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Young women’s recent brave advocacy for a safer future has focused national attention on the urgent need for systemic action. Brittany Higgins has come forward with an allegation that she was raped in Parliament House. Friends of a woman who has now died have spoken out about rape allegations against our country’s Attorney-General. Dhanya Mani has spoken up for a safer future and prioritising survivors after the woeful response to her allegation of indecent assault. Chanel Contos has called out rape culture in schools. Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, has spoken out about coverup culture and abuse of power.
Every single day survivors disclose violence to a system that doesn’t care enough to bring them justice.
Enough is enough.
Rape and other acts of gendered violence have profound, life-long consequences for survivors, often including physical disabilities and mental health conditions. Yet our prevention infrastructure and support services are not resourced to adequately support survivors’ safety. And systems too often fail to hold perpetrators to account.
We deserve better.
Our parliamentary leaders must treat all forms of gendered violence as seriously as other threats to community safety.
Political leaders must take decisive action to make parliaments a safe place for everyone. Including improving the rules governing political staffers and party members to prevent abuse, addressing inequality, providing accessible independent reporting avenues, and ensuring real accountability for misconduct. But action in this moment must extend beyond our parliaments.
There is also a crisis in our communities. Horrific violence is being perpetrated and enabled across the country – the result of a wider cultural and systemic problem that manifests in schools, workplaces, institutions and homes. For many, these drivers of violence are further enabled by intersecting power dynamics that increase barriers to a safer future. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, resisting the ongoing impacts of colonisation and racism is inseparable from gender justice. Intersecting systems of power and oppression also increase barriers to safety for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, women with disabilities, younger women, older women, women in institutional care, women in prison, women in insecure work, and trans and gender diverse people as they strive for safety and justice. Too often, impunity is the outcome.
It is the responsibility of governments to intervene in the systems that continue to enable violence. Survivors and community leaders are already working for a safer future – it’s time governments properly supported solutions, particularly the leadership and self-determination of First Nations communities.
There are clear pathways to a safer future. We demand the action from leaders needed to make it happen.
This must also include:
Prevention: Implement the full spectrum of long-term systemic prevention initiatives that can address the underlying causes of gendered violence, including sexism and intersecting forms of discrimination. Starting with comprehensive whole-of-school education programs.
Resourcing services and accountability mechanisms: Properly resource the specialist services that victim-survivors of gendered violence rely on to report, be safe and recover. Resource the mechanisms needed to hold perpetrators to account.
Law reform: Improve access to justice for victim-survivors of sexual assault through substantive and procedural law reform, and educate the workforce so responses are appropriate and trauma-informed.
Addressing workplace sexual harassment: Action all recommendations of last year’s Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report.
Anything else falls short, and is a decision to leave women in danger.
We must believe, support and listen to survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and properly resource solutions to prevent gendered violence from occurring in the first place.
The shocking video that many people saw earlier this week is unfortunately a familiar story of wage theft and gendered workplace violence that is common in our South Australian workplaces. Now that a spotlight has been put on the issue, we have the opportunity to change things for the better.