Pru Goward has been appointed the Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Photo: Brendan Esposito
This week, NSW Premier Mike Baird revealed his new cabinet and announced the appointment of Pru Goward as the first ever Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Australia.
It's a significant step forward for the NSW Government at a time when record numbers of women are dying as a result of domestic violence in our "lucky country". In the first three months of this year alone, we have seen 28 women murdered by a partner or former partner.
Domestic and family violence is at epidemic proportions in Australia. Women, men and children are dying and millions of others are either living in abusive relationships or seeking to find the safest way out. And yet those in the upper echelons of power appear unable to grasp the urgency of the problem and even less equipped to consider the solutions. Cuts to frontline, advocacy and prevention services have already begun to take their toll and demand is increasing on an already overburdened system.
So what does this appointment actually mean? Last month in the lead up to the NSW election the NSW Women's Alliance (a group of statewide peak bodies working in sexual violence and domestic and family violence) and the NSW Men's Behaviour Change network released a blueprint to end sexual assault and domestic and family violence. It called on politicians and community leaders to make a meaningful commitment to ending violence. The call for a Minister for Prevention was just one of 27 key recommendations in the campaign. It is part of a much bigger picture.
No single Minister can prevent domestic violence alone. The job of the new Minister now is to lead a meaningful, whole of government commitment. For this appointment to be effective, we must put sexual assault and domestic violence at the centre of all departmental policies – the new approach must permeate the core of new directions in the ministries of Health, Justice, Police, Education and FACS. It'll require nuanced understandings of the causes of violence and a holistic evidence-informed policy framework that sets out where we are heading as a state in relation to these issues.
It also has to be part of a cross-party approach. Both Labor and the Greens made strong policy promises on domestic violence in the lead up to last week's election. We have seen similar commitments by those parties at a federal level. Bill Shorten recently called on the Prime Minister to convene a national roundtable on domestic and family violence and pledged to do so within his first 100 days in office if a Federal Labor government is elected. We must pull together the smartest minds and put politics aside if we are to tackle our nation's shame.
There's a lot of noise being made about domestic violence in 2015. A magic combination of the Rosie Batty factor, a Victorian Royal Commission, more sophisticated community awareness and media focus have upped the ante in terms of developing an understanding about what the misuse of power and control looks like. The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has brought the horror of decades of abuse into our homes nightly. We are having conversations about rape and domestic violence in cafes and bars that were unthinkable 12 months ago.
The risk with all of this is that the real measures of success will go far beyond a State or Federal election cycle. We all have a part to play in ending violence and it will require a comprehensive focus on intergenerational change, adequate resources and a good dose of national soul searching.
Moo Baulch is the CEO of Domestic Violence NSW