Victorian Agency to Address Root Cause of Family Violence
29 March 2018 at 5:47 pm
A new family violence prevention agency has been launched with the aim of tackling gender inequality as a root cause.
Respect Victoria was launched on Thursday to coincide with the second anniversary of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
According to the Victorian government, the statutory authority, to be enshrined in legislation, will work to change the attitudes, social norms and culture that lead to family violence and violence against women.
Premier Daniel Andrews, who launched the organisation alongside the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Natalie Hutchins, said the agency would go “a long way towards ending family violence”.
“[It] will also act as an important reminder to keep working every single day to keep women and children safe,” Andrews said.
He paid tribute to Fiona Richardson, who held the women’s portfolio until her death in 2017, and who had a long-term objective of securing money for a family violence prevention agency, with funding protected by legislation against cutbacks by a future government.
“Fiona Richardson fought for this agency to be established and I can think of no better way to mark the two-year anniversary of the royal commission and honour her memory than this announcement today,” Andrews said.
The government confirmed Respect Victoria, which has already received $12 million from the government, would continue to receive dedicated and sustained funding, “to ensure prevention work endures over the long term”.
The organisation will provide expert advice on best practice, hold quality assurance and accreditation functions, and will also engage in whole-of-community campaigns and activities to change the culture that allows family violence to happen in the first place.
The first such campaign Respect Women: Call It Out, was also launched on Thursday.
It encourages Victorian men to intervene and call out sexism and gender inequality – one of the main drivers of family violence.
Hutchins said the campaign and prevention agency were “critical to stopping violence before it starts”.
“We know prevention is the only way to reduce the prevalence of family violence and the harm it causes,” Hutchins said.
Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack told Pro Bono News it was a welcome move.
“The Royal Commission into Family Violence talked about the need for a long-term, sustained and coordinated effort in order to really change our culture, a culture that allows violence against women to flourish,” McCormack said.
“So this is a really welcome next step in the work that the Victorian government has undertaken in trying to prevent violence from happening in the first place.
“So you know there’s lots of different agencies and organisations who are working on different pieces of primary prevention work but they’re not necessarily coordinated, they’re not necessarily to the same standard, we’re not necessarily gathering evidence around their effectiveness.
“This organisation has the potential for really ensuring that any efforts in primary prevention are all of those things in order for us to have a more strategic approach to that really critical work of preventing violence against women.”
She said it was important to tackle gender equality as the root cause.
“I think we’ve got a better understanding in the community that violence against women is driven by gender inequality but I’m not confident that we’ve got a consistent understanding in the community about why that’s so,” McCormack said.
“It’s not like people can conceptualise the police going to a family violence incident and saying ‘Ah ha a classic case of gender inequality’. So this organisation is going to be very important for helping people make the link about what gender inequality looks like and how it does contribute to women being at higher risk of violence.
“Sexism is so deeply embedded in our culture that often we don’t even really recognise it. So this is an exciting intervention and it’s terrific to see the commitment of the Victorian government in establishing an independent statutory body to undertake this work in Victoria.”
She said the ad campaign was a great next step in shifting people’s thinking.
“We often get contacted by men who will ask ‘what can I do?’ And I think they think that they’ve got to wait until they see something, you know, a man physically abusing a woman on the street but it’s very unlikely to happen,” she said.
“The ad is really showcasing what we need everyday men to do and that is challenge sexist behaviour and norms, and also disrespectful behaviour towards women.
“This is such a powerful thing coming from other blokes. I think the ads are great next step in shifting people’s thinking around what they can do.”