There’s a war going on and it’s killing thousands of Australians.
It’s a pretty one-sided war. The victims aren’t dying on distant battlefields. They’re women and children dying in their bedrooms and living rooms at the hands of their male loved ones.
We hear about these tragedies from time to time but it hardly attracts wall to wall media coverage like an alleged terrorist plot. When you stop and think about it, it’s truly horrifying.
Each week, one of these women dies a brutal, terror-filled death at the hands of their partner. And for every woman we mourn, many more are being assaulted or abused every day.
Women in every suburb and every town in Australia are literally living in fear in their own home. One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence in some form since turning 15. One in five has been sexually assaulted.
Partner violence presents the greatest health risk facing Australian women under 45. Not heart disease, not smoking – but serious harm caused by a male loved one.
There are some amazing organisations working at the frontline of this issue, supporting and assisting women at risk, but as more and more are murdered, beaten and intimidated, we have to acknowledge that we, as a community, are failing them. This failure starts at the top, with a Government that prioritises budget savings over women’s safety.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister and state leaders discussed the need for national action on family and domestic violence at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting. The Prime Minister called the problem ‘urgent’.
But it’s hard to believe the Government takes this crisis seriously when you consider that they wanted to cut vital funds to women’s legal and support services – until thousands of Australians raised their voices in protest and they were forced to reinstate the funding.
Meanwhile, billions of dollars are ploughed into counter-terrorism measures aimed at protecting the community from a terror attack. Why isn’t this same level of protection, this same level of resources invested into protecting women and children from violent partners, husbands, fathers?
Each year, the Government also finds $3 billion to lock up less than 2000 people in unsafe, sub-standard offshore detention centres, including 126 women and 107 children on Nauru. Yes, $3 billion. The women on Nauru share a number of things in common with many women in our suburbs – both live in fear, both are at serious risk of harm, both are left unprotected and neglected by a Government that places very little value on their lives.