Comment: Wicked Campers backdown: violence against women is no laughing matter

Campervans parked in the depot of Wicked Campers in Sydney on July 14, 2014. (AAP)

Violence against women is not something to be made fun of – it’s something that Australia needs to have a very serious and prominent conversation about.

I’m proud that the Australian Senate has this week sent a strong message that promoting violence against women is completely unacceptable in Australian society.

All parties supported the Greens’ motion late yesterday condemning the sexist, misogynist and racist slogans that Wicked Campers have on their hire vans.

I’m very glad to hear that Wicked Campers have said they will remove the specific slogan that sparked on online petition signed by more than 120 000 people, and have committed to remove more of what they describe as “insensitive” slogans in coming months.

This is thanks to Paul Orbea, who stood up against the casual sexism that sadly permeates through our culture, after her 11-year-old daughter read the slogan, which incited sexual violence against women and girls.

Ms Orbea’s example goes to show how important it is that we call out sexism and misogyny and how powerful that can be.

For too long, domestic violence has been treated as taboo and this has given the impression that the problem is not as bad as horrifically it actually is.

The statistics speak for themselves.

One Australian woman a week killed by her partner or ex-partner.

One in every three Australian women over the age of 15 have experienced violence and one in every five have experienced sexual violence.

Violence against women is not something to be made fun of – it’s something that Australia needs to have a very serious and prominent conversation about.

Importantly, we need to look closely at what the federal government is doing to tackle this pressing issue.

While the Abbott Government has released the second action plan on domestic violence, which provides about $25 million a year for four years, it is ripping far more funding out of the budget from services that victims of domestic violence currently rely on.

Brutally, the Abbott Government has abolished the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

While women’s refuges provide some immediate accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence, they are struggling financially to keep up with the alarming demand, and can only offer short-term housing.

Once that short-term refuge accommodation is up, many victims will have nowhere to go, with no safe, affordable long-term options for accommodation.

This means that some may sadly have to return to their abusive partners and live with the threat of more violence.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme helped women to escape this fate but that has been cut at the hands of the Abbott Government.

This government’s budget also threatens to cut support for single parents, which again could see women financially unable to start a new life with their children.

Domestic violence infiltrates all parts of society. While victims have varying levels of financial means, a common feature of abusive relationships is control, and often abusive partners control their victim’s money.

This is why the Abbott Government’s GP co-payment is so scary.

If a victim of domestic violence cannot see a doctor for free, she may not go at all.

Firstly, because she may not be able to afford it and, secondly, because even if she can afford the fee, she may need to ask her abusive partner for money, who is most likely the reason she needs to see a doctor in the first place.

Think about that control of money in the context of the Abbott Government’s cuts to community legal centres.

Many victims of domestic violence could simply not afford private legal advice and, again, even if they could, they might not have control over that money.

This is why free legal advice for victims of domestic violence is just so incredibly important.

Sadly, with cuts to legal services, housing, single parent support and by making it harder to see a doctor, the Abbott Government’s budget is completely insensitive to the needs to victims of domestic violence.

This shows a complete ignorance toward the needs of women, which is hardly surprising given the Abbott Government has only one woman in its Cabinet.

The Greens have succeeded in setting up a Senate Inquiry into domestic violence and it will look at the impact of the Abbott Government’s budget cuts.  

I dearly hope that after hearing from victims and refuges about the harm these cuts will cause through the Senate Inquiry that the government will back down and abandon these cruel, insensitive plans.

The inquiry will also scrutinise the adequacy of the second action plan to reduce violence against women and their children and, importantly, whether it is appropriately funded. Also, it will look at what more the federal government can do in this crucial area both in terms of leadership and in terms of coordination with other levels of government and with the non-governmental sector.  

I urge women, women’s advocacy groups, women’s service providers, non-governmental organisations, police services, legal professionals, housing providers, medical specialists and anyone whose life has been touched by domestic violence to make a submission to this inquiry before the end of the month.

You can submit to the Inquiry here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault, get help by calling:

  • 000 in immediate danger
  • 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
  • Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277.

Queensland Senator Larissa Waters is the Australian Greens spokesperson for women.

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