The Society supports strong investment in addressing the symptoms of domestic violence, which include support for women and children leaving violence; education for men and boys about violence; and helping women identify when they have been subjected to the crime of domestic violence. The Society runs a range of support programs for children who have experienced the crime of domestic violence, all of which have a hugely beneficial impact. These include: counselling; engagement in parenting groups; referral to child/ family centres; heavy engagement with schools; education support including tutoring and mentoring; emotional supports to reduce the impact of stress; and housing support.=
While these programs do help, the continuing high rates of domestic violence tell us that we must all do much more in this area, including more housing and legal assistance for people dealing with domestic violence. The government’s National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children is a step in this direction , 17 as is the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme. However, while dealing with the aftermath is important, we believe that we will not see real change until we as a society address the cause of domestic violence: stereotypes and attitudes about gender, which value women differently and subordinate to men, 18 and which deeply permeate our society. We call on government to commit to a national plan on gender equality, building on the weight of evidence, and previous work by various government and non-government bodies. It is high time that we, as a nation, developed concrete steps to achieve true equality between women and men.
The Commission has now publically released its annual Children’s Rights Report, covering a very wide range of issues at 260 pages: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/young-children-affected-family-violence-focus-new-national-action-plan.
The Society’s submission is referenced once in the report in relation to the need to expand housing options available to children and their mothers escaping domestic violence. Broadly, the Report repeats the high rate of DV impacting on children in Australia, and its very negative outcomes.
We support this report, but are disappointed that the Commission did not focus on the centrality of gender power imbalance as a key cause of domestic violence that impacts on children. While the report did have a short section on violence against female children aged 15-17 by their male partners (4.6.5), we need to take the discussion of the role of gender in violence impacting children much further if we are to really understand and prevent it.