No, the 'divvie' will not become the new sickie, says Rosie Batty.

The push to introduce domestic violence leave in Australian workplaces has been met with fierce debate.

While more than half of major private sector employers have introduced domestic violence leave in the past year, Australia’s Fair Work Act does not presently provide workers with a right to this type of leave.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is hoping to change this with a submission to the Fair Work Commission, calling for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave, and an additional two days of unpaid leave, in all modern awards.

But powerful voices like those of Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and columnist Miranda Devine are largely critical of the concept.

Cash has previously said domestic violence leave would mean fewer jobs for women, and more barriers to their employment, while Devine caused waves when she suggested the ‘divvie’ has the potential to become the new ‘sickie’.

But for Australia’s most well-known domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Batty, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Family violence is a workplace issue,” she tells Mamamia. “Employers and communities must face the reality of the epidemic and respond.”

Batty, whose 11-year-old son Luke was murdered by his father in 2014, has been fighting to address failures in responses to domestic violence in Australia ever since.

Logistically, Batty says, domestic violence leave is hugely necessary. “Women experiencing domestic violence are likely to exhaust their personal leave entitlements through numerous court appearances and having to make statements to police,” she explains.


“I have met many victims over the last few years. I know that those experiencing the trauma of family violence can often find it impossible to get to work, whether it is because of the results of physical violence or other forms of controlling behaviour from their partners or former partners.”

"Victims deserve to be believed." Rosie Batty at the 2015 Australian of the Year awards. Image via Getty.

"Knowing your work place offers paid leave to employees experiencing family violence sends a strong message of support."

In terms of the 'divvie' becoming the new 'sickie,' Batty argues this is "highly unlikely."

"I am sure there would be confidential and very sensitive discussions taking place with management that would very readily determine the authenticity of the situation without extensive proof needing to be obtained," she says.

But for the 2015 Australian of the Year, the largest problem with this type of rhetoric is that it's "a form of victim blaming."

"Victims deserve to be believed," she says, "and by diminishing them or minimising their experience of violence, we are saying that we accept violence.  It is the responsibility of everyone to call it out."

"Not only would this give many victims of family violence more employment security, but it also sends a strong message that a woman and her children have the right be safe and free from abuse – in their homes and in their workplaces."

Listen to Mia Freedman interview Rosie Batty on No Filter. 

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