Tania Farha, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, reports on the discussions and learnings from the National Summit on Women's Safety.
I recently attended the two-day National Summit on Women’s Safety which took place virtually on 6 and 7 September 2021, following several preparatory roundtable discussions the week prior. Bringing together delegates from across Australia, the key purpose of the Summit was to generate discussion and share learnings that will inform actions within the next iteration of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children (the current National Plan ends in mid-2022).
The Summit is a critical part of developing the next national agenda, and while it is commendable that the Commonwealth chose to push on to present the Summit in a COVID setting and in a timely manner, the format left too much out. The lack of consultation with and inclusion of key groups both leading up to and during the Summit was a significant missed opportunity for meaningful engagement and conversation. In particular, the expert voices of those with lived experience, the specialist family violence and sexual assault sectors, and diverse and marginalised communities were limited, and in some cases, absent altogether in what was a very narrow agenda.
“It is imperative that Commonwealth strategies for ending family, sexual and gender-based violence consider and recognise the unique specialist expertise and experience of these groups, through timely consultation, engagement, and investment. National policy will not be able to respond to the reality of what is happening across Australia until we do this.”
For Victorian delegates and attendees, conversations at the Summit felt like only scratching the surface, particularly when we consider recent advancements to Victorian service system design and primary prevention infrastructure. Despite many challenges that persist, the way the specialist sector, victim survivors and government have come together in Victoria to progress a post-Royal Commission reform agenda is laudable. At the very least we can share the learnings of our endeavours with the Commonwealth. This sentiment was echoed by Minister Williams in her impressive closing remarks, where she spoke with determination on behalf of the Victorian sector and called for the Federal Government to commit to meaningful action, including advancing primary prevention and addressing the housing crisis on a national scale. I felt our Minister had really listened to the voices of Victorian delegates and advocated for genuine and constructive change in the way the Commonwealth addresses family violence, sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence.
There were some meaningful conversations. In particular, the panel discussion on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences of family, domestic and sexual violence provided delegates with the opportunity to understand the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities leading the design and implementation of prevention and response work for their communities. The panelists spoke with strength and honesty when discussing how the previous national plan had failed them. They spoke about the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people leading tailored and culturally appropriate responses, including Aboriginal community controlled organisations with specialist family violence experience, such as Djirra, and called for this to shift in the next National Plan.
The panel discussions, along with those conversations had at roundtables, fed into the Statement from Delegates released shortly after the Summit. As the lead delegate for Victoria, I was truly impressed with the strength of responses and feedback I received from the Victorian delegation, the majority of which was incorporated into the final Statement of delegate priorities for the next National Plan. The Statement is more broadly representative of, and articulates, what we know, and what needs to change.
“If anything, the Summit has confirmed my resolve to continue advocating alongside and on behalf of Victoria’s specialist family violence sector, as well as with our partners in primary prevention.”
It is important we remain solutions-focused and continue to advocate for centering the voices and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with lived experience expertise, people from diverse communities and experts working in our services. DSS has now opened up a consultation for submissions – there is still the opportunity to influence the outcome of the successor National Plan and the first action plan, which is due before the end of the year.
We must keep writing, keep talking, keep advocating for meaningful engagement and sustainable, long-term action.
DV Vic/DVRCV is proud to join hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals in the call for transformative action in the next National Plan. Support our joint statement with Fair Agenda here.