Image: Sylvia Liber

One Illawarra Voice: we must act

The Illawarra has a long and proud history of collective action and community support for positive change. We have come together now to urge the NSW Government to respond to the national emergency of men’s violence against women with the urgency and magnitude that this crisis demands.

Australia has failed women and children – we have been failed by men, then by the systems meant to protect and support us, failed by our government, our community, our culture.

Women are being murdered, assaulted and abused at a rapidly increasing rate. This year, one woman in Australia has been murdered every four days, a horrifying 30 per cent increase since this time last year. Every four days, 803 women and girls present to homelessness services seeking support, with violence the most significant cause of homelessness for women and children. Many return to this violence because they have nowhere to go and no choice.

Domestic, family and sexual violence is the primary contributor to death, injury and disability of women aged 15-44 years.

These deaths and the commentary around them have dominated the media this week. Another murder, another performance of shock, and more rhetoric from our governments. And again, we brace ourselves for a response that is deeply underwhelming, one which will not meet the scale and urgency of the situation.

This is deeply worrying. In NSW alone, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, and Research, which reflects direct reports to police, sexual assault has increased by 47 per cent in the last five years in rural and regional NSW. DFV has increased 27 per cent.

Coercive control legislation comes into force in NSW on July 1st. Without a considered and robust implementation plan, this will increase pressure on already critically overstretched and under-funded frontline services, and we will not be surprised if there are catastrophic consequences.

Action must be taken for urgent change – and change that takes long term commitment. We must start with the upcoming NSW budget. We know that budgets are political documents and allocation of resources reflects political priorities. We know NSW can fund immediate and long-term change – if it wants to, and if it truly cares about the lives of NSW women and children.

There is so much to be done. We call on the NSW Government to:

1. Establish a NSW Royal Commission into Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence: a Royal Commission will provide a cohesive framework that has the authority to hold this and successive NSW Governments to account. A Royal Commission will bring the scale and depth of domestic, family and sexual violence into sharp relief and provide us with a comprehensive community wide blueprint for addressing this endemic complex emergency of criminal behaviour.

2. Ensure there is clear focus on stopping perpetrators: by establishing an expert panel on perpetrators of domestic, family and sexual violence to oversee and /or make recommendations for action including but not limited to:

  • perpetrator profile and behavioural research
  • perpetrator risk assessment processes that are sensitive to patterns of behaviour over time and evidence-established precursors/risk factors including coercive control, sexual violence, and non-fatal strangulation
  • improving bail laws that includes ensuring for charges of serious assault and first-time breaches of AVOs bail is refused
  • implementation of electronic monitoring of high-risk offenders
  • investing in early intervention programs with boys and men at risk of using violence.

3. Delay implementation of NSW Coercive control legislation to make significant improvements and until a robust and properly funded implementation plan including comprehensive education on domestic, family, and sexual violence has been rolled out across judicial, legal, police, health and education sectors.

4. Provide safe housing: the lack of affordable, safe, and secure housing is one of the key reasons that thousands of women either remain with or return to violent homes. We call on the Government to:

  • Immediately fund critical supported temporary, transitional, and permanent housing across NSW.
  • Significantly and immediately resource all specialist homelessness organisations that provide critical domestic, family, and sexual violence services.

5. Significantly and immediately increase funding to frontline services, including those that support recovery and healing from the trauma of domestic, family and sexual violence.

Frontline services remain desperately underfunded despite an almost doubling of immediate client needs and crisis presentations across the sector in the last 18 months, with new client referrals closed or experiencing waitlists of 12 months and above in some organisations. Therefore, significantly and immediately increase funding to

  • existing frontline services, including and especially culturally specific services.
  • practitioners and services providing support and therapeutic interventions for children.
  • support pathways to enable financial independence and economic security to women and children, including education and employment pathways.

6. Acknowledge and highlight the racist invisibility of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and enable us to see in full view the political leadership required to ensure that whatever actions need to be taken to address this hidden neglected and disregarded tragedy are taken.

Across all of these actions we call on the government to ensure Aboriginal women, children and communities have control over how policies and programs that impact them are designed, implemented and evaluated. And the voices of women with disabilities, culturally and linguistically diverse women, and LGBTQI+ communities are elevated and heard.

And most importantly we must be sure that the voices of women and children with lived experience of domestic, family and sexual are central to the design, delivery and evaluation of strategies and actions that seek to reduce this epidemic.

We need these actions. We call upon the NSW Government to deliver them, as though their lives depended on them. Because we know the lives of NSW women and children most certainly do.

Illawarra Women’s Health Centre

Women Illawarra

Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra (SAHSSI)

Illawarra Women’s Day Illawarra Committee

Healthy Illawarra Men

Doctors Against Violence towards Women

Wollongong Homeless Hub & Housing Services

Southern Youth and Family Services

Acknowledgement of Country

The Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre is situated on the land of the Dharawal Nation. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and we pay our respects to Elders past and present for they hold the memories, traditions and hopes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia. 

This land is, was, and always will be traditional Aboriginal land. We acknowledge that we work in the context of generations of resilient, strengths-based, holistic resistance to violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We commit to actively supporting and promoting the voices of Aboriginal people and organisations in our work. We fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.