Domestic violence commissioner calls national roundtable to assess number of women’s deaths, says conversation is shifting

Domestic violence commissioner calls national roundtable to assess number of women’s deaths, says conversation is shifting
  • PublishedApril 25, 2024

There is a crisis in Australia.

It’s the overwhelming view of the nation’s leaders and experts, who say women feel under threat.

“Young women don’t feel safe. Older women don’t feel safe. That’s 50 per cent of the population in this country,” federal Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said on Wednesday morning after the 25th woman died in a gender-based violence situation in Australia this year.

Her name was Molly Ticehurst. Her alleged killer, a former partner, was out on bail before it happened. 

So, what does the country do to stop this?

Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner Micaela Cronin says she’s very distressed about the level of fear that women are expressing. She says women do not feel safe in public, or in their homes.

She says she has called a national roundtable, inviting stakeholders in the sector to Canberra to find solutions and “things that need to change” to prevent women from being murdered or going missing. 

While there isn’t one yet, an official counter of women’s deaths to violence will be introduced online by the government in the middle of the year. The commissioner believes the only way to reduce those numbers is to know them first, and then set targets to reduce them.

The National Plan to End Domestic Violence targets aims to reduce homicide by 25 per cent. 

“We need to know that the investments and the efforts that government and the community are making are impacting on that target,” the commissioner says. 

As the death of Ms Ticehurst brings violence against women back into the national spotlight, again, the commissioner believes the conversation around violence against women is shifting. 

“I think that people are taking it much more seriously and the community’s expectation that things need to change and tolerance of … this cycle of murder we have [in the] community, everybody’s outraged and we don’t see an awful lot change,” she says.

“I think the tolerance for that is coming to an end.” 

Looking for the ‘red flags’

So what does she think Australians can do to stop the killing of women? 

She wants to provide practical answers to that question. And, one of those practical answers is looking at the early stages of intervention, or looking for the “red flags”, as she puts it.

She says the red flags are the “moments of intervention that could have stopped the violence and stopped women being killed”. Ms Cronin thinks this means instead of only telling friends or family about the red flags, victims might look to reach out to services or the police. 

Ms Cronin says in the recent death of Ms Ticehurst, the police were involved already, but that isn’t always the case. 

She says the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool, designed for use in intimate partner violence situations, which is provided by hospitals and violence services, finds “points of intervention” to make a difference. 

What does men stepping up look like? 

In the past week or so, senior government members including the prime minister and the attorney-general have called on men to “step up” in the violence against women “crisis”, as they have both called it.

Last week, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus gave an address at a sexual violence symposium and said there needed to be a “fundamental shift in acknowledgement that” overwhelmingly, violence against women in Australia was perpetrated by men.

The attorney-general said that to create lasting change, women could not be expected to solve violence against them alone.

“It’s time for men to step up,” he said.

Ms Cronin says we are “absolutely seeing leaders stepping up and saying this is absolutely unacceptable”. And, she has some ideas of how Australian men can step up to stop the high level of violence against women. They include: 

  • Men holding other men accountable for unacceptable behaviour 
  • Men taking personal accountability 
  • Community accountability, not tolerating violence and abuse of women 
  • Changes at a national structural level looking at Australian systems 

The commissioner pointed to the federal inquiry into the country’s judicial responses to sexual violence as something that would provide changes on a structural level, but did not call for the same for domestic violence.

While the conversation may be slightly shifting to see men more involved, Ms Cronin says she wants to see more men in a currently female-driven space. 

“It’s predominantly women who are working in these services, who turn up to conferences, who come to meetings, passionately advocating for change,” she says. 

“We need those rooms to be as equally full of men who are deeply committed to those changes.”

Who is invited to the national roundtable?

The commissioner has called the national roundtable to discuss the violent deaths for May 7. 

So who will be in attendance? Ms Cronin says “researchers, people from the policing, from the judiciary, from the service sector, and people who have direct lived experience of homicide, domestic and family homicide”. 

There is also going to be a focus on the disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are impacted by family domestic and sexual violence. She says the roundtable will be “hearing the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and communities”.

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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