PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has announced a national centre of excellence to reduce violence against women.
While in New York this week, Ms Gillard confirmed Australia’s commitment to the Equal Futures Partnership – which will encourage more females to enter traditionally male-dominated industries, increase the number of women on Australian government boards to 40 per cent and establish the centre of excellence.
The commitment follows a similar path taken by the United States two years ago, which aimed to break down economic and political barriers that stopped girls and women reaching their full potential.
US president Barack Obama called on the world to follow – and Australia did.
But while all three initiatives announced by the prime minister are commendable, they are also long overdue.
What we want now is real action.
Forget the political point scoring and doing what is perceived to be right – this is the time to show that real change will be made.
Yes, there is always a need for greater understanding of the issue and its impact, but enough research has been undertaken to know the impact of family violence.
We already know:
One in three women have experienced physical violence and one in five have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
There were no new funding commitments for addressing violence against women in the 2012 federal budget.
Violence against women is a workplace issue and costs $13.6 billion to the Australian economy per year.
Unless appropriate action is taken to prevent violence against women, the cost to the Australian economy is estimated to increase to $15.6 billion per year by 2021-22.
There is an increased demand on support services for women and children, and they are significantly under-resourced.
A prevention strategy working with young people is urgently needed.
Family violence is a community issue and needs attitudes towards gender equality to shift before we see real change.
Ms Gillard says the centre will lead a research agenda to support policies and programs to reduce violence against women.
As she says, “women and girls must have futures equal to those of their brothers and fathers’’.
Yes, Ms Gillard, they must.
So let’s see funding where it is needed.
Don’t just tell the world you will open a centre for excellence – it is time for real commitment from all levels of government to the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women (2010-2022).
This is your chance to help this country drive long-term social change. Sadly, some girls and women will never reach their full potential until we achieve this.
- Nicole Ferrie is the Bendigo Advertiser’s deputy editor.
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