Letter to Hon Kelly O’Dwyer

The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP
Minister for Women
Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Ms O’Dwyer,

We are writing to you in relation to Federal Government funding for domestic violence prevention programmes. We have been informed that the funding package introduced by Malcolm Turnbull four years ago is drawing to a close and the government is under pressure to renew that funding.

Our concern is that any future funding should be strictly evidence-based, supported by proper research regarding claims made about the causes of domestic violence and the best means of reducing that violence in our community.

In particular, we urge the government not to fund advertising campaigns based on the false notion that domestic violence is all about “respect for women” such as the $30 million Respect television campaign. We found those advertisements extremely offensive as they demonise men and boys, deny women’s role in family violence and trivialise and misinform the community about this important social issue.

There is no good evidence in egalitarian countries such as Australia that domestic violence is caused by gender inequality and lack of respect for women. A recent article in The Lancet using data regarding partner violence from 66 surveys in 44 countries found a list of societal norms associated with increased domestic violence against women, such as: acceptance of male authority over female behaviour; norms justifying wife beating; and laws and practises which disadvantage women compared to men in access to land, property and other productive resources. Not one of these norms applies in Australia.

A glaring example of the falsehood of the gender inequality argument is that Sweden is a world-leader in gender equality (as shown by the 2014 World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index), yet the Nordic women experience the worst physical or sexual violence in the EU.

In 2010, 42 family violence scholars and 70 research assistants from 20 universities in the US, UK and Canada, conducted a thorough review of the empirical literature on domestic violence. The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project, (PASK) summarized over 1700 scientific papers and concluded a large range of factors contribute to domestic violence, including mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, conflicted relationships, exposure to violence or abuse as a child. Most family violence was found to be two-way, involving female as well as male perpetrators.

An evidence-based approach to reducing the incidence of domestic violence in this country would draw on such proven risk factors and introduce educational and preventative programmes targeting them. For instance, Peter Miller, professor of violence prevention at Deakin University gave evidence to the Victorian Royal Commission on Domestic Violence outlining successful approaches being taken overseas addressing the role of alcohol in fuelling domestic violence. We suggest such research-based programmes are likely to be far more effective than the current approach.

Our Federal Government should govern for the whole community and hence be concerned about promoting programmes which effectively tackle all family violence, including violence against men and children. We ask for all future funding to support only campaigns to respect everyone – not just women. And stand up against violence against everybody – not just women.

We, the undersigned, fully support the above letter to the Minister for Women regarding the need for evidence-based domestic violence funding.

We will confirm the forwarding of your letter.