As well as providing a range of stimulating articles and information, in this issue we are asking for your views of our services. Those of you who have been

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Newsletter 38


Welcome to the Spring 2009 issue of the Clearinghouse Newsletter. As well as providing a range of stimulating articles and information, in this issue we are asking for your views of our services. Those of you who have been subscribers for several years will recall previous stakeholder surveys – well, it’s that time again when we ask you to provide us with feedback about what we are doing. We value your input and are offering a $200 book voucher as a prize for one lucky person who submits their survey before 30 November 2009. More details of the survey can be found inside.

Complementing the feature in our last Newsletter on Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2009-2021, in this issue you will find responses to the plan from three advocates from the sector. Alison Macdonald from Domestic Violence Victoria, Annie Parkinson from Women With Disabilities Australia and Edwina MacDonald from Women’s Legal Services Australia contribute valuable insights on Time for Action from the perspectives of their clients and constituents. Included are recent Government actions in response to Time for Action.

In ‘New Research’, Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw and Professor Thea Brown call for participants for their study examining the impact of the 2006 family law reforms for those affected by family violence. You can also read about Rosemary Hunter’s book, Domestic Violence Law Reform and Women’s Experiences in Court, reviewed by Karen Wilcox, the Clearinghouse Good Practice Officer.

In the ‘Issues in Good Practice’ article, Corrina Faulkner presents findings from her research on circle sentencing. She explores the strengths and weaknesses of circle sentencing for Indigenous offenders and victims, and discusses ways to improve practice. In an article on developments in international legislation, Clearinghouse researchers Emily Hamilton and Rochelle Braaf examine legal reforms introduced in Spain and the Philippines, and proposed in the United States, which aim to assist working women experiencing violence to remain in employment.

We are pleased to announce the release of two new Clearinghouse papers: an Issues Paper on Aboriginal help seeking for family violence and a Stakeholder Paper on abuse of older adults. These are available in hard copy and online on our website.

The Clearinghouse had a huge year in 2008/2009. In this issue, we reflect on our work and achievements through an annual report of the past financial year. We hope this report will be informative, as well as serving as a guide to the broad range of services and information we provide.

Finally, we would like to wish everyone well in their preparations for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, commencing on the 25 November, and also for White Ribbon Day activities (see the White Ribbon website for details of events If you would like us to publicise your event or initiative, please contact us to have them included in our e-news (circulated on the first of every month) and on the Conference and Events page of our website.

I hope you enjoy reading this Newsletter and we look forward to receiving your completed surveys.

Gaby Marcus, Director


Framework for reducing violence against women in Melanesia and East Timor launched

On 12 August 2009, Stephen Smith, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Status of Women, launched a new report that outlines Australia’s framework for reducing violence against women in Melanesia and East Timor. The framework reflects an AusAID Office of Development Effectiveness study released last year, which found violence against women in the region is severe, pervasive and constrains development. The report is available at:

Council on Homelessness appointed

The Australian Government announced the appointees to the new Council on Homelessness on 8 August 2009. The Council will be chaired by Tony Nicholson, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Development of a Queensland Government domestic and family violence strategy

The Queensland Minister for Communities and Housing, Karen Struthers, launched For Our Sons and Daughters: a Queensland Government strategy to reduce domestic and family violence 2009-2014 and the first year’s ‘Program of Action’ on 10 July 2009. The goal of the strategy is to better protect victims by breaking the cycle of violence as early as possible. It aims to provide a coordinated approach between agencies to improve the safety of victims and families, and to hold perpetrators more accountable.

Queensland Death Review Panel

The Queensland Government has announced the members of its Death Review Panel, which will investigate the circumstances surrounding domestic violence-related deaths in the state over the past five years. The panel will be chaired by Marg O’Donnell, Chair of the Board of Legal Aid Queensland and former Director General of the Office of Women’s Policy and the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development. Other members are Heather Nancarrow, Donna Justo, Ken Georgetown and Peter Swindells.

