17 women murdered in eight weeks. There are no shades of grey here.
Trigger warning: This post deals with issues of domestic and family violence and may be triggering for some readers.
Seventeen women have been killed so far this year in Australia due to family violence. Murdered by their boyfriends, their husbands, their de-factors, their exes. Men who professed to love them. Men they trusted. Men they became terrified of. Men who killed them in cold blood, often in front of their children. Or while they were pregnant. Sometimes, they killed these women’s children as well.
These men are monsters. There are no shades of grey here.
Yesterday, Tony Abbott, Minister For Women sent his assistant minister, Michaelia Cash to announce that the Australian Government would join with state and territory governments to deliver a $30 million jointly-funded ‘national awareness campaign’ about domestic violence.
“Raising awareness”. It’s one of those things that’s hard to fault. It garners a lot of handshakes and back slapping.
But do we really need a campaign to explain that you shouldn’t bash women and children? Do we need to spend $30m to tell men that murdering your partner is wrong? Does anyone need a reminder that abusing or killing a woman or a child is a crime?
Tony Abbott, the Minister for Women, thinks we do. But many people believe Mr Abbott needs to increase his own awareness about family violence. Because this announcement is a money-wasting piece of grand-standing.
It’s designed to pay lip service to this very real national crisis without actually having to make any changes to policy, infrastructure or support service funding. In short, it’s a reprehensible cop-out.
Or in words Mr Abbott may understand: It’s $30 million of precious budgetary funding that’s desperately needed elsewhere.
Here is what an awareness campaign will do: It will put $30 million in the pockets of advertising agencies who will be paid handsomely to create this campaign and media organisations who will run it. They are the ones who will benefit from Tony Abbott’s meaningless and expensive awareness campaign. They money will go to the advertising and media industries.
It will not benefit the women and children who are beaten black and blue, who are abused and attacked and stalked and murdered every single day by men who claim to love them.
In the media release trumpeting the funding for this awareness campaign, we found this curious line:
“Importantly, we must also ensure that any women or child who may be suffering understands that this is not acceptable and support is available.”
So, at least in part, this awareness campaign is to make domestic violence victims aware that domestic violence is not ok. In case they were not already ‘aware’ of this fact by noticing the bruises on their bodies or the terror in their hearts. This same $30 million awareness campaign is going to tell women and children who are experiencing violence at the hands of their loved ones that “support is available”.
Except in many cases it’s not.
Why? Because the Abbott Government has slashed that support by $100 million since coming to office.
The essential services that women desperately need to escape family violence have been slashed: Accessible legal services (including specific services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) have lost $43 million. Funding for housing services, women’s shelters and emergency accommodation has been cut by at least $44 million.
A few days before Christmas last year, the Government cut funding to housing and homelessness peak bodies – and there is ongoing funding uncertainty for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services.
Specific services for Indigenous women, women from non-English speaking backgrounds and women with a disability are all facing cuts – even though these women are at the greatest risk of violence.
Funding uncertainty faces many women’s services and domestic violence prevention programs.
With one hand, Tony Abbott is spending money to tell women that help is available. With the other hand, he is ripping money out of the services that help these same women.
It’s illogical. It’s hypercritical. It’s wrong.
Do you know what these women and children really need, Prime Minister?
They need beds and shelter and protection and they need to be safe from the men who are abusing or trying to kill them. They need the physical and financial support of specialist agencies who provide urgent services for women and children fleeing abusive, life-threatening situations.
On International Women’s Day, we call on Prime Minister Tony Abbott:
1. To stop this fatuous and insulting pretence of calling himself the Minister For Women and to actually appoint one. This is urgently needed. It always has been.
2. To restore the $100 million worth of funding for services that his Government has cut.
3. To reverse the decision to spend $30m on an ad campaign and instead direct that money towards support services for women and financial stability for the organisations that provide it.
Two women are dying every week in this country (and so many more injured and disabled every day) from family violence. Domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children. One in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them.
Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44. One in four children are exposed to domestic violence, which is a recognised form of child abuse. And the cost of violence against women to the Australian economy is estimated to rise to $15.6 billion per annum.
Prime Minister, we don’t need to spend $30 million to make us aware of that.
We need the funds that will help us put an end to it.
This post was co-authored with Amy Stockwell and Jamila Rizvi.