There remains a national tragedy for a country that purports to be civilised, tolerant and safe. Australia is in the grip of a domestic violence crisis. Australian women are being regularly beaten, abused and killed by Australian men, usually their partners.
The statistics are staggering. 1 in 3 women are affected by family violence. Since the beginning of this year, 24 Australian women have been murdered by their current or former partners. That is one every five days.
In the recent budget announcements, Joe Hockey allocated a meagre $30 million to domestic violent services, most of which would be going to awareness-raising campaigns rather than the hotline or frontline services such as women’s refuges. The question must be asked whether Mr Hockey has his priorities right in allocating $1.2 billion to counter-terrorism measures when the statistics of Australians affected by terrorism are minuscule compared to women affected by domestic violence.
It is clear that there is not enough funding. Calls to hotlines are going unanswered and desperate people are being turned away from community legal services and homeless shelters. There is also a need to fund men’s behaviour programs and accreditation for these programs as well as funding so that systems like the police, the courts and child protection services can work more effectively with each other. Waleed Aly made a powerful plea for proper domestic violence funding on The Project (13 May 2015) with the hashtag #showmethemoney alerting viewers of the frightening statistics and current funding gaps.
MP Georgie Crozier, Shadow Minister for Families and Children, and MP Inga Peulich, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs recently released a media release (Family Violence Stories Risk Staying Secret, 21 May 2015) stating the experiences and voices of women and children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities risk being untold, filtered or drowned out as part of the Royal Commission into Family Violence because The Royal Commission’s terms of reference do not require the taking of direct verbal evidence from witnesses. This means that those women and children who have problems with literacy face hurdles in engaging the Royal Commission.
As a community, we must be vocal and take action about this issue. Men need to be positive role models to other men and children by encouraging respectful behaviour and speaking up against violent behaviour or attitudes that condone it. If women are to command proper authority with men we need to train young girls to take themselves much more seriously and develop the necessary mental toughness to push their own physical and mental limits. As Dr Sallee McLaren, a clinical psychologist, recently wrote in an article titled “The part women play in domestic violence” (The Age, 12 May 2015), “while we ought to be absolutely outraged about the violence of men against women, we ought to be equally outraged by the learnt powerlessness of women to command enough authority to stop it in its tracks.”. As NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says: “These are mothers, your daughters, your sisters, wives, girlfriends, these are the people that work at the desk next to you at work. These are real people and they are horrifying numbers.”
For support and information about suicide prevention or domestic violence, contact:
National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732
For Muslim community based help contact The National Zakat Foundation http://nzf.org.au, The United Muslim Woman’s Association +61 2 9750 6916 or contact your local Imam or community leader.
Sakinah Bokhari is a teacher based in Sydney.