Media Release by The Hon Julie Bishop MP

More Australian women speak out against violence

More Australian women are reporting sexual assault, domestic and family violence to police than ever before, according to a national survey on personal safety commissioned by the Australian Government’s Office for Women, and prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues, the Hon Julie Bishop MP today reiterated the Coalition Government’s commitment to addressing violence in our community following the release of the Personal Safety Survey.

“The message has to get through that violence against women is absolutely unacceptable in any form,” Minister Bishop said.

“Following on from the 1996 Women’s Safety Survey, we now have for the first time, a comparison over time of the changing nature and extent of women’s experiences of violence at home and in the community.

“While the survey showed there has been a drop in physical violence against women aged 18 to 24 years, it showed disturbing increases against older women.

“With more people reporting incidences of violence, the Survey indicates that the Coalition Government’s $75.7 million Women’s Safety Agenda is raising community awareness, however more needs to be done.”

“The Agenda includes initiatives such as the Violence Against Women Australia Says NO campaign, currently in its third year of running, which received more than 65,000 calls to the national 24-hour Helpline since 2004.

“I will carefully consider these findings and will raise the implications with my colleagues at the upcoming Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Women’s Ministers’ Conference (MINCO) to work together in addressing this serious community issue.”

Australian Government initiatives to combat Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

The Australian Government has committed $149 million to tackling domestic and family violence since it came into government in 1996. $73.2 million was provided between 1998 and 2005 on the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (PADV) initiative and the National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault (NICSA). Building on these initiatives the Government announced in May 2005 a further commitment of $75.7 million over 4 years through the Women’s Safety Agenda, to be administered by the Office for Women.

Women’s Safety Agenda

The Women’s Safety Agenda addresses four broad themes – prevention, health, justice and services to decrease the impacts of domestic violence and sexual assault on the community.

Some elements of this program are:

  • the very successful national multi media Violence Against Women. Australia Says No community awareness campaign. The campaign encourages reporting of incidents of violence and provides support to victims through the national 24 hour, 7 day a week Helpline (1800 200 526). The campaign will recommence again on 13 August 2006.
  • Community level action projects to deal at a local level with domestic violence and sexual assault in the Australian community;
  • Building skills for nurses in regional andrural areas to support victims of domestic violence, and for the criminal justice sector to deal better with victims of sexual assault, and for Mensline counsellors to deal with men seeking assistance about violent behaviour.

There are significant programs across the Australian Government that also address family and domestic violence. Some of these are:

Supported Accommodation Assistance Program ($932 million over 5 years)

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program provides emergency and transitional supported accommodation and related services to people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. One of the primary target groups is women and children escaping domestic violence. New strategic directions improving pre and post crisis intervention and more support for clients with complex needs underpin the new SAAP agreement.

New Approach to Family Law ($400 million over 4 years).

The Family Law Reforms have sought to address the issues of violence and abuse. The Government wants to encourage a culture where parents share the work involved in raising children wherever possible.

The centerpiece of the Family Law Reforms package is the establishment of 65 Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) to provide information, advice, referral and dispute resolution services to help prevent family separation or help deal with separation. Importantly, the FRCs will screen for violence and child abuse and the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility may not be applied .

Announced on 24 February 2006, the Family Law Violence Strategy will seek to improve the handling of family violence and child abuse allegations in the family law system especially in relation to false allegations of violence or abuse.

Family Violence Partnership Programme ($37.3 Million over 4 years)

Family Violence Partnership Programme builds on the Australian Government’s commitment to tackling family violence and child abuse. Funding is provided for projects and initiatives to develop a sustainable reduction in, and prevention of, Indigenous family violence and child abuse, in partnership with states and territories throughout Australia, particularly in remote areas.

The National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services programme assists Indigenous adults and children who are victims of family violence or those who are at immediate risk of such violence. Services provided include case work, legal assistance, court support and crisis counselling.