The February 2020 Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence
Did it fail?
Well, let’s look at some of the recent statistics:
- The overall number of deaths has fluctuated but shown no sustained decrease;
- There’s been less physical violence since the 90’s but an increase in sexual assaults; and
- In Queensland, we’ve had a double-digit increase in various domestic violence applications.
If the numbers show an increase in applications, is this a failure? Or have we merely been successful in pulling back the rug from an issue much greater than anyone originally thought? One report stressed that a number of factors contributed to this such as increased confidence in victims, improved court accessibility and changing police practices.
The government’s focus has been on changing cultural attitudes and early prevention which is much more difficult to measure. In 2017, a national inquiry revealed a mixed result in the scorecard of society’s views – we’re more aware that family violence goes beyond just physical encounters and we’re also more willing to intervene when seeing someone verbally abusing their partner. However, the report also said Australia was going ‘backwards’ in some areas such as understanding that men are more likely to perpetrate family violence.
What standard then do we use in measuring success in our efforts? We simply don’t know and there are too many variables to definitively answer the question at this point in history. As an example: since our population and volume of applications for protection has climbed but our number of deaths hasn’t, this is at least shows some measurable improvement in the total percentage of families who suffer from the ultimate tragedy – even if the problem hasn’t been eradicated entirely.
Our latest inquiry suggested a ‘wait and see’ approach in examining whether our existing efforts will have lasting success before Australia looks at a new National Plan. This cautious answer was deemed insufficient and a new inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence has already been proposed to be answered by a different committee.
However, if the issue is rooted in evolving societal attitudes, is this new inquiry fated to come to the same conclusion as the last one?
It takes time to change a culture but if the latest statistics are anything to go by, we’re making some progress. Let’s hope the inquiry finds where we can improve so we can Stop it at the Start.
Joshua Noble is a Solicitor at Zande Law Solicitors, Suite 7, Norwinn Centre, 15 Discovery Drive, North Lakes. To contact Joshua for advice, phone 3385 0999.
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