By TIM WATTS
Bipartisanship has been in short supply in Canberra over the past half a decade. In fact, you could probably count on one hand the number of issues that have attracted accord across the Gillard and Abbott Governments.
One issue that has maintained general bipartisanship however has been the need to reduce the incidence of what is commonly called family violence. Unfortunately, despite its exceptional political status, so far the response to family violence has not delivered exceptional results for Australian women.
The scale of men’s violence against women in our community is shocking.
It does not respect wealth, age or ethnicity, but hurts women in all walks of Australian life. One in three women in Australia have experienced physical violence. Almost one in five have been subjected to sexual assault.
Most shocking of all, one woman is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia every week. Think of these statistics, think of all of the women that you know, and just imagine.
There’s general consensus about the causes of men’s violence against women. The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, a proud legacy of the previous Labor government and one of those rare policy documents to retain support from the Gillard through Abbott governments, makes it clear that the root cause of this violence is gender inequality.
Most men who chose to commit violence against their partners or ex-partners do so because they believe they are superior to the women in their lives and that this position of power means that they can get away with violence.
It’s these attitudes that we need to change if we’re going to stop men’s violence against women.
Last week, I hosted a roundtable with the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and more than 20 leading advocates and family violence service providers to inform Labor’s response to this issue.
The message from attendees was clear: the only way we’ll successfully tackle men’s violence against women is through a consistent and co-ordinated long-term approach.
The National Plan has provided us with a framework, but at present we’re skimping on the building materials we need to finish the job.
We’re relying on too many bolt-on solutions, when long-term, structural work is needed to properly address the issue.