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Statement on the National Summit on Women's Safety

Commission – General

Statement from The Australian Human Rights Commission on the National Summit for Women's Safety, September 6-7, 2021.

The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes the opportunity to participate in the National Summit for Women’s Safety and to contribute to the development of Australia’s second National Plan on the Prevention of Violence against Women and their Children. Violence is a human rights issue that needs urgent and coordinated action.

The Commission made a Submission (no. 16) to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence.

This National Plan should engage Government at all levels, with the public, private and not-for-profit sectors and the broader community to ensure that in 12 years we will see the results of the Plan in a safer and more respectful community for all. Oversight of the Plan should be carried by the National Cabinet supported by an advisory panel on gender equality to support evaluation, monitoring and transparency. We particularly support longer funding cycles for initiatives with more frequent monitoring and evaluation to ensure continuous and rapid measurement and improvement over this plan.

Commission President Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM

“As President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, I’m pleased that the Summit has an intersectional focus on preventing and addressing violence against women and their children. Safety is a fundamental human right that enables the enjoyment of other rights and freedoms.

“The Commission values the growing engagement by the business sector in recognising human rights, through preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment, developing gender equality strategies and policies, and the increasing availability of domestic and family violence leave. This adds to efforts more broadly to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking. We support a greater role for business in the next National Plan.

“The next National Plan creates the opportunity to commit to more ambitious goals towards eliminating gender-based violence in all its forms, consistent with Australia’s commitments under international human rights instruments on the rights of women, children, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, LGBTIQ people, Indigenous people and people with disabilities. In presenting this collective statement, we make it clear that the safety of all women and children is a critical focus for every Commissioner.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission is fully committed to the goal of a violence-free community. The Australian community expects and deserves no less.”

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO

“Older women have spent their whole lives supporting families, communities and contributing to both the paid and unpaid workforce. We must ensure we listen to the voices of older women in the next National Plan – as with all women, secure housing, financial security and safety are just as important to older women. When it comes to women’s safety, every age counts.

“Older women risk experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence in the form of elder abuse. Based on current evidence available to us, older women are more likely to experience elder abuse than older men, and for some this abuse is a continuation of a lifelong pattern of family violence, including sexual assault.

“Sexual abuse of older women is one of those topics that is rarely talked about, but it does happen, and like other forms of elder abuse it is critically underreported and hidden. I think there are many questions we need to ask ourselves about why this is the case and what we can do better to ensure older women feel safe and supported.”

National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds

“The Women’s Safety Summit is an important opportunity to prioritise the rights and needs of children. We must recognise that children are victims of domestic and family violence in their own right, with serious life-long negative consequences and economic costs.

“If we are serious about preventing violence against women, we need to get serious about preventing violence in childhood. When we do, we also prevent violence in later adult life.

“It’s imperative that children’s rights and unique needs are at the centre of the new National Plan, equal to the concerns of adults, not as an afterthought.

“That’s why I’m calling for children to be an integral part of the National Plan, both as a prevention strategy for violence against women, and importantly, to ensure the inherent right to safety and wellbeing for all our children.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO

“The Women’s Safety Summit is vital, but for the next step we must bring our First Nations women and girls, communities, and organisations together with bureaucrats and politicians around the far wider set of issues that are at play. We need First Nations gender justice and equality to be considered and embedded in all government policy at all levels, to support and enable women to lead, participate and drive meaningful change.

“First Nations people have been calling for a specific, dedicated approach to the unique issues our women and girls face for a very long time. This current plan is important, and we absolutely have to be a part of this process, but we need a standalone national action plan to respond to the diverse lived realities, needs and aspirations of First Nations women and girls. This is one of the major recommendations of my Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Report.

“There has never been a national framework to respond to the inequality experienced by First Nations women and girls. We are always afterthoughts or add-ons, and we need to move away from this type of response where our voices are not being included, where we are not leading these processes. We hold the solutions, and it is time that governments work with us to implement them.”

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins

“The National Plan to reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 has been an excellent and pioneering framework, setting priorities for prevention and response to violence, establishing infrastructure such as Our Watch, ANROWS, 1800Respect, supporting national collaboration and providing resources. While there has been progress since 2010 as a result of the Plan, the change required to address the global epidemic of violence against women and children is a long-term project.

“While the first National Plan had a targeted focus on domestic and family violence, the context has now changed. It is important to recognise the broader systemic experiences of gender-based violence, including domestic and family violence, femicide and filicide, sexual harassment, online violence, sexual violence and violence in residential settings. I welcome the inclusion of sexual harassment and violence in the last plan which has already contributed towards positive action. We know that violence against women in all its forms is interconnected, intersectional and driven by gender inequality.

“I would particularly encourage the next National Plan to target and address the intersectional drivers and impacts of violence for people from LGBTIQ+ communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities as well as older and young women, families living in rural, regional and remote communities and people with disabilities.”

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan

"Women and children from migrant communities who experience family and domestic violence often face additional challenges, including language barriers, a lack of access to networks of support, and insufficient understanding about how or where to seek help.

"Women and children from migrant communities must never be blamed for not seeking help. It is important to acknowledge the additional challenges they face.

"It is incumbent on all governments to ensure that culturally appropriate, accessible supports are made available to women and children from migrant communities, and that these are promoted within those communities including in language."

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett

“Women and girls with disability are at an increased risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation both within and outside of their homes. This is reflected in the findings so far from the Disability Royal Commission, which has found that women with disability are significantly more likely to experience all forms of abuse than women without disability. This includes physical and sexual violence, intimate partner violence, emotional abuse and stalking.

"In the next National Plan, I would like to see improved data collection on the experiences of women and girls with disability, which can be used to develop evidence-based policy, prevention and early intervention measures. Increased accessibility of services and supports for women experiencing violence is crucial, along with funding for disability-specific services and supports.

"I would also like to see extensive training for front-line domestic and family support services workers on intersectionality, to assist them in responding to the needs of women and girls with disability, and the development of frameworks to address the rights of women with disability including the elimination of forced sterilisation, reduced use of restrictive practices and respect for supported decision-making.”