MP ZALI STEGGALL: We're in a DV crisis and there's no emergency response. What's a woman's life worth?

Recently domestic and family violence has been filling news headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Australian Institute of Criminology reports that the rate of women killed by an intimate partner has increased by nearly 30 per cent in 2022-23.

According to Destroy the Joint, at least 28 women have been murdered by their male partner this year. Alarmingly, Our Watch indicates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience disproportionally high rates of violence, being 31 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence-related assaults.

Like many women and men, I am angry and frustrated.

Too many women are being killed by men, current and former intimate partners or strangers, and the response from all levels of government is just not good enough. It is a national crisis and there cannot be any more business as usual. We need a step change and crisis response to keep women and children safe.

The Federal Government's plan is the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032. Whilst it is an important roadmap and commitment by the Albanese Government, it will only be effective if it's underpinned with strong policy changes and funding for essential services. But it estimates taking 10 years!

How many more lives will be ruined and women murdered in that time?

Watch: women and violence, the hidden numbers. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia. 

Addressing male violence is complex, and some elements will take time, like changing behaviours, respect for women, and addressing toxic male culture. We know alcohol, gambling, pornography, online content, all are major factors and some small commitments are being made by the government in relation to these.

Women's economic inequality and insecurity is also a major driver of domestic violence, as women too often have to choose between poverty and safety. This too takes time and whilst some policy changes made by the government will help, ultimately it requires raising the Jobseeker rate above the poverty line.

But other levers to keep women safe now can, and must, be pulled. NOW.

And despite the Prime Minister and many politicians saying it's a crisis, a National Cabinet being held to address the issue, only small changes to date have been proposed.

When two young men died in New South Wales, the NSW State Government closed down a city and introduced urgent mandatory sentences for one-punch attacks. When terrorism was feared, laws were changed urgently to jail people on even an apprehended risk of crime. When someone put needles in strawberries, urgent laws were passed. Even recently, when detainees were released due to the High Court decision, the government brought in urgent draconian legislation within days.

But to keep Australian women safe, despite calling it a crisis, still no emergency response! What is the point of government, if not to keep the community safe? What's a woman's life worth?


In last week's Federal budget, there was no increase to Jobseeker or in funding for frontline services fighting to keep women safe on a daily basis or to legal aid services trying to help women within a faulty legal system, and there has still been no urgent and significant sentencing law changes proposed to hold perpetrators to account.

Read more: The question MP Zali Steggall posed in Parliament that every woman is asking themselves.

Domestic violence makes up a huge proportion of police work in most state and territories and is estimated to cost the economy one to two percent of GDP, that’s around $50 billion, each year. The Federal budget should reflect that with a proportional investment in domestic violence and women's economic security. This is ultimately a saving, not a cost.

I've called on the Federal Government to commit to urgent funding increases to frontline services — to commit to long-term funding of those services to ensure they stop turning women away and that they have sufficient spare beds, crisis services, community education and ongoing consistent prevention work.

Funding increases for legal aid services are also urgently needed as well as a suite of legal reforms. We need national databases to better track and monitor perpetrators, and sadly, track deaths and systems failures. 

To often gut-wrenching murders are reported and system failures are exposed, opportunities missed where the legal system has failed to prevent and deter greater crimes. And laws need to change, consequences need to change, from holding perpetrators to account by reversing the consequences, by prioritising women and children staying in their homes with wrap around safety services rather than finding themselves homeless, by introducing mandatory sentences, doing away the character references that constantly claim the "good bloke" defence, by imposing ankle bracelets and curfews and greater custodial sentences on perpetrators.


There have been glimmers of hope.

In NSW, the government has committed to changes to bail laws and extending the successful staying home leaving violence programs in all local government areas. South Australia has passed tougher bail laws and Queensland will make coercive control a criminal offence.

These are good steps, but more is needed at a national level.

On Thursday 16 May, the House of Representatives unanimously passed my motion putting the parliament on notice of the calls from so many on the frontline for a step-change, for a crisis response. You can read the full motion here.

Now, with the government and politicians of all sides formally acknowledging what is needed, the time for business as usual is over. With a record number of women in parliament, especially on the cross bench, women's safety will stay front and centre until the government gives it the priority it deserves.

Enough is enough.

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: AAP.