“Brutal people, often with a history of violence, are getting it into their heads to pick on a vulnerable individual. It is utterly cowardly. It’s brutal, it’s gratuitous, it’s utterly unprovoked and it should be dealt with very severely by the police and the courts…
As Prime Minister I accept that the fundamental responsibility in this area lies with state governments. It’s not just Barry O’Farrell’s problem, it’s an issue that communities are facing in suburbs and regional centres across Australia.
While we all want to see the courts absolutely throw the book at people who perpetrate this kind of gratuitous, unprovoked violence, we have to recognise that courts can only act after a crime…
We need to tackle this issue in a comprehensive and considered way. We don’t need kneejerk reactions and stunts that give the illusion of action, but don’t make any real, lasting difference…
While this is not an easy area, with much control in the hands of state and local governments, the Commonwealth stands ready to work with the states, parents and communities to tackle this scourge.”
– Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the Daily Telegraph, January 10, 2014.
Prime Minister Abbott’s article followed the tragic death of one-punch victim, Daniel Christie. I’ve written previously about the public outrage we saw in the days following the brutal assault on Daniel Christie. The almost continuous media coverage, the calls for tougher penalties, the demands to change the so-called “king to hit” to “cowards punch”. It was a post that got a huge reaction, not least of which saw some fairly nasty hate mail sent my way. Evidently, some view it as unacceptable to question why these kinds of incidents get more outcry than other equally violent and horrific acts.
Daniel was Australia’s 15th “king hit” fatality in just six years, and the 91st since the year 2000. These deaths are unnecessary and unbelievably heartbreaking. The public fury is justified, and Prime Minister Abbott’s words were accurate and, I’m sure, heartfelt.
It’s been eight days since I wrote my last blog post.
Just two days after writing it, a woman was stabbed to death by her ex-partner. Several days after that, two young girls were allegedly killed by their father, who had separated from their mother. A “domestic dispute” resulted in a 16 year old girl being beaten with a baseball bat by a man who is then alleged to have taken his three year old daughter, because he couldn’t find his ex-partner, and later abandoned her in a burning car. A man is in hospital under police guard, following the discovery of the body of a woman in Sydney.
Four incidents of horrendous domestic violence, all within the space of five days.
Every week in Australia, one woman dies as a result of domestic violence. That’s 52 women every year.
There have been 91 deaths from “king hits” in Australia since the year 2000. The victims of street violence are predominantly male.
In the same period in which 91 people died as a result of “one-punch hits”, over 700 women have died due to domestic violence.
In its recommendations on addressing issues involving violence against women, the World Health Organization advocates that governments “enlist social, political, religious and other leaders in speaking out against violence against women”, noting that “people – particularly men – in positions of authority and influence (e.g. political, religious, and traditional leaders) can play an important role in raising awareness about the problem of violence against women, challenging commonly held misconceptions and norms, and shaping the discussion in ways that promote positive change”.
On this issue, particularly given the shocking events of the last week, our political leader – Prime Minister (and self-appointed head of the Australian Government Office for Women) Abbott – has been notably silent.
In the lead up to the last federal election, the Liberal Party of Australia critiqued the then-government, led by Julia Gillard, stating: “regrettably, the Gillard Government has been strong on rhetoric but weak on delivery when it comes to addressing violence against women and their children.”
The Liberal Party, it seems, is weak on both delivery and rhetoric.
According to their website, one of the roles of the Office for Women is to provide “national leadership on a range of priority issues including safety for women”.
The silence of both the Prime Minister, and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, on the deadly issue of domestic violence demonstrates a total failure on this objective.
Last night on the ABC’s program, 7.30, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, Fiona McCormack noted that “if women and children were being abused and murdered by strangers at the rate at which they’re being abused and murdered by men in their family, there’d be taskforces, there’d be funding, there’d be political will. But as it is, it’s largely being met by political ambivalence”.
Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with the incredible Ms. McCormack, I think we need to recognise that the issues of males being abused and murdered by strangers – largely other males – via “king hits” saw a large amount of political will behind ending the violence. Political will, that seemingly doesn’t exist when it comes to ending violence against women.
I certainly don’t have the answers. I don’t know what, exactly, it will take to end Australia’s shocking rates of domestic violence.
I do know that the silence from our nation’s leaders is not what we need. Staying silent about domestic violence is as good as condoning it. If Prime Minister Abbott can speak up about the 91 lives we lost to street violence since 2000, he needs to be able to do the same about the 700 women whose lives have been lost to domestic violence in the same time period.
As it stands, our Prime Minister’s silence speaks volumes.