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.

Frontline services

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.

Primary prevention

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Yours sincerely,

Anglicare Victoria

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

Connections UnitingCare

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

Inanna Inc

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)

WISHIN

Women & Their Children's Intervention Team

Women with Disabilities ACT

Women With Disabilities Australia

Women with Disabilities Victoria

Women's Community Shelters

Women's Housing

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 Australia

YWCA Canberra

YWCA Hunter Region

YWCA of Adelaide

YWCA of Broken Hill

YWCA of Darwin

YWCA of Perth

YWCA Victoria

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