DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS

We’re making progress when it comes to domestic violence.

The way we talk about it, the way it’s covered in the media and the attention it receives has come a long way, but domestic violence is still on the rise and it still needs to be treated as a national emergency.

Highly covered cases such as Queensland man Gerard Baden-Clay’s murder of his wife and the death of Luke Batty in Victoria at the hands of his father rocked the nation, sparking public conversation and reminding us that as an active member of any community, domestic violence everyone’s business.

These dreadful cases also highlighted the profound impact domestic violence has on a community and the life sentence it gives to families.

We as a society are making progress in this space but we need to do more and we need to keep the momentum going.

We need better statistics and data collection, we need a better understanding of what domestic violence actually is and we need to change the way we think about it.

There are huge gaps and inconsistencies in the way domestic violence statistics are collected and recorded between states and territories.

Part of this inconsistency relates to the fact there is no single agreed definition of what domestic violence is. For example, in most states a wide range of relationships are included under domestic violence legislation such as spouses, de facto partners, children, step-children, the child of a de facto partner and anyone else who is regarded as a relative. 

In Tasmania the reporting of domestic violence is based solely on the context of a spouse or de facto partner relationship, and in South Australia domestic violence is only reported if the spouse or ‘domestic partner’ resides with the abuser.

Then there’s emotional and economic abuse like harassment, stalking and financial control which often goes unreported because of the absence of physical evidence.

While I think there is growing recognition that domestic violence is not just physical, there is just too much violence and abuse that goes unreported.

Better statistics and data collection would lead to a better understanding and awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence.

Prevalence is a key word here because people need to understand that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate, no matter; your age, gender, suburb or background.  Whether it is a baby being shaken or the forceful use of an older persons finances, it is still domestic violence.

Increased awareness and understanding feeds into education which will help us breakdown misinformation and stigmas attached to domestic violence.

As a mature and progressing society, we need to be sending a clear message that domestic violence in all its forms will not be tolerated.

We need to move away from the notion that violence between partners or within families is somehow a private matter or “family” matter and therefore deemed acceptable.

Domestic violence is everyone’s business, because despite the numerous spotlights that are pointed domestic towards violence, it is still on the rise.

The numbers around domestic violence in Australia are horrifying and shameful, particularly when you narrow the focus to violence against women.

In 2015, 80 women lost their lives to domestic violence. Last year 71 women died and 22 women have died so far this year. That’s more than one woman every week and it’s simply unacceptable.

These women are our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, daughters, sisters, neighbours and colleagues and we owe them real action.

I’m incredibly proud of the strong platform Labor took to the last Federal Election to eradicate domestic violence and of the commitments we’ve made and the actions we’ve taken since.

The Liberals keep saying they're serious about ending domestic violence, but the withdrawal of funding for essential services to help women escape abusive relationships only exacerbates the problem.

If the Turnbull Government really is serious about eliminating domestic violence they should prioritise adequate funding for these critical services.

If rhetoric was all we needed we’d be there already. 

Generating awareness and understanding and changing our attitudes are vital. But the real test is whether we live up to our rhetoric and match our good intentions and words with resources and action.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call 000. For sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling services call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).