Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has committed $100 million to ensure that the 63 women and children who have died this year as a result of domestic violence, will not be forgotten.
Sixty-three women and children died this year alone, their lives were callously taken by their partners, ex-partners and family members. As Lisa Wilkinson, journalist and television presenter said: ”That’s almost two women a week”. For so long domestic violence has been an issue that stays behind closed doors, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to change that. On September 24 2015, the Australian Government announced a $100 million package to provide a safety net for those suffering and at risk.
So what’s in this package? In a statement released by the government that details the many areas this money will be spent, there is one that stands out. Fifteen million dollars has been allocated develop specialised domestic violence units. The violence unit will provide victims to access legal, social work, and cultural liaison services. It also enables legal services to work with local hospitals.
Heather McKinnon, family law lawyer at Slater and Gordon, told The Newsroom that this part of the package would strengthen frontline services.
“One of the most radical proposals in the package is that at each of our big public hospitals there is going to be a team approach. So when a woman or a child appears in emergency and the medical team suspect’s family violence, other than just the medical team and the social worker at the hospital talking to the woman, they are going to have on call legal advice.
“Legal aid officers, community legal aid services and women like me who are on rosters, will be available to provide immediate advice to women who are in crisis.”
Ms McKinnon told The Newsroom that one of the biggest issues facing these women who are at risk is that they don’t know where or how to get help.
“What happens is you get a cycle where a women may present to emergency over a three of four-year period with obvious injuries that suggest she is being bashed, but she’ll say she ran into a door in the middle of the night or she fell down the stairs. When they research why those women don’t leave the big thing is they can’t work out how to.
“What we’re trying to do is really strengthen the capacity for a victim who is in crisis to look at options rather than think that they’re trapped and they can’t get out.”
Caitlin Roper, Campaigns Manager at Collective Shout, told The Newsroom that she hoped that more funding would mean more fully functioning services assisting women and children.
“Hopefully more funding for these essential services means that more victims can be helped, more women have the means to leave abusive partners and the ongoing support to do so [and] that when women call for help or when they need a place in a refuge, there is a place for them.”
Ms Roper explained that Australia’s current domestic violence crisis really hit her hard earlier this year when she had the opportunity to talk with a young victim.
“The situation became more real for me earlier this year after I met with a young pregnant mother who needed urgent help fleeing from her violent ex-partner with her son. Her partner had previously pinned her to the ground and bashed her head against the ground until she lost consciousness, blinded her in one eye, put a knife to her pregnant belly and left her body in a car boot on an occasion, thinking he had killed her this time,” Ms Roper said.
“She had taken her child and left but upon calling all the emergency domestic violence services in her city [she] found that half of the numbers were now disconnected and the others rang out. There were no services who could accommodate her or even respond to her calls. She had been provided with emergency accommodation but no furniture, no food and no cash, so she had a place to hide out in with her young son, but they slept on the floor and had nothing while she waited for him to find her and kill her.”
This lady’s tragic and unimaginable story is just one of many. Earlier this year, Tara Brown, a 24-year-old mother, was forced off the road by her ex-partner Lionel Patea, a former Bandidos bikie gang member. Ms Brown was lying injured and trapped in her upturned car when police allege that Mr Patea used a metal plate to bash her time and time again until witnesses managed to pull him away. Ms Brown tragically died as a result of her injuries and Mr Patea was charged with murder. Only days before this incident Ms Brown had reached out to police for assistance relating to domestic violence incidences. According to News.com.au: ”She was turned away and told to go elsewhere.”
When announcing the Women’s Safety Package to #StoptheViolence, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told SBS that the rates of domestic violence is a “national disgrace”.
“Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is unacceptable at every level. At the home. At the workplace. Wherever. Let’s make it our resolution that Australia will be known as a nation, as a people, as a society that respects women.”
Ms Roper told The Newsroom that the package is a great step in the right direction but as a society we need to be doing more.
“We all need to be doing more and it starts with prevention – changing attitudes and addressing gender inequality where it occurs. It requires men’s involvement too. It’s not enough to simply not beat women, men have to hold their peers to account, have to stand up for the rights of women and gender equality.” – Erin Kenneally
Top photo by Jessica Heckley.