“It is a statistic that should be published widely, daily, so that no one can forget the desperate need for a cultural change in our society that puts a stop to violence once and for all,” Senator Waters said.
Senator Waters said while data on abuse and homicides was collected by states and then fed to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it was a “slow process”. The Greens spokesperson for women said there is no national program to record the ongoing toll of women killed by violence in real-time, with the work falling to researchers at not-for-profit groups like Destroy the Joint.
Late last week, Senator Waters wrote to Senator Payne, asking her to progress the establishment of a national toll, given the Senate’s support for the idea.
When asked if she wanted to see a national toll, Senator Payne suggested the government would continue to use existing statistical agencies – like the ABS and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – to understand the problem.
“I have zero tolerance for violence against women and their children. Improving data collection and reporting is critical to the government’s efforts to combat family, domestic and sexual violence,” Senator Payne said.
Senator Payne, who was appointed as Minister for Women after the May election, said the current National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children included $7.6 million over three years to build the evidence base and reporting on the issue.
“[This includes] funding to help our key statistical agencies, such as the ABS and AIHW to address data gaps and produce high quality reports on family, domestic and sexual violence.”
University of NSW associate professor of criminology Michael Salter similarly said existing structures for reporting intimate partner homicide could be strengthened rather than creating a new mechanism.
He pointed to the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network, which not only counts deaths but analyses why they happen and “aims to learn lessons”.
Dr Salter also warned against grouping intimate partner violence with violence committed by strangers, as the drivers behind the two were very different.
Since the start of 2019, there have been 26 women killed by violence in Australia, as reported by the Counting Dead Women project run by Destroy the Joint. In 2018, 71 women died according to the project.
According to ABS, one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, while one in five has experienced sexual violence. One in six women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Judith Ireland is a political reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House