Fired Up

Why We Need More Than Two Weeks To Plan Australia’s Next Decade-Long Fight Against Gendered Violence

At least half of all women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or violence. That’s 1 in 2 that has been sexually harassed, 1 in 3 that has been physically abused and 1 in 5 that has been sexually abused. Let that sink in. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia.
Content warning: This article discusses domestic and sexual violence in a way that may be distressing to some readers.
The federal government has released its draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-32. But how pivotal is a rollout of policies when victim-survivors and support services have very little time for consultation and providing feedback?
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On Friday, Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne announced that the Morrison Government would invest $1 million "to ensure ongoing engagement with victim-survivors throughout the life of the next National Plan". Their official statement also disclosed that feedback on the draft could be provided via an online questionnaire until January 31.
Firstly, $1 million is a measly sum. It's what Big Brother winners have scored in the past and I mean no disrespect to reality TV, but it's no match for a national campaign to address violence against women and children. Secondly, providing just two weeks for victim-survivors and safety advocates to share feedback only seems to diminish the so-called importance the government places on this widespread issue.
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Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins – who claimed last year she was assaulted by a government co-worker in 2019 – was one of many who voiced disappointment on social media.
"Breathtakingly disrespectful. The Govt have given community organisations and experts just TWO weeks to contribute to the upcoming 10-year Violence Against Women National Plan," she wrote on Twitter.
"Two weeks to map out the next 10 years of the fight against gendered violence in Australia."
A petition was swiftly launched, calling for the feedback period to be extended to six weeks, especially given "we are in the midst of a pandemic, and school holidays will not have ended prior to the consultation closing."
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The National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-32 was 18 months in the making, according to the federal government. The National Plan Advisory Group and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council were also established, and Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins released the Respect@Work report.
In September 2021, the Morrison government held its National Women's Safety Summit. Family safety advocates, service providers and women who have experienced violence or sexual harassment provided feedback at the time on how politicians can better address the issues of violence against women and children.
The insights and recommendations drawn from these initiatives were intended to help the government in developing the plan for the next 10 years.
But consultation prior to drafting the plan should be matched by victim-survivors and safety services having a significant period of time to review and provide feedback afterwards as well. This is an issue that needs the input of those in the system – survivors, witnesses and support providers – who truly understand what changes need to be made to effectively tackle this issue.
Providing merely a fortnight window for review and feedback after the draft's release is beyond disappointing.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Minister Ruston confirmed to Refinery29 Australia that the review period had been extended from two weeks to four weeks.
"As we have said throughout this 18 month process we are open to considering all feedback and following this issue being raised, Minister Ruston contacted state and territory ministers who make up the Women's Safety Taskforce over the weekend and they have jointly agreed to extend the timeline for public comment by four weeks to 25 February 2022, particularly in light of the COVID related workforce pressure the sector is under," read the statement in part.
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What Is In The Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-32?

The national plan for the next 10 years is being developed in consultation with the states and territories through the National Federation Reform Council Women’s Safety Taskforce.
“Importantly, we are including a specific focus on Recovery because we know it is an ongoing process that requires dedicated support to enable victim survivors to be safe, healthy, and resilient, to have economic security and to thrive in all areas of their lives," Minister Payne announced on Friday.
The draft plan commits to two, five-year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plans to be developed and delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It also proposes to work towards establishing national definitions of the different forms of violence to inform policy design that's consistent across the country.
On average, 1 woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner and 1 in 3 women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15 in Australia.
Minister Ruston said that "we must focus on driving down the level of violence toward zero."
“We must recognise how race, age, disability, culture, gender, including gender identity, sexuality amongst others forms of identity, intersect and impact on this lived experience," she also stated.
“To succeed we must listen, engage and be informed by diverse lived experiences which is why we are committed to ongoing engagement with victim-survivors. We must get this right.”
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Yes, we must get this right. And in the meantime, we will keep speaking out.
To provide feedback on the draft national plan up until February, 25, click here.
Spokesperson for Minister Anne Ruston's statement to Refinery29 Australia in full:
"On December 16 2021, the Women's Safety Taskforce, which consists of the Commonwealth and all State and Territory Governments, discussed the final opportunity for public feedback on the National Plan and agreed to provide a two week comment period. Details of this decision, the time frame and dates were then published online as part of the Meeting Outcomes.

The draft National Plan is the culmination of 18 months of extensive, detailed and thorough consultation with victim-survivors, advocates, sector representatives, academics, business leaders and the broader community.

We have held a parliamentary inquiry, the National Summit on Women’s Safety, dozens of roundtables, two extensive public surveys as well as established the National Plan Advisory Group and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council and I would like to thank everyone who provided their time, insight and expertise throughout this process.

As we have said throughout this 18 month process we are open to considering all feedback and following this issue being raised, Minister Ruston contacted state and territory ministers who make up the Women's Safety Taskforce over the weekend and they have jointly agreed to extend the timeline for public comment by four weeks to 25 February 2022, particularly in light of the COVID related workforce pressure the sector is under."
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.
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