Prime Minister Scott Morrison has conceded Australia “has a problem” with the way it treats women, describing a culture that not only excuses and justifies gender inequality but ultimately leads to violence against women.
Opening the two-day National Summit on Women’s Safety, Mr Morrison promised to be “open-minded and ambitious” and said victims and survivors would be “foundational” as the government develops the next national plan to reduce violence against women.
“Right now, too many Australian women do not feel safe and too often, they are not safe and that is not OK. There is no excuse, and sorry doesn’t cut it,” he said.
“There is still an attitude, a culture that excuses and justifies, ignores or condones gender inequality that drives ultimately violence against women, and that is on all of us.”
The Prime Minister said the collective goal was not just to reduce violence against women but to end it, describing the number of women killed by their current or former partners as a “national shame”.
“I don’t believe we can talk about women’s safety without talking about men,” he said.
“About the way some men think they own women.
“About the way women are subjected to disrespect, coercion, and violence.”
A survey of workers conducted by the Western Mine Worker’s Alliance (WMWA) shows that workers are experiencing sexual harassment in FIFO workplaces at unacceptable levels.
It is of great concern that nearly one in four female survey participants reported that they had experienced physical acts of sexual assault and two-thirds had experienced verbal sexual harassment while working in the FIFO mining industry.
Alarmingly, just four in 10 women Fl FO workers believed workers are encouraged to report sexual harassment and half believed workers are not supported through the reporting process.
WMWA’s survey shows that a significant proportion of workers are subject to a range of behaviours ranging from physical assault to unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate conversation or behaviour.
Of survey participants, 36% of women and 10% of men said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment within the last 12 months.
Women of every party say that for years they have been demeaned while trying to do their jobs. They have been groped and insulted, ignored and interrupted – and whenever they have questioned such behaviour, they have faced a barrage of attacks.
Most members of Parliament are men, as are most staffers. In the past 20 years, Australia has fallen from 15th to 50th in the world for parliamentary gender diversity.
In Australia, having access to safe, affordable housing is essential to supporting women and children escaping violence.
Mission Australia reports that domestic and family violence is the most common reason given for homelessness from people seeking help from specialist support services. They also point out that more than 6,800 women aged 55 and over are homeless but the proportion of older women experiencing homelessness continues to increase, with a rise of over 30% in five years.
Here are some statistics from Kate Colvin from the national campaign Everybody’s Home,
7,690 women return to perpetrators of violence every year because they have nowhere else to live.
9,120 women become homeless every year after leaving due to domestic violence and being unable to secure long-term housing.
39,000 people go to homelessness services every year seeking long-term housing after experiencing domestic violence but 37,867 miss out.
“Thousands of women across Australia are currently having to choose between staying in a violent home and homelessness. That is unacceptable,” she said.
“Without further funding for social housing and an improvement in social security payments, the federal government cannot begin to address domestic violence in an adequate way.”
This four-minute SBS video and article describes coercive control as:
A repeated pattern of control and domination in a domestic relationship. It can include verbal, economic and psychological abuse, as well as sexual and physical violence.
This behaviour is used to maintain dominance over a partner, to restrict their freedom and autonomy. It can even continue or escalate after a couple separate, as the abuser desperately seeks to maintain control.
It is most often perpetrated by men against women and children.
Coercive control has also been linked to intimate partner homicide; most women who are killed by their partners or ex-partners have previously been victims of coercive control by these men.
Women are far more likely than men to experience sexual violence and violence from an intimate partner, and with more severe impacts.
Women are more likely than men to be afraid of, hospitalised by, or killed by an intimate partner.
Around 95% of all victims of violence, whether women or men, experience violence from a male perpetrator.
Family violence and/or intimate partner violence is the leading cause of serious injury, disability and death for women in Australia. On average, one woman a week is killed by her intimate male partner. Women who experience additional inequalities due to race, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status often experience higher rates of violence and face additional barriers to seeking support.
In 2017, the Australian Personal Safety Survey found that men are more likely to be physically assaulted by other men, usually strangers, outside of their homes. In contrast, most women (92%) reported being assaulted by a man they knew, mainly in their homes (65%).
When women do use violent behaviours, research shows that it is usually motivated by fear and is used in self-defence against violence that is already being done to them by their male partners.
Globally, 21% of girls are married before they turn 18, robbing them of their childhood.
Each year, another 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married around the world.
Child marriage is globally recognized as a harmful practice and a human rights violation. However, despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread and can be found in cultures, religions, ethnicities and countries around the world.
Ending child marriage requires addressing, over a period of time, the complex sociocultural and structural factors underpinning the practice.
During this time, the priority remains on engaging adolescent girls as key agents of change in the following 12 countries with high prevalence of child marriage: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.
Aboriginal women and children experience family violence at disproportionately high rates, with Aboriginal women 32 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be hospitalised from family violence.
The ABC recently reported that two women were evacuated from a remote Aboriginal community in northern Western Australia amid allegations of prolonged sexual and physical assaults.
It is the latest in a string of disturbing domestic violence cases in remote Kimberley towns that have highlighted gaps in services and the complex cultural context making it almost impossible for women to escape.
The two women had been living with a man in a house within a bush community since March.
In mid-September they sought help from local police, alleging they had been subjected to repeated sexual and physical violence.
People who spoke to the women in the hours after they came forward say they alleged the man held them against their will at the time, and took control of their bankcards and money.
Speaking to the ABC on condition of anonymity, a social worker called the alleged victims “two of the bravest women I’ve ever met”.
“Violence is normalised in the communities here, but this case has blown me out of the water.”
She said it should be a wake-up call about the severity of the violence occurring in remote communities.
“I feel like this would not be allowed to happen in the city — it would be leading the 6:00pm news and people would be outraged.“