Page 790 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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It appears everyone broadly agrees that we need to change. But why haven’t we? We need a bipartisan or tripartisan plan with locked-in long-term funding and commitments and coordinated nationally. We need sustained community pressure for long-term leadership and change. As a community we should not and cannot be satisfied with short-term solutions.

What we really need is to change our culture, not just our laws. Although more effective responses for victims are absolutely essential, these do not stop the problem. We need to change deeply embedded attitudes. Education and communication programs are an important part of this, but one-off campaigns are not enough. Such campaigns are only effective when reinforced by other direct measures aimed at helping victims, treating offenders and improving services. We need comprehensive responses to tie all these things together.

If there is a positive sign of change, it is that there appears to be more bipartisan political support for greater action on domestic violence than ever seen before. Having Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year gives Australians a real chance of getting people talking and acting on this in a way we have not before. We have heard that the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, wants to place domestic violence at the centre of the agenda for a COAG meeting coming up this year. With political leaders sitting around the COAG table that day—the Prime Minister flanked by our state, territory and local government leaders—it is a chance to finally act on this terrible national scourge. We do not want that meeting to be just more talk.

I briefly mention a new tool that became available last week. Women experiencing violence can find specialist support services across Australia in one place through a new mobile app. The Daisy appropriate, developed by 1800RESPECT and funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, was unveiled in Melbourne by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, and Australian of the Year Rosie Batty. In an Australian first, the Daisy app empowers women experiencing gendered violence to access services for their own unique situation—from specialist services, to legal support and advice, through to crisis accommodation—all from the one place on their phone or tablet. The Daisy app connects women who are experiencing or have experienced sexual assault or domestic and family violence to services in their state and local areas. It provides women with an easy way to find a wide range of services, and it also lists legal services, housing and finance services and children’s services. You can create your own list of favourite services for easy reference.

Some groups are more vulnerable to domestic violence than even the average woman. Domestic and family violence is the number one reason why people present to specialist homelessness services, with 55 per cent of female clients citing this as the reason for seeking assistance and a total of 25 per cent for all clients. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence, and women with disability are also over-represented in the statistics relating to domestic violence and homelessness as a result of domestic violence. Furthermore, feedback from the homelessness sector has shown that women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are an emerging group in the homelessness population, particularly as a result of domestic and family violence.

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