I was dismayed when I read the results last week of a nationwide survey by VicHealth of “community attitudes towards violence against women”. It showed how far we still have to go to change the attitudes that underpin violence against women. Among the findings:
- One in five Australians agree that a woman is partly responsible for rape if she is intoxicated.
- More than half agreed that women could leave a violent relationship "if they really wanted to".
- And most stark of all - one woman is murdered every week in Australia, and one in three Australian women will be assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
Of course we know these attitudes still exist, but it is confronting to see how widely held they are. Those attitudes certainly weren’t on display when 30,000 people marched along Sydney Road following Jill Meagher’s rape and murder, calling for an end to violence against women.
When I talk to people in Brunswick I hear progressive views. The most recent person spoke to me about community safety then added, "of course most violence happens at home”. So I’m pleased to see growing awareness of the violence occurring behind closed doors.
Police report that 50% of crime in Moreland happens in the home and 40% of crime in the city is related to family violence. Family violence is the leading contributor to preventable death, disability, and illness in Victorian women aged 15-44.
Not road deaths, not heart disease, not smoking, but violence.
This shocks me every time I read it, and it has to be the most important law and order issue this Victorian election.
We know attitudes won't change by themselves. We need education and a whole-of-government approach to this issue, backed by meaningful funding across a range of areas – prevention programs in schools and workplaces, more crisis and housing support services, safer courts and more legal support for women.
I was proud to stand with Colleen Hartland MLC, Senator Larissa Waters, Senator Janet Rice and Rosie Batty (mother of Luke) earlier this month to launch our Family Violence Action Plan, which includes $100 million per year to tackle family violence - a key policy initiative of the Greens.
Most importantly, we need all members of the community to stand up and call out these attitudes whenever we see them. Men have a particular responsibility, as former footballer Luke Ablett says:
"men must understand the power they have to challenge and change the social norms, attitudes and myths that contribute to a culture that supports violence in their social groups, in their sporting clubs and in their workplaces."