Data on domestic violence reductions should be used as a key performance indicator towards achieving equality for women, Anne Summers has said.
In a keynote speech to the UTS Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion on Monday, the author and feminist added the current data collected is not consistent or sufficient for tracking rates of domestic violence under the National Plan.
“It’s no longer enough to say we need gender equality in order to reduce violence,” Dr Summers said.
“Rather, we should be measuring reductions in violence as a performance indicator of our progress towards achieving gender equality.
“It really needs to be that not only women recognise it [sexual assault and gendered violence] as an issue, but all members of society.”
We can measure failure and know where to be putting our efforts in order to succeed.
She further highlighted the need for ‘hard data’ in domestic violence reporting, or a project design which emulates the Australian Government’s ‘Closing the Gap’ campaign.
“The targets for Closing the Gap are all backed by hard data, as are the measurements of progress – or lack thereof. We know that progress in closing the gap has been poor… But the point is: We have hard data so we know. We can measure failure and know where to be putting our efforts in order to succeed.”
Her point was echoed by Breaking Silent Codes author and NSW Women’s Legal Service advocate Dixie Link who said improvements to education and policing were necessary to improve data collection and enact change.
This would allow police and First Nations’ women to consider “the codes that kept us silent, the codes that you don’t report to the police, the codes that you don’t even talk about in your family”.
However, Dr Summers highlighted the successes of the National Plan in establishing a national Apprehended Violence Order scheme and the national crisis hotline 1800RESPECT.
“The National Plan is due to end next year. The government is indicating privately that it will be extended, but I think we should be asking whether we want it to continue in its present form,” she added.
The improved system would be designed by domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, West Connect Domestic Violence Services CEO Catherine Gander says.
If the National Plan made use of the Australian Institute of Criminology’s national homicide monitoring program it would actually have some good news to report.
“We need a system to… hold perpetrators to account, not a system that re-victimises the survivor… we need services that are victim-, survivor-led in their response,” she added.
Dr Summers believes Australia needs to change its focus if it wants to succeed in improving gender equality and become more targeted.
“If the National Plan made use of the Australian Institute of Criminology’s national homicide monitoring program it would actually have some good news to report,” she said.
Joyce Yu, co-founder of Consent Labs, said harassment of women was downplayed and normalised.
“[It’s important] that when it happens to politicians, it happens to athletes that the rest of society says ‘that’s really unacceptable’ [and] it doesn’t matter how recognised or how much clout you have,” she said.
Summers’ comments come ahead of tomorrow’s March 4 Justice protest, prompted by recent accusations of sexual assault, sexism and misogyny in Australia’s political culture.
March 4 Justice founder and convenor Janine Hendry said: “March 4 Justice is demanding action against gendered violence in work places and in our political and criminal justice systems.”
Events on Monday, March 15, will be held at Parliament House in Canberra and cities nationwide.
“Australia’s culture of violence against women is a crisis, ” said Ms Hendry. “We are calling for a change in federal parliament.”
The March 4 Justice Facebook page has already garnered over 26,000 members, with almost 2000 registered to attend the Sydney protest at Town Hall.
“There will be thousands of women and our allies at dozens of events,” said Ms Hendry. “It is time to change this culture so that the next generation of women can live their lives to their fullest potential.”
Main image, top, Dr Anne Summers (Photo: Kevin McDermott).
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family, or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. If you are worried about your behaviour, call Mensline on 1300 789 978 or visit mensline.org.au.