Fifty-four Australian women have lost their lives to male violence in 2018.
That equates to more than one woman every week in the 44 weeks so far this year.
It exceeds the total number of women killed by male violence in Australia in 2017.
It includes 17 Victorian women.
No matter which way we choose to represent the numbers, it's horrifying and reveals quite clearly that men’s violence against women is the leading threat to the wellbeing, safety and security of Australian women.
This number represents only the tip of the Titanic-sized iceberg that is men’s violence against women. It does not, for example, include the 205 Victorians who on average contact Victoria Police each day to report family violence.
It's been four years since Luke Batty's death shone a national spotlight on the prevalence of family violence in Australia. Since then Victoria has undoubtedly led the way – with a Royal Commission into Family Violence, a state government funding commitment of $1.9 billion dollars to support transformative reform, the establishment of a dedicated prevention agency, and the launch of the ‘Call It Out’ campaign.
One may be forgiven for thinking that in Victoria we have addressed men’s violence against women. And that while it may still occur in small numbers or in some communities, that as a state the hard work has been accomplished.
This would be a mistake – and the numbers of fatalities in this year alone remind us of why.
Men’s violence against women continues to threaten, restrict and harm the lives of Victorian women at alarming levels. It occurs in every community – it's not a problem confined to one culture, one demographic or one age group. The specialist services that respond to these women continue to be inundated and are often under-resourced.
While it remains the responsibility of our court systems to determine culpability for the deaths of the 54 Australian women this year, we know that women in Australia are most likely to be killed by a former or current male intimate partner, often during or immediately following a period of separation.
Preventing men’s violence against women requires cultural change and integrated whole-of-system reform.
Pregnancy and the period immediately following the birth of a child are also times of high risk for women in abusive relationships, signalling the importance of ensuring those working in health settings are well-equipped to identify and respond to women’s risk.
We also know that despite the rollout of a state-wide awareness campaign to ‘call it out’ and widespread media reporting of the issue, in many corners of the Victorian community the harm of men’s violence against women continues to be denied, minimised and excused. This includes Australian workplaces, where a recent study by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that more than 70 per cent of Australians have experienced sexual harassment at work at some point in their lives. It's the same culture of disrespect for women that enables both.
A call for bipartisan support
As we head into a state election in the third week of November, we're calling on all parties to commit to continue the dedicated work of the past four years and to make family violence a bipartisan commitment.
This commitment should include an expressed undertaking to continue to resource delivery of the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Such commitment must involve:
- whole-of-government support of the ongoing reform agenda
- continued, and in some cases increased, funding to the frontline specialist services that face significant resource challenges in responding to the magnitude of women and children seeking help
- support for the development of new and innovative programs that engage with perpetrators
- support for the development of training and education initiatives targeted at building a skilled workforce equipped to respond to family violence victims and perpetrators from diverse communities.
Alongside this, an ongoing commitment to ensure the reform agenda continues to be informed by the lived experiences of victim survivors.
Importantly, state parties must move away from the temptation of ‘quick fix’ law and order promises. Preventing men’s violence against women requires cultural change and integrated whole-of-system reform. No one policy, criminal offence or service will achieve the change needed. The royal commission has laid out the path for reform, and Victoria must continue to follow its evidence-based road map without distraction.
And perhaps above all else, if the Victorian government wants to continue to pride itself as the national (and arguably the world) leader in this space, then it must continue to provide the funding to match. Our commitment to the safety of all women in the community must be met with dollars.