CJSDRC Associate Professor Michael Flood contributed to the opening panel of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Summit on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children. The two-day summit, held over October 2-3 in Adelaide, was an invitation-only event for policy-makers, researchers, advocates, and service providers in the violence sector. The COAG Summit is intended to feed into the development of the fourth and final action plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
In the opening panel, facilitated by Natasha Stott Despoja, Dr Flood provided a stocktake of contemporary efforts in Australia to prevent domestic and sexual violence. He began with a reminder of what ‘primary prevention’ is: changing the social conditions that support and promote violence against women and children, to prevent initial perpetration and victimisation. Prevention is aimed at changing structures, norms, and practices (and is not focused only on attitudes or only on individuals and their behaviours). Flood noted that some prevention strategies are well developed: respectful relationships education in schools (although delivery is very uneven across Australia), communications and social marketing, and comprehensive approaches in some settings such as sports and media. On the other hand, there is in government policy insufficient attention to gender inequalities as drivers of violence against women, and some policies indeed entrench these inequalities. Few efforts are comprehensive (that is, using multiple strategies in multiple settings with multiple audiences). Few efforts involve substantial community engagement. There has been a greater focus on domestic and family violence and a neglect of sexual violence and sexual harassment. Strategies that are under-developed include community development and community mobilisation, respectful relationships education in other contexts such as universities, and work to erode structural gender inequalities.
Associate Professor Michael Flood briefly outlined what is needed in Australian prevention policy. This includes:
A more defined focus on primary prevention in the Fourth Action Plan;
National coordination, whether through a ‘primary prevention hub’ or national coordination body or network.;
Sustainability, including sustained funding;
Knowledge sharing, through some kind of national clearinghouse or hub;
Training and capacity building, to build an expert workforce for prevention;
Greater attention to sexual violence and sexual harassment;
The active policy promotion of gender equality, including through gender-responsive policies and budgeting;
Feminist advocacy, including contributions to, and consultation on, policy and programming;
Measures of progress, particularly of efforts to shift the gender inequalities which drive violence against women; and
Long term commitment, through a second National Plan.
(Please email Michael Flood if you wish to see a more detailed version of these comments.)