Australia

Domestic violence inquiry to focus on experiences of Indigenous and migrant women

Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston. Source: AAP

A new government inquiry will look at the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on rates of domestic violence as well as the experiences of Indigenous and migrant women.

This article contains references to domestic violence.

The federal government has announced the terms of reference for a new inquiry examining how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted rates of domestic and sexual violence in Australia. 

The inquiry will partly focus on the experiences of women from diverse communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, women on temporary visas, and women with disabilities. 

The goal will be to present immediate and long-term measures to prevent violence against women and their children and improve gender equality.

It comes as domestic violence campaigners warn of a spike in incidents as households grapple with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The national hotline for domestic violence counselling, 1800RESPECT, reported a 20 per cent surge in calls in March-April, with 9 per cent directly related to the coronavirus lockdown. 

Minister for Women Marise Payne said the inquiry was vital amid the rise in incidents. 

"We must listen to the experiences of the sector during this unprecedented time and learn how governments, services and the community can better support women and their children, particularly when home is not a safe place to be," she said.

The inquiry was welcome news for Our Watch, the national body for the prevention of violence against women and children. The group's CEO, Patty Kinnersly, said it marked an important step forward. 

"In order to prevent violence against women, we must continue to utilise and expand on the extensive evidence base we have on what drives violence against women so we can stop it before it starts," she said. 

“In order to be most effective, this Inquiry would work hand-in-hand with the development of a Second National Plan to Reduce Against Women and Their Children, which was announced by the Federal Government earlier this year. 

“This inquiry also provides an opportunity to inform the Federal Government’s COVID-19 crisis recovery plan, to ensure we advance gender equality and prevent violence against women as we take action to respond and recover from the social, health and economic crises caused by COVID-19."

The inquiry is part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement in March of a $150 million domestic violence support package

The package saw the launch of the 'Help is Here' awareness campaign to communicate the anti-domestic violence message across TV, digital, social media, radio, magazines, and newspapers, as well as at shopping centres, hospitals, and GPs’ surgeries.

Minister for Families Anne Ruston previously told SBS Arabic24 the key pillars of the campaign were to look more broadly at the cultural influences within multicultural communities.

“There are many, many different cultural elements that need to be taken into account when you're putting the program together,” she said.

“When you find a situation where women are culturally restricted or deterred from coming forward, how we actually go about that (to) make sure that we have the services available that are culturally appropriate, if they do seek help.”

Minister for Families Anne Ruston, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minsiter for Women, Maris
Minister for Families Anne Ruston, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minsiter for Women, Marise Payne.
AAP

Senator Ruston said it was vital to look at domestic violence from a two-fold perspective, including providing information to communities and to ensuring the message reaches younger generations.

"We need to talk to younger people and our children through our schools so that they can understand that domestic violence is much more than just physical violence," she said. 

"It could be financial violence, it could be emotional, it could be coercive behaviours that prevent people from actually living their appropriate best lives,” she said.

“So, I think we have to address it from both ends, one at the place where it's occurring, and making sure that everybody is aware that that is unacceptable, and what violence actually entails.

"But also making sure that we continue to work on education programs, particularly for younger people, so that they understand that in any society, violence, of any type is unacceptable.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus 

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