Tackling the domestic threat

This editorial was published in the Herald Sun on the 26th April 2024.

Once again, shockingly, another woman’s life has been taken. More than one woman a week dies at the hands of someone they know or an ex-partner in Australia – in fact, 31 women have lost their lives in the first 114 days of 2024.

This procession of awful tragedies can’t be allowed to continue. As many have said, women and men, politicians, police and social workers – enough is enough – things have to change. And as Zoe Daniel, the Independent MP for Goldstein wrote in the Herald Sun earlier this week on the pages opposite, “women cannot protect themselves from murder by men … only men can stop this.”

The latest dead woman, Emma Bates, 49, was found on the floor of her Cobram home on Tuesday afternoon with significant head and upper body injuries. The death of Ms Bates follows that of three separate cases of women killed in the Ballarat region – Samantha Murphy, Rebecca Young and Hannah McGuire.

Of course, domestic violence and gendered attacks against females are not just a sickening problem in Victoria, but a national crisis. Over the border in central NSW this week, the rural community of Forbes was also left reeling following the alleged murder of Molly Ticehurst at the hands of her ex partner.

NSW Police, responding to a concern for welfare call, found the battered body of the 28-year-old mum, just 15 days after her ex-partner Daniel Billings was granted conditional release after being charged with a raft of sex and domestic violence offences.

In that state, Premier Chris Minns has ordered an immediate review of the bail system, saying “we have a duty of care to alleged victims, particularly those awaiting justice through the criminal justice system.”

In Victoria, Premier Jacinta Allan is also looking to bolster the response by authorities to domestic violence by reviewing intervention orders, how the justice system handles cases and how different agencies work in conjunction with each other.

Ensuring greater access to support payments for women and children to escape family violence and promoting awareness of the government-agency Orange Door network that assists victims at a local level are steps in a positive direction. A federal funding allocation for states to employ 500 more frontline family violence workers nationally also needs to be fully implemented.

Premier Allan has tasked Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes and key ministers to consider what other reforms and resources are needed. At a court and policing level, there needs to be greater efficiency in processing intervention requests, tougher access for bail in domestic violence cases and tighter monitoring on compliance.

For those who do offend, the full force of the law must be applied in penalties. As a community, there also needs to be a greater focus on education, with gender and relationship respect principles formed at primary levels and issues such as relationship safety and consent a focus at secondary school.

There is real societal momentum for change and a recognition by governments that much more must be done for women’s safety. That will has to be harnessed or this and future generations of women will continue to fall victim to terrible violence.

It has to stop – now is the time for more than words – it’s time for real action to save more women from dying.

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