Help end gendered violence by advocating for legislative and social change

With the stroke of a pen the Federal Government could better support single mothers – 60 per cent of whom report past domestic abuse – says Dr Anne Summers, author of a report into domestic violence and its consequences, The Choice: Violence or Poverty.

Dr Summers spoke at a Unions NSW event, held to kick off 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. Federation supports the United Nations’ 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which begins today (25 November), the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and runs until Human Rights Day on 10 December.

Dr Summers said women experiencing domestic violence faced a terrible dilemma: endure the violence – which may escalate – or leave and end up in poverty.

Analysis of the most recent Personal Safety Survey figures (2016) in Summers’ report show 30 per cent of women who left their violent partner returned; and for 15 per cent the reason for returning was that they had no money or nowhere else to go.

Single mothers receive the Parenting Payment Single (PPS) of $892 per fortnight until their youngest child turns eight, when they are forced to go onto JobSeeker, the unemployment benefit. JobSeeker is $691 per fortnight, just 66 per cent of the age pension. (Figures from March 2022.)

“Aged pensioners don’t have kids who are growing out of their clothes every six months and hungry growing boys to feed,” Dr Summers said.

She is advocating for the Federal Government to reverse “policy-induced poverty” by paying single mothers the equivalent of the single aged pension, as they were 30 years ago.

Other speakers gave suggestions about how we can all support the campaign during the next 16 days.

Back the push for improved government support

Domestic Violence NSW chief executive officer Delia Donovan encouraged people to pledge their support for the NSW Women’s Alliance’s seven calls to action for the NSW Parliament to end gendered violence:

  • A coordinated, whole-of-government approach to sexual, domestic, and family violence policy in NSW
  • Commitment to intersectional primary prevention to end gendered violence and promote gender equality
  • Immediate and long-term support for people experiencing and recovering from sexual, domestic, and family violence
  • Safe and appropriate housing for everybody experiencing and recovering from sexual, domestic and family violence
  • Reform legal systems and policing for people experiencing sexual, domestic and family violence
  • Enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to lead change towards ending sexual, domestic and family violence in their communities
  • Develop and implement a workforce development plan for the specialist sexual, domestic and family violence sector.

Violet Co principal solicitor Karen Robinson-Iles encouraged people to use their social and political capital to advocate for legislative change to make it a statutory duty for police to investigate aggravated child sexual assault.

Act for social and cultural change
Our Watch partnership lead Heidi Lipson said violence against women was a national crisis and a symptom and a cause of gender inequality.

She said if society was to make a genuine difference in preventing violence against women the following 12 actions are essential:

  • Challenging the condoning of violence against women
  • Promoting women’s independence and decision-making in public life and relationships
  • Build new social norms that foster personal identities not constrained by rigid gender stereotypes
  • Support men and boys in developing healthy masculinities and positive, supportive male-peer relationships
  • Promote and normalise gender equality in public and private life
  • Address the intersections between gender inequality and other forms of systemic and structural oppression and discrimination, and promote broader social justice
  • Build safe, fair and equitable organisations and institutions by focusing on policy and systems change
  • Strengthen positive, equal and respectful relations between and among women and men, girls and boys, in public and private spheres
  • Challenge the normalisation of violence and aggression as an expression of masculinity
  • Reduce the long-term impacts of exposure to violence, and prevent further exposure
  • Strengthen prosocial behaviour
  • Plan for, and actively address, backlash and resistance.

See Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women in Australia (second edition) – Summary for more details.

Ms Lipson said key settings, including workplaces and unions, could lead prevention activities, set behavioural and cultural standards, address systemic issues and provide public advocacy. Our Watch’s Workplace Equality and Respect website suggests how your workplace can help create an Australia where women are safe, equal and valued.

“Only when there are respectful relationships will we see a reduction in violence against women,” she said.

Unions NSW
“Unions NSW values equality, justice, integrity and progressing the lives of working people,” Unions NSW gender equity officer Karen Willis said.

She stated that Unions NSW seeks to make NSW gender equal by taking actions that achieve:

  • gender equality in law, regulation and legal convention
  • gender equity in work
  • reversal of the drivers of gender inequality
  • elimination of gendered violence.

Click here for Unions NSW’s Gender Equality position paper.