“While we wait for attitudes to change, people, mostly women, are dying,” she writes. “It is time for a new approach and I believe that a mental health focus is paramount.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $328 million in funding last March for the fourth wave of a national plan to reduce violence against women and children, while Labor went to the last election promising $660 million.
Dr Martin called for more mental health support to tackle the psychological symptoms that can lead someone to act violently toward another.
These include early childhood trauma, poor coping skills, addictive behaviours, a lack of empathy and heavy use of alcohol.
“Mental health is crucial to addressing the problem and if we don’t have a mental health component I don’t think we will be able to reduce the fatalities,” Dr Martin told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“Given the death rate, with people dying in these situations, we really do need to use an evidence-based approach and I think that targeting young children is an effective way of doing that.
“That means formally teaching young children about wellbeing and mental health from a young age, and targeting these underlying psychological symptoms associated with those who go on to engage in aggressive behaviours.”
Dr Martin, who held the inner Sydney electorate of Reid for the Liberals at the election, said this could require more training for teachers so they could plan lessons about good mental health for their students.
“To address the domestic violence issue we really need to be targeting those underlying psychological symptoms,” she said.
“Better integrating mental health into the school curriculum would target a number of issues, not just preventing domestic violence behaviours.”
Asked if more funding would be needed to achieve this goal, Dr Martin said it was a priority issue but made no criticism of existing funding levels.
“One woman is killed every nine days and one man is killed every 29 days by a partner, and domestic violence is one of the most significant public health issues this nation faces,” she said.
“In order to address that we need the cooperation of those who work with our future generations so that we can reduce the statistics, we can end domestic violence. We need to make it a priority.”
Dr Martin is also a member of a parliamentary inquiry into the family law system, chaired by fellow Liberal MP Kevin Andrews with One Nation leader Pauline Hanson as deputy chair. The inquiry has been asked to consider the way domestic violence orders are granted by the courts, among many other issues in the way the family law system operates.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.