Former Army chief compares war zone horrors to domestic violence

Date

Daisy Dumas

Retired Lieutenant General David Morrison.

Retired Lieutenant General David Morrison. Photo: Graham Tidy

If Australian deaths in war zones matched fatalities from domestic violence, commanders would be held accountable and forced to explain, David Morrison, the former Chief of Army said.

The full force of the "shocking and appalling" prevalence of violence against women in Australia was a focus of the 2015 Male Champions of Change business forum in Sydney on Tuesday. 

Retired Lieutenant General David Morrison said 800,000 women in the Australian workplace are today in some way affected by violence and that domestic violence fatalities are a "national scourge".  

Leaders from across industry sectors have united against violence towards women.

Leaders from across industry sectors have united against violence towards women. Photo: Louie Douvis

"Two women have been killed every week this year by their partner or their former partner. If we were seeing two soldiers killed every single week in Afghanistan or an area of military operations, commanders would be held to account and be asked to explain," he told Fairfax Media before speaking at the high-powered event, where he compared the "unspoken" effects of domestic violence to the horrors of war. 

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"For a lot of men this is a problem that is unseen, and because it is unseen in a busy life it isn't given the focus it needs."

With a plan to "disrupt the status quo", the male leaders, including the head of the ASX Elmer Funke Kupper, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and the Commonwealth Bank's Ian Narev are using their combined influence to advocate for gender equality across all organisations and sectors. 

Mr Narev told Fairfax Media that the MCC's work with domestic violence campaigner and Australian of the Year Rosie Batty had opened leaders' eyes to the scale of the problem. 

"We've all been shocked and appalled. It's led us to actually look at our own businesses and our own customer bases and say 'within the scope of our businesses we've got women who are victims of domestic violence and men who are perpetrators of domestic violence and that's unacceptable'.

"This is a mainstream issue. This isn't an issue only in particular parts of the economy or parts of the business, this is something we've all got to be prepared to stand up and deal with."

KPMG's Gary Wingrove​ agreed. "I for one did not have a clear understanding of how prevalent [violence against women was] was," he said.  

He added that in coming weeks, pushes for policy change, including leave entitlements that would mean those affected by domestic violence would have access to paid time off work, would emerge from the MCC. 

The call comes on the same day as the UN Secretary-General's monthly UNiTE Orange Day, which seeks to raise awareness of violence against women. Number five on the list of the UN foundation's sustainable development goals, due to be ratified at the end of September, is to "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls" by 2030.

"If every leader in the community, every leader in business, every leader in the military, every leader in the government says [violence against women is unacceptable], then that hasa powerful impact," former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Dr Ian Watt said before speeches at the forum.  

"But you've got to say it, you've got to live it and you've got to call it if it occurs."