Rosie Batty’s address to the National Press Club yesterday was an important contribution to dealing with this vast and horrific problem that has killed dozens of Australian women this year.

Batty, thrust into public consciousness in the most horrific way imaginable, has been a figure of courage and good sense both before and after she was named Australian of the Year. Yesterday, she focused on the role the media can play and the cultural stereotyping that contributes to domestic violence, which the media, more than any other social institution, helps perpetuate.

She also made a key point about how the media and politicians — indeed, all of us — consciously or unconsciously elevate different threats:

“We see whenever there is the slight threat of terrorism it’s amazing how funding can be found to combat that where seemingly there was no funding before. Let’s start calling family violence ‘terrorism’ and then maybe we will start to see that investment of funding applied to where it needs to be.”

The stark fact is that terrorism, for all the heightened threat from it over the last year, for all the tragedy of the deaths of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson and of young, vulnerable Australians being radicalised and lured to their deaths by the butchers of Islamic State, is far less of a threat than domestic violence. More than 40 women have died this year at the hands of partners or ex-partners. To say that is not to somehow diminish the tragedy of those we have lost to terrorism, but to demonstrate the need to commit far more resources to addressing a threat that for cultural reasons we all instinctively play down — especially policymakers, who are those in our society least likely to ever suffer abuse at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

Tony Abbott has lifted funding for the Commonwealth’s domestic violence initiative and pushed the issue at COAG, and this should be recognised by those quick to criticise him. But he needs to do more, both in terms of resourcing and in terms of elevating this issue as a priority for all governments.

Peter Fray

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