The federal Labor government made delivering on its promises a core platform of the 2022 election campaign. On Monday, one key national policy was delivered – with the official launch of the next ten-year National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children (2022 to 2032).
The national plan is an important policy that sets the priorities for continued action and investment to address gender-based violence. It represents a shared commitment across all levels of government to issues such as prevention, early intervention, responses to victim-survivors and perpetrators, as well as recovery and healing.
There are several important areas of improvement in this second ten-year national plan.
Among its key principles are “advancing gender equality” and “closing the gap”. There is a welcome acknowledgement of the role that deeply embedded problems – such as women’s inequality and the ongoing impacts of colonisation – have in shaping violence in our society. There is also a commitment to a specific set of actions addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s experiences of violence under a separate action plan.
A further key principle is “centring victim-survivors”, and ensuring responses are “trauma informed”. This is a significant development for national policy addressing gender-based violence. Listening to the experiences of victim-survivors is vital – as is ensuring our laws, institutions and support services do not add to the harm already done.
Both prevention, and the important role of working with men and boys, receive a much needed greater emphasis in the new plan. It takes clear direction from our national framework for preventing violence against women, and highlights the role we all have – including men – in addressing gender inequality and gender-based violence.
This plan also includes much greater emphasis on intersectionality. This refers to recognising and addressing the multiple inequalities that individuals face such as by gender, race, Aboriginality, sexuality, gender diversity, and ability. There is an important and welcome inclusion of trans women in the national plan, and an acknowledgement that both cisgenderism and heteronormativity are related to sexism, and reinforce violence against people of all genders and sexualities.
There is a vital emphasis on multi-sector approaches and workforce development to support the work of the national plan. These include engaging across government and the community with business, sporting organisations, educational institutions media and others over the next ten years. Building capacity across the community to better respond to, and prevent, violence against women is key to the success of the plan.
While the national plan aims for an Australia free of “gender-based violence” – much of the plan actually focuses on domestic, family and sexual violence. Other forms of violence that are disproportionately directed at women and girls receive little attention – such as online forms of harassment and abuse, labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, and abuse of children.
The plan makes little mention of the challenges faced in the Federal Court and family law in responding to domestic, family and sexual violence in the context of deciding on parenting matters. There are well documented injustices occurring in this setting – and it would be a lost opportunity if the national plan did not seek to correct these.
There are commitments made under the new plan to evaluate and measure its outcomes. But the details are vague, including the scope given to the incoming family, domestic and sexual violence commissioner to report on these measures.
There is a lot of work for governments to do under this plan – it will be important to ensure a rigorous, transparent and independent approach to monitoring progress.
Funding is always a key issue in policy – it remains unclear whether funding commitments made during the election campaign and under the previous government will be confirmed in the forthcoming federal budget. The plan will also need to be backed by proper funding if it is to end violence against women “in one generation”.
The plan commits to three more specific “action” plans. Two of these are separate five-year action plans that will outline specific activities under the national plan. The first of these is due to be released in 2023. A third is a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan. It is in the implementation of these action plans that there will be opportunity to ensure some of the potential gaps are filled in.
Where to next?
Our national statistics show that since the age of 15,
- 1 in 2 Australian women have experienced sexual harassment
- 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse from a partner
- 1 in 6 have experienced physical partner abuse
- 1 in 5 have experienced sexual violence.
The next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children is vital for setting the stage. But its real impact will be seen through its implementation across the three action plans that are yet to lay out the details of activity under the plan.
Addressing and ultimately preventing violence against women and children must continue to be a national policy priority. We have to ensure all Australian governments are held to account for funding and delivery of actions under the national plan if we are truly to see this violence end in one generation.
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Correction: this article originally said the national plan was 2022-2023. It has been corrected to 2022-2032.