Mama Mayhem

$328M doesn’t tackle a $22B national crisis

By Ivy Jensen

LAST week’s Federal Budget promised its biggest spend on a national plan to combat violence against women and children.

An extra $328m will be spent in the next three years (if the government is returned later this year) for measures fighting domestic violence, including frontline services ($82 million), safe places ($78m), prevention strategies ($68m), hotline service ($62m), and support and prevention measures for indigenous communities ($35m).

While organisations and victims always welcome more funding, it will do little to tackle a $22 billion problem.

It’s a very small drop in a vast ocean.

An ocean where women continue to be killed at a staggering and alarming rate.

As of last week, 16 women and three children had been killed by men in Australia this calendar year.

As we all know, one woman a week, on average, is murdered by her current or former partner.

This is only week 14 of the year, so we’re on track to beat last year’s horror statistic — 63 Australian women killed by men’s violence.

This is a national crisis.

In comparison, the Budget has promised $570 million in extra funding to boost Australia’s counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations.

Now I am in no way downplaying these abhorrent acts, but in 2017 three people died from terrorism in Australia.

There were no deaths the year before, two in 2015 and four in 2014, according to the Global Terrorism Index.

You are therefore more likely to die at the hands of someone who claims to love you than a violent extremist.

I attended my second retreat as part of the Walkley Foundation’s Our Watch fellowship recently which only further opened my eyes to this insidious plague.

A scourge that in Victoria is killing more women than road deaths and shark attacks combined.

And it’s even worse for indigenous women, who are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence.

Then you have women who experience other forms of inequality, discrimination and disadvantage, including colonisation, racism, ableism and homophobia.

Our Watch ambassador Tarang Chawla spoke to us at the fellowship about the impact of harmful reporting when his sister, Nikita, was brutally murdered by her partner in 2015.

Despite enduring such heartbreak, the Indian-born Australian writer, activist and former independent political candidate is advocating the cause of violence against women.

Speaking to us as journalists, the Young Australian of the Year finalist stressed the need for sensitive, evidence-based reporting.

‘‘When Niki was murdered, so much of the media reporting was about the colour of her skin, our cultural background, or in some way excusing the perpetrator’s responsibility for criminal action because of ‘culture’ or ‘honour killings’, when all it was was one man choosing to take the life of a woman,’’ he said.

‘‘When we read responsible media reporting, we understand the driving forces behind men’s violence against women and we understand the role everyone plays in tackling the sexist attitudes and damaging stereotypes that can lead to it.

‘‘But when the media doesn’t do this, unfortunately our understanding in the community gets clouded and we try to look for other, less accurate, reasons and ways to make sense of these crimes.’’

And there’s the pivotal word.

Crimes.

Domestic violence is a crime – whether it is reported or not.

Through the columns of this paper, our digital reach and other papers in the McPherson Media stable, I have endeavoured to shine a light into some very dark corners of society in general – and our town in particular.

However bad the news.

■If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800737732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au