The crucial thing missing from the government's domestic violence plan.

This story discusses child sexual abuse and domestic violence.

"The end of violence against women and children begins with men." 

These are the words I began my speech with as they echoed with conviction and determination through the sea of thousands in Sydney’s Hyde Park last Saturday at the No More: National Rally Against Violence orchestrated by the not-for-profit organisation, What Were You Wearing. As I spoke alongside other brilliant activists and thought leaders, I genuinely hoped that our collective voices, fueled by the fervent spirit of those who rallied, would spark dramatic change.

As I write this, 36 cherished Australian women have tragically lost their lives to violence in 2024, with 14 of these occurring in April alone. It's crucial to recognise that these aren't merely statistics – they represent beautiful human lives tragically lost. The families of these women will now bear the absence of their loved ones, with an empty seat at the table during family occasions such as Christmases, birthdays, and anniversaries.

Watch: PM Anthony Albanese at the No More: National Rally Against Violence. Post continues after video.

Video via Instagram/@whatwereyouwearing_

In the wake of this, and after years of inaction from the government, the pervasive scourge of men’s violence has once again thrust itself into the national spotlight, reaching a boiling point. Women across Australia are rightfully exhausted, frustrated, and downright petrified by the ongoing toll of devastating violence inflicted upon them on a daily basis. As a nation, we stand at a critical juncture, and it is incumbent upon individuals in positions of power, leaders, decision-makers, and men alike to heed the calls for genuine empathy, solidarity, and above all, urgency.

First and foremost, it's crucial to clarify that my intention in writing this article is not to speak on behalf of women or to occupy space at a pivotal moment where men urgently need to listen and engage. When Mamamia extended the invitation for me to write this article, I saw it as an opportunity to offer a male perspective on confronting the plague of men’s violence. My involvement is precisely that – no more, no less – to contribute to the conversation, not to overshadow or divert attention away from the urgent issues at hand.

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I find myself at the crossroads of two distinct worlds – bearing the pain and trauma inflicted upon me during my formative years as a child by my stepmother, while embracing my present identity as a 24-year-old man. Now, while I have survived significant tragedy, I am also acutely aware of the privileges afforded to me by virtue of my gender in today’s society. This dual perspective and trauma grants me some understanding of the struggles that women endure with violence. I’m by no means claiming full comprehension of what women’s experiences are, rather stating that I am able to relate and have firsthand experience of how trauma manifests within someone. I also recognise that my role as a man confers upon me a responsibility to challenge the systems of power and privilege that perpetuate men’s violence, and to use my voice, and platform to effect meaningful change.


The rally last weekend was a testament to the power of collective action – a gathering of individuals from all walks of life, united in our commitment to creating a world free from men’s violence. As I spoke, I echoed the words of advocates who have come before me, calling for an end to the silence and complicity that allow this brutality to flourish unchecked. I called on men to step up and take responsibility for our lack of accountability and to recognise that this abominable cruelty is not just a women's issue, but indeed a men's issue, that affects us all. As I looked out at the faces of those gathered before myself, I saw hope. A glimmer of possibility that together, we can create a future where this abhorrent and mindless violence is nothing but a distant memory.

This moment in our history should have served as a serious wake-up call for the government. In fact, a reckoning… But, Wednesday's national cabinet meeting held on National Domestic Violence Remembrance Day, was yet another missed opportunity for legitimate, decisive, and unapologetic change. Instead of momentous action to address the current emergency, we were met with political manoeuvring and a reactionary $925 million dollar over a five-year period band-aid hastily applied onto the gaping wound that is the crisis of men's violence in Australia.

This is Australia: one out of every three women has endured physical violence, while one in five has suffered sexual violence. Additionally, half of all women have faced sexual harassment at some point in their lives, and a quarter have experienced emotional and economic abuse from a partner with whom they cohabitate. As I’ve said, the tragic toll of men's violence is starkly evident in the 36 women murdered this year alone, with a woman falling victim to a current or former partner's violence every four days. Shockingly, one out of every three girls is sexually abused before reaching the age of 18 in this country, and conviction rates for offenders remain disturbingly low. These numbers serve as a harrowing reminder of the widespread prevalence of these issues, demanding an immediate and critical reassessment of our current approach, which has proven completely ineffective.


What measures must be taken for the government to prioritise the safety and well-being of women? How many more women must be physically or sexually assaulted before the government acknowledges it is imperative to crack down on offenders? How many more women must be murdered before the government deems it intolerable? If offenders received appropriate sentences, might we have prevented some of these deaths? It's time for transformative efforts, not just words. What will compel them to enact the legislative amendments that have been advocated by activists, academics, and professionals for years? When will the government demonstrate genuine commitment?

Politicians and decision-makers possess the authority to enact bold measures. They showcased it for us during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the virus posed a threat, lockdowns and restrictions were imposed, and swift and radical steps were taken, which reflected the government's commitment to protecting the most vulnerable. The government listened to the science; they listened to the research, and then they acted accordingly. I see the epidemic of family, sexual, and domestic violence, with the same level of severity. However, the disparity lies in the government's response. Despite holding the power to take vigorous measures, there's a disheartening lack of them. Urgency is on crucial thing that's missing.


It's not a matter of limited powers, it's as if they're making a conscious choice to turn a blind eye, and leaving us to feel as though we're shouting into the abyss, desperately seeking change. I detailed those numbers, and the facts and figures have been established; we do not have a knowledge problem; we have an accountability problem.

What should have emerged from that national cabinet meeting were commitments to amend laws with landmark legislation and policy changes. The government must ensure that legislation transcends mere words on paper, but serves rather as a shield of protection for those at risk. Laws are not merely a means of punishment, they are also an educative tool that sets the precedent for society to follow. Now is the time for concrete endeavours; this entails fully funding existing services that are unable to meet demand, fortifying bail and sentencing laws, and implementing survivor-led initiatives like my #YourReferenceAintRelevant campaign, which I have tirelessly advocated for over the past 12 months. This campaign calls for the abolition of good character references in court for offenders by governments nationwide. These are actions that can and must be taken now, and each passing day without proactive measures on the government's part represents more victim-survivors and their families remaining unheard, unprotected, and neglected.


The sluggish and suffocating bureaucracy of it all is unbearable. The era of half-measures and temporary solutions will no longer suffice. Society is demanding a system that prioritises the safety and well-being of all, with the prevention of future abuse cemented at its core.

Men’s violence is an epidemic. It is a national crisis that demands immediate attention. In order to solve it, it does require a fundamental reboot of how society operates. But first and foremost, it requires the government to act decisively and unapologetically, it cannot be achieved through words alone. Last weekend, the protesters I walked alongside weren’t merely participants in a rally; we were architects of change, united by the lived experiences that have shaped our individual journeys. We hoped to see tangible action; we hoped our collective plea echoed louder than the challenges that brought us there. However, it is clearer now more than ever that bona fide, visionary leadership is vital in order to combat this crisis. The government's plan to end men’s violence is missing one crucial thing... urgency.


Harrison James is a survivor, award-winning activist, speaker, and co-founder of the acclaimed #YourReferenceAintRelevant campaign, which is calling for the abolition of good character references in court for convicted child sex offenders by governments nationwide.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here.

Feature image: Supplied.