In brief: Feedback on the Draft National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children

Jesuit Social Services recently gave feedback to the Federal Government’s Draft National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 (the National Plan). We made a series of recommendations to ensure the National Plan meets its objective of a future free from gender-based violence in Australia.

Context

The current National Plan ends in mid-2022 and the Federal Government is in the process of developing its replacement. This comes at a critical moment in which gender-based violence is central to the public conversation. In July 2021, Jesuit Social Services contributed a submission to the public consultation regarding the plan to inform its key priorities. The Federal Government has since developed a draft National Plan and in February 2022, individuals, organisations and the community were again invited to have their say.

Areas of focus in our submission

Jesuit Social Services’ submission draws on our first-hand experience of working with victim-survivors of family violence, those caught up in the justice system, and men and boys. Our feedback is grounded in our frontline understanding of the drivers of family violence. The submission highlights our following key concerns.

  • Research, including our Man Box reports, has shown that men who rigidly conform to dominant masculine norms (that men should be tough, stoic, dominant and in control) are more likely to self-report the use of violence, engage in risky behaviours and be less likely to engage in health promotion behaviours.
  • We know that harms experienced as a child can result in trauma that poses significant risks later in life. Although by no means deterministic, many of the people we work with who have spent time in prison were once victims of violence.
  • Children and adolescents who use violence in the home often have complex needs and research shows significant links between the use of violence in adolescence and the use of violence in adulthood.
  • Further work is needed to ensure the family violence response system is culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Databases across systems, services and organisations are siloed. This means there is more work to be done to understand patterns of gender-based violence and what works in preventing and addressing it.
  • Greater research into the prevalence and nature of violence experienced by women with disabilities in Australia is urgently needed.
  • There is a high correlation between family violence trauma and chronic disengagement from services for women and children. This is especially pronounced when women move interstate and have a limited support network and understanding of the new state system. In our experience, this can also result in disengagement with schooling for children who have experienced or are experiencing family violence.

Recommendations

  1. First and foremost, the National Plan must ensure its commitments have a clear direction and are adequately funded. There must be strong mechanisms for transparency and accountability.
  2. The National Plan must address the root causes of harmful masculine norms and promote healthier masculinities through prevention and early intervention, specifically by:
  • Prioritising engagement with men and boys on issues of masculinities and helping them develop the skills needed to challenge ideas of what it means to be a man as well as those needed to form healthier masculine identities.
  • Investing in workforce capacity-building projects across large institutions, based on our Man Box research, MoRE program and Unpacking the Man Box workshops, to support people who work with boys and men.
  • Including a strong focus on education and awareness-raising around rigid adherence to gender norms in school settings, and expanding the Rights Resilience and Respectful Relationships Curriculum
  • Including adolescents who use violence in the home as a priority cohort and investing in programs that provide restorative responses to adolescents showing violent behaviours in the home.
  1. The National Plan must provide a clear blueprint for a service system that is adequately funded and responsive to the multiple and complex needs of people affected by family violence, specifically by:
  • Investing in longer-term housing and the additional supports needed to assist victim-survivors to maintain their housing, with specific funding for housing for victim-survivors who have multiple and complex needs such as disabilities or mental health concerns.
  • Investing in specialised, therapeutic programs to engage perpetrators with complex needs and more difficult behaviours to help them repair any affected relationships in their lives and take accountability for their behaviours.
  • Accounting for the diverse needs of victim-survivors – those with disabilities, those who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Investing in programs like Navigator to engage children and young people who may be disengaged from education due to experiences of family violence.
  • Investing in a national, coordinated approach to data and information sharing which could consist of a purpose-built database.

More information