Abuse of older women exposed

The New South Wales Minister for Women, Verity Firth, launched the Older Women’s Network NSW report on violence against older women, The Disappearing Age, in July 2009. The report highlights that one in four women reporting recent physical assault in their homes is aged forty-five years and older, and draws attention to the hidden homelessness of older women. The report is available at:


Older Women’s Network NSW meeting, 1 July 2009

This is an edited version of a speech given by Faye Worner, Manager of Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation, to the Older Women’s Network NSW.

We consistently hear a lot about statistics involving violence against women, however this is usually in relation to violence against younger women. What we consistently come up against at Waminda is entrenched abuse against older people and women in particular.

Aboriginal elders in our community are faced with a multitude of complex family arrangements. Many older women are the primary carers for grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. They often do not receive the Centrelink or family benefit payments for these children. At the same time, many older Aboriginal women find themselves being abused by their own children or relatives. This family violence incorporates financial, emotional, physical and spiritual abuse.

These women may be isolated from help due to their physical inability to either drive or access public transport, or their lack of funds to access services. Many mainstream services and departments do not cater for the needs of Aboriginal elderly carers of young children and often assume that someone else will assist them in matters such as navigating the education systems, the health system and Centrelink. There is also a historical context to the marginalisation of Aboriginal people that severely impacts on the current capacity of women elders to combat the abuse that is inflicted upon them.

So what can we do? Some key steps that need to take place include:

a whole of government response and changes in legislation, including ‘closing the gap’ in access to Centrelink and carer payments

training and workshops for professionals and people that older women access

GPs developing pathways from their practices to family violence specialist and services

everyone learning about the importance and place of culture and extended family for Aboriginal women.

When older women get the courage to speak up, we need to act and develop strong support systems in our communities that say no to violence and that endorse and promote respect for elders. The importance of these women must be validated, and their safety and wellbeing must be ensured

Further information about Waminda:

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For a free subscription to Clearinghouse publications, phone or fax us, or subscribe online.

Planning activities for 2009 or 2010?

Are you holding an event, such as a forum or seminar, or launching a campaign or resource? Contact us to include it in our Newsletter, e-news and on the website!


Tell us your views! Clearinghouse stakeholder survey

Tell us what you think of the Clearinghouse services and how we can improve their delivery to you, by filling in our stakeholder survey. You can submit the survey online or fill in the hard copy version in this Newsletter and mail it in (free post) or fax it to: (02) 9385 2993. PRIZE: A $200 Dymocks book voucher will be awarded to one lucky participant, so get your response in before 30 November 2009 to be in the draw.

Barriers and avenues to women’s financial security project

In our last Newsletter (see under ‘New Research’), we reported on the Clearinghouse research project examining barriers and avenues to women gaining financial security, during and post violent relationships. Interviews have now been completed with around 60 women clients and 40 service staff in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. The research team are now in the process of analysing data from the interviews and focus groups. See the annual report in this Newsletter for more information about the project.

Domestic violence and the workplace

The Clearinghouse is advising the Public Service Association (PSA) of NSW on the value of domestic violence workplace policies and strategies. PSA NSW is considering including domestic violence clauses in their current negotiations for enterprise agreements with the NSW universities. These conditions would provide for leave to attend necessary appointments, security measures in the workplace and protection from dismissal related to domestic violence. The Clearinghouse Project Officer, Ludo McFerran, has also met with representatives of the Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Victorian Office of Women’s Policy in Melbourne (3 August 2009) to discuss the support the Clearinghouse has provided the PSA NSW.

Clearinghouse reference group meetings

The Clearinghouse reference group convened on 10 June and 15 September 2009. The reference group consists of highly regarded professionals from practice, academic and policy arenas related to the issues of domestic and family violence in Australia. Both meetings focused on Time for Action and its implications for the Clearinghouse’s work, as well as recent developments in the sector and future directions and priorities for the organisation. More detail about the reference group and a list of members can be found in our annual report in this issue of the Newsletter.

New students

We are pleased to welcome Jennifer Hanson and Janavi Rane, fourth year Social Work students from the University of New South Wales, who will do their work placements at the Clearinghouse. Jennifer and Janavi will be working on a range of activities, including carrying out literature reviews, writing articles, and compiling information, while increasing their knowledge about gender-based violence and the processes involved in carrying out research.

