In a fiery interview with Nine’s Tracy Grimshaw last night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he is trying to learn about the pervasive culture of sexual violence both across the country and in Parliament.
“I’m doing everything I can to understand it as best as I can,” he said.
“It’s been like a big wake up call. And it’s been like a red light to say stop, look, listen. And that’s what we’re doing.”
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But exactly who has he been listening to? Crikey asked the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which didn’t respond by deadline. We also reached out the major national sexual violence organisations with direct experience in the field the PM could talk to. We found one — sort of.
Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) spokesperson Eleanor Campbell told Crikey the PMO had not contacted the organisation.
But the Department of Finance had been in touch about training and advice on trauma-informed responses to reports of sexual assault and harassment in parliamentary workplaces.
“It is really important to acknowledge that women’s services are here to support and advise the government in improving responses to sexual assault and improving prevention,” she said.
But there is the tricky issue of funding. The government only funds the organisation per crisis call they receive — not for advocacy or advice, which it finances through fundraising and unpaid work.
“Lean funding in a neoliberal policy context has significantly impacted the resources and capacity of expert women’s services (and other grassroots organisations) to be immediately available to provide advocacy and consulting support … many advocates in the sector are really feeling the squeeze,” she said.
“What is the advocacy work and expertise of women’s services worth? I guess my overall remark is: if you want help on fixing up the budget you pay an economist. If you want help to fix up sexual assault pay a social worker.”
Our Watch spokesperson Saraya Musovic told Crikey the PMO had not been in contact, but that the organisation would be happy to be offer advice.
“Our Watch would welcome providing counsel to any of its stakeholders to support their efforts to contribute to and where relevant, lead efforts to prevent violence against all women,” she said.
The PMO may have been reaching out to other advocacy groups. But we did not find one.
1800RESPECT spokesperson Jacinta Smith said the organisation would never share information on whether an individual has or hasn’t sought advice. Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety did not respond to Crikey’s request for comment by deadline.
The prime minister’s senior media adviser Nick Creevey said, “we’ll come back to you if we can”. Evidently, he could not.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.