The Morrison Government has announced a women’s safety summit to inform the next National Plan to eliminate violence against women and children.

The meeting, scheduled for July 29 and 30, aims to construct a plan that will follow the current 12-year plan which is set to finish in 2022.

“This plan needs to be a very ambitious plan; we need to make sure that we move from just reducing violence against women and their children to ending violence against women and their children,” said Minister for Women’s Safety, Anne Ruston.

“We must have a goal towards zero and the next plan will be an ambitious blueprint to stop the rot that is domestic violence across our national landscape.”

Our Watch, an organisation dedicated to preventing violence against women and their children, said the summit is a sign that politicians are beginning to treat women’s safety as a priority.

“The summit will provide an important opportunity to identify concrete actions for both the short and long term, address violence against women more effectively, and to prevent it from occurring in the first place,” said Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly.

“We would like the Second National Plan to prioritise prevention alongside response to violence against women. We would like it to be developed through a strong co-design process with experts in violence against women.”

Our Watch also hopes to see a focus on preventing violence against First Nations women and sustained funding for Aboriginal community organisations.

“To prevent violence against First Nations women, we know the plan must address racism and discrimination, and the multiple ongoing impacts of colonisation along with gender discrimination.”

In a joint statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Women Marise Payne noted the opening of an online survey which allows all Australians an opportunity contribute to the next National Plan.

“We want to hear from all parts of the community to make sure the next National Plan draws on the best and most wide-ranging ideas. We intend to build a shared framework as we work together to reduce and prevent violence against women and children,” said Minister Payne.

Dunghutti woman and Women’s Safety NSW Indigenous spokesperson Ash Johnstone said whilst the online survey may be effective in gathering some additional data, this work has already been done.

“The work has been done, expert voices have been loudly calling out for a number of years what needs to happen, communities, particularly Aboriginal communities, have been extremely vocal about needing representation and their voices heard,” she said.

Both Johnstone and Women’s Safety CEO Hayley Foster noted the need for accessible services, particularly with respect to crisis accommodation and case management.

“For women who are experiencing domestic and family violence often the barrier to leaving an unsafe situation is having nowhere safe to go,” said Johnstone.

Foster said this accessibility barrier should not exist at all.

“It should not be a privilege to be able to access safety and support from violence. It should be a universal right, as it is a human right. Making sure everyone can access services they need is really important,” she said.

Johnstone said the current lack of sustainable funding stunts the opportunity for some services to help.

“We see in Aboriginal affairs that year after year programs get created that have six months or 12 months of funding and then they finish … that lack of certainty around funding is really damaging for communities,” she said.

“When it comes to talking about domestic and family violence … We’re talking about life and death.”

“It should not be a question of whether a service has a bed for a woman to stay in, it shouldn’t be a question of if there is a staff member to take that phone call or not. It should just be that that resource is available.”

Both women noted the need for Indigenous women to be at the forefront of any changes.

“We need Indigenous experts in those rooms, we need Indigenous services represented, we need to make sure that at every step of this we have got Indigenous voices and perspectives represented to provide that safety,” said Johnstone.

“There needs to be mechanisms to be able to actually hear what people think, especially Indigenous women and Indigenous women with lived experience who are on the frontline,” added Foster.

With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women disproportionately affected by domestic and family violence, Johnstone says there could be an opportunity for a First Nations Women’s Safety Summit prior to the national event.

“Having ideas and conversations generated from that that we could take to the national summit, it would be a great way to ensure that all of our voices are heard,” she said.

Minister Ruston told NIT it is essential that Aboriginal women are heard, and that the Government has therefore invested in multiple platforms of engagement.

The Minister said services and peak organisations have the opportunity to participate in the summit and that the submission and findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence and information from the Wiyi Yani U Thangani report will help inform the new National Plan.

“In addition, an advisory group is being established that will include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation and we will be conducting virtual workshops in each State and Territory to capture views that are specific to location and diverse backgrounds,” Minister Ruston said.

“This will include dedicated workshops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.”

If you are experiencing family or domestic violence, please contact:

  • National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence counselling service – 1800 RESPECT
  • Domestic Violence Line NSW – ‍1800 656 463
  • Spartan First Suicide Prevention Crisis Line – 1800 370 747
  • Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Visit respect.gov.au for more information and to download free resources.

By Rachael Knowles