Clearinghouse papers and presentations

The following Clearinghouse resources are now available:

Lumby B & Farrelly T 2009, Family Violence, Help-Seeking & the Close-Knit Aboriginal Community: lessons for mainstream service provision, Issues Paper 19

Bagshaw D, Wendt S & Zannettino L 2009, Preventing the Abuse of Older People by their Family Members, Stakeholder Paper 7

Special Collection: Indigenous peoples’ experiences of and responses to domestic and family violence

In the past four months, Clearinghouse staff also presented papers at the Australian Social Policy Conference, Women’s Housing Futures Conference and NSW Public Service Union Women’s Conference. Details of these are available on our website at:

There have been a number of recent policy and practice developments in Australia around homicide reviews, homelessness and family law. You may wish to revisit some earlier Clearinghouse papers on these topics:

David N 2007, Exploring the Use of Domestic Violence Fatality Review Teams, Issues Paper 15

McFerran L 2007, Taking Back the Castle: how Australia is making the home safer for women and children, Issues Paper 14

Braaf R & Sneddon C 2007, Family Law Act Reform: the Potential for Screening and Risk Assessment for Family Violence, Issues Paper 12

Laing L 2003, Domestic Violence and Family Law, Topic Paper 8


Time for Action:
responses from the sector

Compiled by Isobelle Barrett Meyering, Clearinghouse Research Assistant

Almost six months has passed since Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009-2021 was presented to the Federal Government. Having outlined the key features of the Council’s plan in our last Newsletter, we now turn to the sector to see what three key stakeholders have to say about its implications for their members.

Alison Macdonald,
Domestic Violence Victoria

Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) is the peak body for women’s and children’s family violence services in Victoria. As its Policy Officer, Alison Macdonald oversees DV Vic’s research and policy development arm.

The development of Time for Action is inspiring for the domestic and family violence sector; inspiring because we have not seen an agenda as ambitious as this to date and because the document reflects the expert voice of those working to reduce violence against women and their children, but most importantly, the voice of women who have lived with violence. It is also significant because it furthers Australia’s integrity in meeting our obligations under international human rights law.

It is indeed ‘time for action’. Preventing violence against women and children must be a key social policy priority for all Australian Governments. Commonwealth leadership on this issue is shamefully overdue.

Time for Action covers expansive fields and jurisdictions and articulates how the work of reducing violence is a whole-of-society responsibility. We commend it for its emphasis on ensuring systems work together effectively. Announcements made to date, including the review of laws to protect women and children from violence and respectful relationships education, are extremely important.

However, while we await its referral to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and state and territory sign off, the full implications of Time for Action for our members to some degree remain to be seen. Coupled with the Commonwealth-driven homelessness reforms, as outlined in The Road Home white paper and respective Victorian agendas, there is unprecedented focus on preventing violence against women and their children, and potential for real change in reducing this violence. This, of course, will be contingent on commensurate investment.

We are pleased that Time for Action explicitly recognises that insufficient funding compromises the capacity of services to meet women and children’s needs. DV Vic’s submission to Time for Action had a strong emphasis on workforce capacity and argued that the sustainability of this sector is essential to the safety, wellbeing and overall aim of improving outcomes for women and children experiencing violence. The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) funded family violence sector in Victoria has operated in an environment of extremely constrained funding arrangements for close to twenty years. This has had a significant impact on the breadth and flexibility of services that can be offered but also on the capacity of agencies to offer staff adequate employment packages, professional development and career pathways.

The Commonwealth’s ambitious reform agendas cannot succeed while the community sector workers responsible for translating them into practice continue to work at the very limits of capacity. DV Vic has welcomed the Council’s recommendation to develop and implement a funded workforce strategy. It is unclear, however, whether this would be within the ambit of the Commonwealth Government and, if so, how a sexual assault and domestic and family violence workforce strategy would be adopted at state and territory level. It is essential that in tabling Time for Action, COAG understands what would be at stake without determined effort to guarantee the future sustainability of this workforce.

