An open letter to the Prime Minister: 31 deaths in 15 weeks requires urgent action
The Hon Tony Abbott, MP Prime Minister
Australian Parliament House
15 April 2015
Dear Prime Minister
Urgent action needed to respond to the national epidemic of violence against women
We, the undersigned, are writing to you about this week's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting to discuss ending violence against women.
The media reports that, this year alone, 31 women in Australia have died as a result of gender based violence. And we're not even half way through the year. Where we used to talk about the death of 'one women a week', tragically the figures are now closer to two women. Violence against women is a national emergency that requires urgent responses from the leader of our nation.
You have recognised this in directing COAG to address violence against women in 2015, by your establishment of the Advisory Panel on violence against women, including the participation of Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, and in your support for the second phase of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (National Plan).
Yet, the murders of these women as a result of gender-based violence (and countless other women, children and men) emphasises the need for further decisive action.
It is widely recognised, including in the National Plan, that a holistic approach to ending violence against women is needed – a strategic approach that encompasses both primary prevention and specialist frontline services. It is also widely recognised that both aspects of the approach need adequate long-term funding to effectively address the epidemic of violence against women.
Robust, long-term and adequate resourcing for all the elements of the National Plan is critical. At a time of heightened community awareness, political momentum, and a real appetite for cultural change, we urge you to ensure that the COAG meeting this Friday delivers the political commitment to allocate the funding required to end violence against women. We urge you to reconsider your funding priorities to ensure that desperately needed financial resources are spent on initiatives that will make the biggest and most profound impact on Australia's culture of violence. We need more than lip service to be paid to this issue.
Unprecedented demand for services, without commensurate funding to match this demand, has left family violence and sexual assault services struggling and under incredible pressure.
Specialist health, counselling, housing and legal services, critical elements of the response to violence against women, are also experiencing unprecedented demands with inadequate funding and funding uncertainty.
Long term, sustained funding for these services is essential.
Violence is preventable, through long-term actions to address gender inequality and male entitlement. A critical element of prevention is respectful relationships education.
In the interim report released this month, the Senate Committee that inquired into Domestic Violence in Australia called for respectful relationships education to be implemented in all schools through the national curriculum, as a primary prevention measure to end violence against women in the long term.
We ask that the $30 million earmarked for a national awareness-raising campaign addressing domestic violence (to be jointly-funded by the states and territories) is redirected to an urgent national rollout of evidence-based respectful relationships programs in our schools. In our view, this would be a more effective use of the funding.
Prime Minister, we are asking you to:
- Reconsider the allocation of the Australian Government's $30 million awareness- raising campaign to ensure that primary violence prevention programming is embedded in the national curriculum.
- Ensure COAG provides robust, long-term and adequate resourcing of women's specialist violence and related services (including health, counselling, housing and legal services) to enable better outcomes for women who present in crisis and with complex needs.
We wish you every success in your meeting on Friday and for the work of COAG in the coming year.
Many of us have been working in this sector for years and we have never seen such a strategic alignment of political and cultural will to end violence against women – but we need your leadership, and the leadership of COAG, to resource and drive this change.
As Prime Minister, and the Minister for Women, you have a unique opportunity and capacity to address our culture of misogyny and violence against women and girls. We urge you to further steps to meet the challenge, and we look forward to working with you to create a safer nation for our community.
Annie North Women's Refuge Inc
Australian Women Against Violence Alliance
Australian Women Educators
Australian Women's Health Network
Beryl Women Inc.
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre
Carrie's Place Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services Inc.
Centacare Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service
Coalition of Women's Domestic Violence Services of South Australia
Domestic Violence Crisis Service
Domestic Violence NSW
Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria
Domestic Violence Victoria
Doris Women's Refuge Inc.
DVSM Domestic Violence NSW Service Management
Emerge Women and Children's Support Network
Ending Violence Against Women Queensland
Family Planning Queensland
Georgina Martina Refuges
Gippsland Women's Health
Immigrant Women's Health Service
Mallee Family Care
Mildura Rural City Council
National Association of Community Legal Centres
National Association of Services Against Sexual Violence
National Foundation for Australian Women
North Coast WDVCAS
Nova for Women and Children
NSW Men's Behaviour Change Network
NSW Women's Alliance
Penrith Women's Health Centre
Port Macquarie Hastings Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Service
Queensland Domestic Violence Refuge Sector
Tablelands Sexual Assault Service in Far North Queensland
Toora Women Inc.
Warrina Women and Children's Refuge
WESNET (Women's Services Network)
Women & Their Children's Intervention Team
Women with Disabilities ACT
Women With Disabilities Australia
Women with Disabilities Victoria
Women's Community Shelters
Women's Legal Services Australia
Women's Liberation Halfway House Inc
Women's Essential Service Providers Tasmania
Women's Health West
Women's Services Network (WESNET)
Young Women's Advisory Group of the Equality Rights Alliance
YWCA Hunter Region
YWCA of Adelaide
YWCA of Broken Hill
YWCA of Darwin
YWCA of Perth