For generations, politicians and journalists were more likely to practise domestic violence than talk about it. There was a great silence about the issue in the media and mainstream politics. That has been changing, particularly in the last two years. Tony Abbott significantly increased funding for the national domestic violence strategy last year. Malcolm Turnbull has carried on Abbott’s work with vigour and commitment. Bill Shorten and Labor have called for a national summit on the issue. This week, both parties have again addressed the issue.
Meanwhile, domestic violence and the resources we deploy to help address it are under more scrutiny than ever before by the media.
The shift of domestic violence to a point significantly closer to the centre of the policy agenda is positive. It means there is more public debate about it, it means policymakers, the media and frontline agencies such as the police have less excuse to not take it seriously. And the debate is much more nuanced than critics on both the left and the right like to pretend: we understand that domestic violence is not merely about gender, but about economics, about culture, about control.
While trying to address domestic violence at a strategic level — in particular, to identify effective means of ensuring that boys grow up to respect their partners — is critical, so too is ensuring that we are able to help victims of domestic violence right now. The additional funding announced by Malcolm Turnbull two months ago will provide much-needed resources in indigenous communities and hospitals. But accommodation for victims of domestic violence and their children is still wanting; desperate women are often being referred to motels and caravan parks across NSW and Queensland. Worse, we’re still not devoting enough resources to the problem of homelessness, which means crisis accommodation is under double pressure.
For the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, this needs to be a priority where the resources match the rhetoric.