A war is happening in Australia but victims aren’t dying on the battlefields.

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.

Each week, one woman dies a brutal, terror-filled death at the hands of their partner.

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.

Partner violence presents the greatest health risk facing Australian women under 45.

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?

Women and children continue to live in fear for their safety.

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.


This Government has had a report before them since February which details serious sexual and physical abuse against asylum seeker women and children in detention on Nauru. They have done nothing about it.

Women continue to live in fear for their safety. Children as young as five continue to develop severe psychiatric illnesses because of the terrible things they have been exposed to.

When workers first started to speak out about Nauru, the Government’s response was to cast doubt on their allegations and accuse whistle-blowers of starting trouble. But in the end, they couldn’t silence the multitude of doctors, nurses, child welfare experts, teachers and other workers who had seen first-hand what women and children are forced to endure in this Australian-run institution of horror.

Despite many facing professional backlash for doing so, they have spoken out to tell heartbreaking stories of women wetting the bed because they’re too scared of the guards to get up and go to the toilet at night. Of children displaying sexualised behaviour because of what they’ve seen or experienced themselves.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO of Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

The Government has paid lip-service to improving the situation on Nauru but it’s not good enough. There’s only one way to ensure the safety of children and their families and that’s to shut down Nauru and bring them to Australia.

No Government can pretend to care about women and children – nor can we as a community truly tackle this issue – when people without a voice, people who have fled violence and persecution in their own country, are unsafe. It’s hard to imagine how much more suffering women in Australia and asylum seeker women on Nauru will have to endure before their lives start to matter.

Kon Karapanagiotidis is the founder and current CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and is known for his provocative ways of bringing attention to asylum seeker issues. You can donate to the ASRC here or follow Kon on Twitter here.

Read more:

Immigration Department aware of sexual abuse allegations against children for 17 months but failed to act, say former Nauru workers.

We’re not tackling domestic violence education in the classroom. But we need to be.

The lonely struggle facing Syria’s refugee women.

“I always heard the word refugee, but I never imagined I would be one.”

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