play in the prevention of violence against women.  Studies of audience influence show that who or what is selected to appear in the news and how those individuals and events are portrayed can have a profound influence on people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. This influence can help shape attitudes that give rise to perpetrators’ behavior or fuel the attitudes and beliefs that cause others to ignore, excuse or condone their actions such as the traditional view that domestic violence is something that happens ‘behind closed doors’ or reporting that suggests the victim is somehow to blame.

Mary Barry, CEO of Our Watch, said:

“Many journalists have told Our Watch the same anecdote from their days as cub reporters. They were told, ‘it’s just a domestic’. Their instructions were clear. This was a private matter, something that happened all the time, and, therefore, it wasn’t a story. Thankfully, those days are well and truly behind us. Violence against women has dominated the headlines as never before, often as the result of another tragedy. Reporting on these tragedies comes with a great responsibility to be sensitive to the victim’s and their families, as well seize on the opportunity to contribute to a meaningful national conversation about the causes of violence against women and what it will take to prevent it from happening in the first place.” 

“When an industry body like the APC shows leadership on such an important issue, it represents just how far we’ve come and the current momentum behind change. There is a great willingness on the part of the media and the wider public to understand and prevent violence, which holds out the promise of real change. These guidelines are an important first step in the development of best practice.”

As a first step, Our Watch asks all media outlets to commit to including the following at the end of every report on domestic violence. Research tells us that there has been a decrease in the number of women or others who may be experiencing domestic violence knowledge of where to go for help. This one small thing could make a massive difference – directing women in crisis to help.” 

‘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’

Our Watch looks forward to working with individual media outlets to translate some of these principles and those from the Our Watch Reporting Guidelines into practice. Our Watch is developing training for working and trainee journalists which will start to be rolled out later this year. Our Watch will also continue to recognize and reward exemplary reporting to end violence against women through the annual Our Watch Awards, administered by the Walkley Foundation. 


The most recent VicHealth report on community attitudes to violence against women showed that just over half the survey respondents 57 percent) knew where to get help for themselves or others who may be experiencing domestic violence. And this finding represented a decrease in help seeking knowledge from the previous survey in 2009. But a recent report showed that consistent inclusion of help seeking resources such as 1800RESPECT was very low, at 2 percent.

In November 2015, Our Watch published the first phase of the research, a state of knowledge report/ literature review looking at all existing research in both Australia and abroad on media representations of violence against women. The literature review was published to coincide with the Prime Minister’s Media Stand Up Against Violence Event.

The comprehensive review looked at how media in 16 different countries portrayed the issue over the last 15 years. The findings illustrated a number of key themes in the way news and information media portray violence:
  • Not reporting the social context in which male perpetrated violence occurs
  • Sensationalising stories through language or by disproportionately focusing on stories that fit key news values but are not necessarily representative of women’s experience of violence
  • Perpetuating myths and misrepresentations
  • Directly and indirectly shifting blame from male perpetrators of violence and assigning responsibility for violence to women 
  • Relying on law enforcement as the expert ‘voices’
The researchers further established common themes regarding the way audiences take in and interpret media portrayals of violence against women including:
  • Audiences emotional responses and attributions of responsibility are affected, and can be manipulated by how the media frames news stories
  • ‘rape myths’ affect attitudes about perpetrators of sexual violence
  • Images and language moderate audience responses 
  • Media effects intersect with audience gender and prior knowledge and understanding of violence against women
The annual Our Watch Awards for exemplary reporting to end violence against women will take place in September 2016. Entries open in June 2016. 

Access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.

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.