House debates

Thursday, 3 December 2020


International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

4:56 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On 25 November, we marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Gender violence, sexual violence and physical violence against girls and women is a reality for many around the world. Violence can take many forms and can be experienced by any individual, irrespective of gender, race, culture or age. However, we must acknowledge that violence, particularly against girls and women, can be shaped by cultural, gender and sex based power imbalances that aim to oppress women not only as individuals but collectively.

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by violence. One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. In Australia, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. Gender based violence is complex and extends beyond physical or sexual abuse. It may also include non-physical forms of violence such as psychological abuse, verbal abuse or financial abuse. When these form a pattern of behaviour, it is known as coercive control. Coercive control can include behaviours such as isolating an individual from support networks, acts of humiliation, threats, sexual coercion and restricting an individual's movement, appearance and access to financial independence. Most survivors of gender based violence state that coercive control was present in their relationship even when physical violence was not.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in gender based violence across the globe. Gender inequality is a significant driving force for violence against women and girls, yet we must acknowledge that economic, social and cultural factors play a role in sustaining and escalating this violence. The coronavirus pandemic has caused greater financial stress, increased substance abuse, poor mental health and isolation within the home. While none of these factors excuse domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, they can often act as a trigger for abuse.

From the very beginning the Morrison government has been concerned about the ways in which gender based violence could be exasperated by the pandemic. This is why the Morrison government acted swiftly to commit $150 million for the domestic violence COVID-19 support package, which has now been fully distributed to states and territories. This funding is in addition to the $340 million that the Commonwealth has already invested into the fourth action plan, delivering over 160 initiatives to tackle domestic, family and sexual violence as well as ongoing funding for 1800RESPECT.

Addressing attitudes of disrespect towards girls and women is one important way to address gender based violence. This is an issue that must be examined through different lenses. My committee work in both the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs and the Joint Select Committee on Australia's family Law System has explored the systemic changes needed to better support survivors of gender based violence. Likewise, it is an issue that must be approached through a bipartisan lens.

The recent relaunch of the Parliamentarians for Action to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children is an essential way to connect with parliamentarians of all political persuasions on research and reports to discuss opportunities to improve current programs working to address gender based violence. More must be done to address the increase of gender based violence in Australia and around the world.

Drawing on my experience as a psychologist, I have long argued for evidence based programs that start in early childhood. They're essential to breaking cycles of violence and gendered violence. In January this year I called for better integration of mental health programs into the school curriculum to target a number of issues, not just preventing domestic violence behaviours. This call has now been echoed in the Productivity Commission's Mental health report.

Children who have grown up experiencing or witnessing domestic violence have a greater risk of depression, anxiety, relationship issues and substance abuse. They are also more likely to become victims or perpetrators of domestic violence in their adult years. Teaching children emotion regulation skills, distress tolerance skills, impulse control and empathy are important ways to prevent domestic violence in the future.

House adjourned at 17 : 01

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Zimmerman ) took the chair at 10:00.