Submission to Domestic Violence Inquiry

On July 29, 2014 the St Vincent de Paul Society made a submission to the Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Australia being conducted by the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee. The Society abhors violence against anyone, in any situation, and sees any violence in the home, against an intimate partner, as a crime. However, it is notable that violence against an intimate partner does not affect everyone equally. Instead, the crime of domestic violence is strongly gendered.

The Society supports strong investment in addressing the impact of domestic violence, which include support for women leaving violence, such as women’s refuges and shelters; education for men and boys about violence against women; and helping women identify when they have been subjected to the crime of domestic violence. The Society runs a range of services for women escaping domestic violence around the country, but we believe much more investment must be made in this area.  The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children is a step in this direction, as is the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme.

However, 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,  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.

Interim Report released

On 19 March, 2015 the Senate Committee holding an Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Australia released an Interim Report, including a list of recommendations. The Committee recommended the Commonwealth Government restore funding cuts from legal services, housing and homelessness services and the Department of Social Services grants program, among other recommendations. Vinnies welcomed the recommendations in the Interim Report but was disappointed the Committee did not place enough emphasis on the gendered nature of the crime. In its submission, Vinnies argued strongly for the need for a national plan on gender equality to address the causes of domestic violence such as inequality between the sexes.

The Committee is due to hand down its final report on 18 June, 2015.

Final national domestic violence report released

One year after Vinnies lodged its submission, the Senate Committee on Finance and Public Administration has reported on the Inquiry into Domestic Violence. The report released in late August 2015, reinforces the points made in the Vinnies submission about domestic violence being an inherently gendered phenomenon, with a range of causes, including ‘gender inequality, social norms and attitudes as well as exposure to violence, social isolation, relationship conflict, divorce or separation and the use of alcohol and drugs’. Vinnies supports the recommendations on the need for deep cultural change, a focus on primary prevention, better crisis services, keeping victims in their own homes, and a truly national and consultative approach. Of particular interest to Vinnies are the recommendations regarding housing and homelessness prevention. The committee recommended that the Commonwealth Government take a lead role in the provision of affordable housing solutions in Australia to meet long-term needs for those made homeless by domestic and family violence and in order to address the backlog of victims who cannot access affordable housing which stakeholders have identified during the inquiry. Vinnies also supports the Committee’s recommendation that victims of domestic and family violence have access to appropriate leave provisions to assist them to maintain employment and financial security while attending necessary appointments such as court appearances and seeking legal advice.