Opinion: When it comes to ending violence against women, we must leave political lines behind

3 mins
Author: Bridget Archer, Alicia Payne, Larissa Waters
Posted: 28 Nov, 2023
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    First published in The Guardian.

    Lindy Lucena from Ballina was a ‘happy soul’, with a ‘wicked sense of humour.’ Dayna Issac from Penrith was an ‘amazing mum’ to two children and a ‘life of the party and a friend to everyone.’ Tiffany Woodley from Derbal Yerrigan (Yirrigan) country on the Swan River, was a gentle and loving mother of four children and a caring sister to Semisha.

    These three women are among the 54 to have been allegedly killed by men’s violence in 2023. Fifty-four lives cut short and futures stolen allegedly by partners, ex-partners and sons.

    Australia’s violence against women is a national crisis and men are overwhelming the perpetrators – but these deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of thousands of women are impacted by men’s violence and abuse every year. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander women are eight times more likely to be murdered and violence against First Nations women is often under-reported and under-investigated.

    This issue is so alarming and insidious that our political parties have dissolved party lines, coming together to establish the cross-party federal Parliamentary Friends of Ending Violence Against Women and calling for renewed focus on this epidemic of violence, to turn the tide on these horrific gendered killings.

    It is easy to think that there is nothing we can do – to incorrectly assume that these are one-off events of a few bad men. But the little-known truth is that violence against women is driven by gender inequality and visible in attitudes and behaviors that disrespect and devalue women. Where men hold those attitudes, they are more likely to perpetrate violence and harassment or seek to control the women in their lives.

    But there is hope, each murder and each act of violence against women is preventable. We all have an opportunity to be part of collective action and changing the attitudes that underpin men’s choice to use violence. We can do this by creating workplaces, sporting clubs, schools and a community where women everywhere have no barriers to a ‘fair go’, and are safe, equal and respected.

    During the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, we are hosting an event with national violence against women prevention organisation, Our Watch, to keep this issue firmly on the national agenda and in the minds of our country’s policy and law makers.

    For Australia to be a global leader in preventing violence against women we must not be divided by our political parties – to do so would paralyse us into inaction and cost lives of women and their children. We are instead united, using our positions to help influence positive change. We have seen the power of multipartisan commitments to ending this violence through the adoption of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children and funding to deliver the strategy, changes to workplace regulation including a positive duty to prevent sexual harassment and support for Respectful Relationships Education in schools. We have also seen efforts to address perpetrator behaviour through a Healthy Masculinities project, Stop It At the Start and The Line campaigns.

    These are just some of the long list of initiatives that are helping deliver the change needed. 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.

    As well as ongoing multipartisan leadership, we also need leaders across our workplaces, schools and sporting and community groups.

    We need teachers, along with parents and carers, teaching young people about respectful relationships, consent and how to recognise discrimination and challenge harmful gender stereotypes.

    Employers, our sporting clubs and media all have an important role to play in creating an equal, fairer and safer community for women by promoting gender equality and challenging outdated and harmful attitudes and behaviours.

    For workplaces, this includes removing barriers to women progressing to leadership, measuring and addressing gender pay gaps, championing and making visible female leaders and having policies that encourage both men and women to take up equal caring responsibilities.

    As individuals we can be respectful, not laugh at sexist jokes, challenge outdated beliefs and attitudes and continue to speak about equality and raising women’s voices.

    We also need men as allies, for them to be courageous and call-out their mates when they are disrespecting women or excusing or making light of violence. It’s so easy for silence to be interpreted as condoning the behaviour and attitudes.

    Lindy, Dayna and Tiffany’s deaths are a reminder of the national emergency we face. But we must turn our anger and pain into action, and keep fighting for women to have a safe future.

    And that goes beyond any party line.

    Liberal MP Bridget Archer, Labor MP Alicia Payne, and Greens Senator Larissa Waters are the Parliamentary Friends to End Violence Against Women and Children. They are hosting a Parliamentary event with the national violence against women prevention organisation Our Watch tomorrow during 16 Days of Activism.  With thanks and permission from Tiffany Woodley’s family.

    Media contact

    Please contact media@ourwatch.org.au or call 0448 844 930.

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

    1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family, and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via www.1800RESPECT.org.au, or text 0458 737 732.

    To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit media.ourwatch.org.au.

    Our Watch

    Our Watch is a national leader in Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the practices, norms, and structures that lead to violence against women and children.

    Moo Baulch

    Our Watch and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum spoke about their unwavering support and commitment to preventing violence against women.