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Payne, Ruston call special meeting with states on domestic violence

The Coalition is currently rolling out a fourth national “action plan” on domestic violence, which includes $340 million over three years. Senator Payne said while it worked with states on “getting that right,” the government would “certainly consider new ideas and proposals for reducing and eliminating violence against women and children”.

The meeting of state and territory ministers convened in response to Ms Clarke’s murder, will feed into a Council of Australian Governments meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on March 13.

On Thursday, Senator Payne told the ABC “nothing is off the table in terms of what we need to look at”, describing domestic violence as a “national challenge”.

Asked if more funding was needed to address domestic violence, Senator Payne told The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age the government was working to “ensure that every dollar” assigned to the national action plan was “going to targeted, priority areas”.  She added the Coalition would discuss the “processes of putting any new ideas into practice” with the states.

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The domestic violence sector continues to cry out for more funding for frontline legal and crisis services.

On Friday, Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services said it had seen a 12 per cent increase in demand in 2019 and was “working beyond capacity”.  The Greens spokesperson for women, Larissa Waters also renewed her party’s calls for significantly more funding, saying an extra $5 billion over 10 years was needed to address “the national crisis of women’s death by violence”.

Senator Waters said the money was needed for prevention and early intervention programs, as well as specialist legal and support services, crisis accommodation and longer-term housing.

“The [government] may well be putting in more money than ever before. It is not enough, women are still being killed,” she said. 

According to Our Watch, on average, one woman a week is murdered by a current or former partner. One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and one in five women has experienced sexual violence.

Sydney Liberal MP Fiona Martin worked as a child psychologist before entering Parliament in 2019. Dr Martin said Australia desperately needs a “cultural shift” in its attitude to domestic violence.

“My vision is more long-term,” she said. “I think we need to start from the beginning, with children.”

Dr Martin said she wants new programs to be included in the school curriculum from primary school onwards. These should teach children about what makes a healthy and unhealthy relationship, as well as how to assert their rights if they are disrespected.

“We want people to feel empowered.”

She also said greater mental health support was crucial, including reducing the stigma around mental illness and increasing community awareness of symptoms.

“My view is mental health plays a vital role in domestic violence behaviour,” she said. “What lies beneath the surface of violent behaviours are specific psychological symptoms – poor coping skills, poor emotion regulation, poor distress tolerance, poor impulse control, a lack of empathy.” 

If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Support is also available at Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636

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