The complexity of experience for women and children in marginalised groups experiencing violence is reflected throughout Time for Action. Many of its recommendations take into account the structural and systemic issues that bring about increased risk and vulnerability experienced by groups, including women with disabilities, Indigenous women and women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The proposed accessibility audit of crisis accommodation providers will certainly help us to better understand the intricacy of issues impacting on women seeking assistance to leave violence. For example, DV Vic is aware of increasing numbers of women without permanent residency status in the family violence support system. While Time for Action discusses this in some detail, we need to investigate further the conditions that limit access to income and employment support, and place women without permanent residency status at increased risk of violence.

Finally, the announcement of a new national family violence and sexual assault online and crisis support telephone line is worth noting. Tenders have been called for a national online and 1800 counselling service and we urge that there are several elements that will be critical to its effectiveness. It will have to work within and augment existing Victorian systems for referral and intake. In order to do this it will need to be developed and implemented in consultation with the service system. We understand that the national phoneline will have capacity to provide some ongoing case management for women. This may be a very positive step in alleviating demand on services by providing clients with telephone counselling and support, and reaching women who may otherwise not engage with support services. The practice philosophy of the new telephone line provider will need to be underpinned by a feminist analysis and gendered understanding of violence against women, in order to work effectively with the existing integrated family violence system and to prioritise women and children’s safety.

Annie Parkinson,
Women with Disabilities Australia

Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the national peak body for women with disabilities in Australia. WWDA President, Annie Parkinson, is a member of the newly-appointed Violence against Women Advisory Group.

Before I go into details about some of WWDA’s initial thoughts on Time for Action, I would like to congratulate the members of the Council on the work they have done getting it out. Clearly a great deal of thought and discussion has gone into the final version.

Of course, after eagerly awaiting the Council plan, now we wait for the Government plan! The Council has provided us and the Government with a set of guidelines for a national plan but there’s still another stage at least before we have a complete plan that will go straight into action. The six key areas the Council has focused on give rise to twenty recommendations, of which eleven are high priority actions for immediate action.

Three of these eleven immediate actions directly address working with and about men: there is an action on supporting men who oppose violence against women (1.3.1), one on establishing cooling off places for men in remote communities (5.2.1) and a third on funding and delivering a perpetrator research agenda (5.4.1). All these seem admirable approaches (although it’s hard to know how the cooling off would be carried out) and may all be areas where research comes up with some new strategies. It is certainly true that work on violence against women has traditionally focused on women experiencing violence rather than on the men who perpetrate it. The need has been so great and the resources so limited, that perhaps only one side of the equation has been addressed and we are yet to find out whether a focus on men gives us the cultural shift we are all hoping for.

We endorse recommendation 3.3.1 for a national telephone and online crisis support service, with the proviso that this will only be meaningful for our membership if there are refuges that are ready to receive women with disabilities and if the online components of the crisis support services are fully accessible. This issue of inaccessible formats is a constant problem our members have with government online information.

Within the group of twenty recommendations are seven that will go for consultation with the states and territories. Among these seven is an audit of SAAP services, including refuges (3.2.2). An audit of refuges for accessibility would be one of the single most useful things that could happen for women with disabilities who are attempting to escape violence. WWDA strongly pushed for this to be included in the plan. We are disappointed that the proposed audit of crisis accommodation in relation to accessibility to all women is not listed for immediate action. All our research shows that women with disabilities have the highest incidence of violence, endure violence at the hands of more perpetrators and have fewer pathways to safety than other women. One of the pathways that has been available to other women since the second wave of feminism in the mid seventies, has been access to women’s refuges. The NSW Ombudsman’s Inquiry into SAAP services held in 2004 revealed that refuges hold policies that specifically allow them to refuse service to women with physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities. Surely it is time these crucial resources become available to women who are deaf or blind, women who use wheelchairs and women with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities.

Over the years, the phrase domestic violence has broadened to include the word family as kinship violence within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities has been more clearly recognised and understood. Currently, even this broader definition excludes many women with disabilities. At WWDA we make the point that for women with disabilities, the context in which we live can create opportunities for violence in a range of domestic settings from private home to group home to nursing home, boarding house, hostel, hospital, etc. This abuse may be at the hands of paid or unpaid carers, staff or other residents in a group home or disability service.

