The selection of Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year is an inspired choice that will help end the tendency on the part of all of us — but particularly our politicians, media and criminal justice systems — to overlook the tragic impact of domestic violence.
Every year, between 70 and 100 Australians, nearly all women and children, die at the hands of partners, ex-partners or parents. We don’t know the exact toll, because we lack a rigorous evidence base about the extent of the death and injuries caused by domestic violence and the cost it inflicts on society. Without that evidence, it is difficult to identify what programs — usually targeted at men and boys — work to prevent domestic violence. Policy ends up focusing on the second-best option: providing the resources and services that enable partners to escape violent homes. Recent governments have not had a strong record in providing those resources.
We hope that Batty, who has emerged from an unspeakable tragedy as a courageous voice on domestic violence, can encourage governments to provide the resources needed to help partners and children fleeing from violence. But we also hope the focus on domestic violence can significantly improve our understanding of the extent and nature of this crime in Australia, and what works to prevent it.