Motion: Council's commitment to the elimination of domestic and family violence

I'll be tabling this motion on domestic and family violence at our next Inner West Council meeting on Tuesday 4 August. In short, it aims to continue the strategic leadership and coordination work Council undertakes in this space, and enhance these efforts by developing a strategy to reduce gender inequality - a key driver of this violence.

THAT Council: 

1. Notes its long-standing and ongoing commitment to working in partnership with local community groups, organisations, networks and key national associations to reduce domestic and family violence across the Inner West;

2. Develops a gender equity strategy in collaboration with peak bodies, the Inner West Council domestic and family violence strategic reference group, and the domestic and family violence liaison committee to ensure that Council works to address gender inequality, a key driver of domestic and family violence. The draft of this strategy to be reported to Council no later than July 2021;

3. Continues its coordination of initiatives that enable a whole of community response to domestic and family violence.

Background

Domestic and family violence continues to impact our community in devastating ways. Council plays a critical role in addressing domestic and family violence in our local area through initiatives such as 16 Days of Activism, Love Bites, the Inner West Domestic and Family Violence Liaison Committee, and the Speak Out Campaign. 

These initiatives have been supported by a funding commitment of $78,000 per year, which has been allocated in Council’s four-year Operational Plan until 2020/21. Developing a gender equity strategy that builds on the work and progress made to date will help shape Council’s funding priorities from 2021/22, as well as the strategic leadership and support we provide in this area.

National and international research shows that gender inequality is a key driver of violence against women. Data shows that countries with greater equality between women and men tend to have lower levels of violence against women.

A gender equity strategy will help Council identify and address the complex social norms that enable domestic and family violence in the Inner West. It will provide a framework for addressing the drivers of domestic and family violence, including actions to:  

  • Challenge the condoning of violence against women.
  • Promote women’s independence and decision-making in public life and relationships.
  • Foster positive personal identities, and challenge gender stereotypes and roles.
  • Strength positive, equal and respectful relationships between women and men, and girls and boys.
  • Promote and normalise gender equality in public and private life.

While reducing domestic and family violence is imperative for Council at any time, it’s particularly pressing now given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on people at risk and survivors of domestic and family violence.  

New research from the Australian Institute of Criminology has provided strong evidence of an increase in incidents of violence against women since the pandemic began. There is evidence to suggest restrictions designed to enforce social distancing have made it more difficult for people to seek the help they need, which may explain why incidents reported to police have not increased. Our Watch has also reported that Google searches on domestic violence have increased by 75% since March. 

There is also increasing evidence that the economic impact of the pandemic is hitting women harder than men, which will further entrench gender inequality. For example, industries and job types dominated by women among those most badly affected by the downturn. Twice as many women as men will see their JobKeeper payments halved when the federal government reduces these subsidies from September. The end of free childcare and removal of JobKeeper subsidies for the sector will also leave women worse off.

Council is in a position to continue to be a leader and innovator in this space by creating a strategic framework that can work across our diverse and unique community. By doing so, we can create a safer community that promotes gender equity, healthy relationships and active bystanders.

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