WWDA would also like to have some clarity about funding for this plan. Are the announced dollar amounts standing alone or is there an overlap between moneys allocated for social inclusion, the reduction of violence and the overhaul of SAAP services (including women’s refuges), which was proposed under the Government’s green paper on homelessness?

Finally, we believe that the outcomes from the plan must be based on a human rights approach, consistent not only with the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Disabled People but also the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and Convention on the Rights of the Child. We believe that the societal changes we are trying to work on together can only be achieved by having a strong human rights framework.

Edwina MacDonald, Women’s Legal Services Australia

Women’s legal services are community legal centres that provide free legal services to women around the country. They come together through the Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA) network. Edwina MacDonald is the Law Reform Coordinator of Women’s Legal Services Australia and the Law Reform and Policy Solicitor at Women’s Legal Services NSW.

The commitment from the Australian Government to develop a national plan of action to reduce violence against women and their children in early 2010 in response to the Council’s plan is an exciting and important step in eliminating such violence.

The Council’s report offers constructive urgent actions and recommendations to the Government that, if implemented, will greatly assist in reducing violence against women. WLSA is encouraged by the strong recommendations made around the need for nationally consistent definitions of domestic and family violence, gendered analysis of all new policy and law, primacy given to the safety and wellbeing of children, adequate funding to legal aid and advocacy services, and many more.

For WLSA, the immediate impact of the report will be responding to the Australian and NSW Law Reform Commissions’ inquiry into the harmonisation of domestic violence and family laws. While this is a much needed review, it is one of many reviews in this area to which we are contributing and will place yet more strain on our services in engaging with it. In finalising its national plan, the Government must better resource community organisations, such as women’s legal services, to engage in advocacy and policy work. Mechanisms and resources for civil society participation in policy advocacy are essential in the development of good public policy. Community organisations such as ours have expertise in dealing with violence against women and are well placed to advise the government on what is working, what is not working and what would work based on our hands on experience.

Resources must also be provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s organisations. Hannah McGlade, a Noongar human rights lawyer, has argued that in developing the national plan, ‘the government must unequivocally recognise and affirm that Aboriginal women play a central role in ending the violence that has impacted too many of our lives, as woman and children’ (McGlade 2009). Increased funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s organisations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s legal services, is necessary to ensure the proper resourcing of this much needed central policy, advocacy and service delivery role.

Another short-term impact on WLSA will be the introduction of the national telephone crisis service. The hotline will connect women to much needed services. But it will also increase the demand, by way of referrals, to community services such as ours. If the hotline is to have any real impact, the Government must first ensure that services for women escaping violence are resourced adequately to deal with the increasing demand.

In the longer term, the Council’s report promises some great reforms. The success of a national plan will be dependent on independent and sustained accountability and monitoring systems to ensure that these recommendations are implemented properly. The proposed Centre of Excellence will provide a solid evidence and research base for violence prevention work, and the Advisory Group will provide critical advice to government. But neither of these bodies appears to be resourced nor mandated to provide an independent monitoring function. One option would be to provide functions and corresponding resources to the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake this role. Or the Government could go one step further, and introduce a Commission on Violence Against Women, as Indonesia has done.

If you think the need for resources is sounding like a recurring theme, you’re not wrong. The Council’s report tells us that violence against women costs Australia $13.6 billion a year. Yet it seems that the Government is not putting any more money on the table to tackle this issue. Its budget of $55.2 million over four years is a decrease on the last four years’ budget of $75.5 million and is considerably lower than the $120 million needed to match the per capita average set by the Council of Europe (Fergus 2008). While more money may be contributed from the states and territories, the Commonwealth Government needs to provide stronger leadership by putting some additional dollars on the table to back its position of ‘zero tolerance’ for violence against women and children.

The Council’s report and the prospect of an endorsed national plan are significant steps towards ending violence against women. However, political will, resources and the involvement of non-government and independent organisations are crucial to ensuring a strategic and sustained national plan that will be successful in combating this pervasive and persistent human rights abuse.


Fergus L & Lappin K 2008, Setting the Standard: international good practice to inform an Australian National Plan of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women, Amnesty International Australia, Sydney

McGlade H 2009, ‘National plan of action to reduce violence’, ABC Online Indigenous, 8 May. Viewed 14 August 2009
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