Page 3445 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 25 November 1992

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the importance of a national approach to this issue and presents the argument that the safety, freedom, economic independence and personal autonomy of women is contingent on their achievement of equal status.

Importantly, the strategy also sets the cultural context for violence in Australian society and raises some possible legal and social responses to the current level of this violence. This situation is highlighted by the well-publicised mass shootings and other tragedies which we see and read about all too frequently in the media, but these are only symptoms of the fundamental problem. The strategy recognises that violence against women is endemic in Australian society. It provides directions to tackle the underlying culture of violence, particularly by promoting a universal intolerance of the use of violence and a recognition that violence against women is a crime, regardless of the circumstances.

Within this context, the strategy identifies five key objectives for the elimination of violence against women and provides directions for all levels of government in Australia to work towards these key objectives. I believe that it is vitally important that governments understand these objectives and directions as the basis for considering action within their own jurisdictions to deal with the issue of violence against women.

The strategy's first objective is to ensure that all women escaping violence have immediate access to police intervention and legal protection which prioritises safety for the woman, safe shelter, confidential services and the longer-term resources to live independently and free from violence. Its second objective is to work towards a universal intolerance of the use of violence in Australian society generally and, in particular, to achieve full acknowledgment by all Australians that violence against women is a crime, regardless of the circumstances, the background or the culture of the violent person or the victim.

The strategy also aims to achieve more just and equitable responses by the criminal justice system which highlight the seriousness of the offences and to strengthen the authority of the law in its effective and important role of influencing community attitudes and supporting social change. A further objective of the strategy is to build on the significant reforms, policy and program work of all levels of government and the community towards improving the status of women, including the elimination of violence against all women. The strategy's final objective is to develop mechanisms and processes which allow for a coordinated approach to the implementation of the preceding objectives and which are effective in monitoring the progress and achievements of governments in the elimination of violence against women.

Under each of these objectives, the strategy details specific directions for action which range from the continued development of comprehensive crisis services and improved training for service providers to the need for community education. The directions for action provide roles for the different levels of government in implementing, monitoring and evaluating the progress of the strategy. In particular, heads of government have been asked to set aside time each year to discuss this issue and to make it an agenda item for the newly formed Council of Australian Governments.

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