The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women - Questions and Answers


Why do we need a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children (the National Plan)?

One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and almost one in five have experienced sexual violence (ABS Personal Safety Survey, 2006).  Women constitute the overwhelming majority of victims of domestic and family violence and sexual assault.. Women are far more likely to be killed by their male intimate partners.

A study commissioned by the Commonwealth Government in 2009 also shows the enormous economic cost of violence.  Domestic violence and sexual assault perpetrated against women costs the nation $13.6 billion each year.  By 2021, the figure is likely to rise to $15.6 billion if extra steps are not taken.

Reducing all violence in our community is a priority.  All forms of violence against women are unacceptable, in any community and in any culture.  The National Plan therefore targets two main types of violence: domestic and family violence and sexual assault. 

The National Plan is underpinned by the belief that involving all levels of government and the wider community is necessary to reduce violence in both the short and longer terms.  No government or group can tackle this problem alone. 

What has the Commonwealth Government done to respond to the recommendations in Time for Action?

The National Council’s report Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, 2009-2021 (Time for Action) was released by the Commonwealth Government in April 2009.  At the same time, the Government announced funding for a range of immediate measures in support of the direction of the Time for Action report and for appropriate action to be taken in relation to its recommended strategic outcomes. 

Since April 2009, the Commonwealth Government has committed over $86 million to support a number of important new initiatives.

Why did it take so long to have the National Plan endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments?

Timeframes to develop the National Plan and some key initiatives have progressed more slowly than anticipated.  The delays are associated with ensuring that state and territory stakeholders are fully engaged with the process.

Agreement to the National Plan and its outputs is considered crucial to the overall engagement of states and territories to achieve sustainable adherence to the longer term objective of reducing violence against women and their children.

The Commonwealth worked closely with states and territories during 2010 to ensure the outputs under the National Plan have cross jurisdictional support and are deliverable.

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Why doesn’t this announcement have funding?

Since April 2009, the Commonwealth Government has committed over $86 million to support a number of important new initiatives, including:

  • over $9million for Respectful Relationships education projects, with 17 projects already funded in 2009 and 2010;
  • ‘The Line’, a $17 million social marketing campaign launched by the Government in June 2010, aimed at encouraging young people to develop healthy, respectful relationships;
  • a $3.75 million grants program to support local community action to prevent violence against women;
  • $12.5 million for a the new 1800 RESPECT: National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, which commenced in October 2010;
  • a further $8.8 million for telephone support for frontline workers;
  • $0.75 million for counselling services for male victims of violence through Mensline;
  • improved services for victims of domestic violence through $4.8 million for Reform Projects;
  • $3 million for research into perpetrator interventions, and $4.6 million for a reward/incentive payment to States and Territories for promoting best practice perpetrator interventions;
  • evaluation of the impact of ‘victim-focused’ court practices reforms;
  • a $6.9 million National Centre of Excellence for Research into Sexual Assault and Family and Domestic Violence;
  • $14.5 million to repeat the Personal Safety Survey and the National Community Attitudes Survey; and
  • the development of a media code of practice on the reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence.

A key focus of the National Plan is for the Commonwealth, states and territories to work productively together, achieve lasting and real change, and respond to emerging priorities as new evidence becomes available.

Why isn’t more being done to support and fund the domestic violence and sexual assault services?

In addition to the supports and funding provided by state and territory governments for domestic violence and sexual assault services throughout Australia, the Commonwealth Government has committed $86 million to support a range of initiatives to reduce violence against women and their children under the National Plan.

A key focus of the National Plan is to educate the community about respectful relationships and to provide young people with the appropriate tools to be able to develop relationships that are free from violence.

  • over $9 million has been provided for Respectful Relationships education projects, with 17 projects already funded in 2009 and 2010; and
  • ‘The Line’, a $17 million social marketing campaign launched by the Government in June 2010, aimed at encouraging young people to develop healthy, respectful relationships.

As a long term measure, these primary prevention programs will reduce the incidence of violence against women and children significantly in our community.
The Commonwealth has committed $4.8 million to improve services for victims of domestic violence through Reform Projects. In addition the Commonwealth Government has committed $3.75 million towards a grants program to support local community action to prevent violence against women.

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What will the National Plan do to change the cultural factors that support violence against women?

While significant advances have been made, there are still many ways in which systemic discrimination against women occurs, and this has an impact on levels of violence perpetrated against them.  Broader social structures and norms have been shown to contribute to and even support violence against women. 

Other social factors, such as women’s limited economic independence compared to men, or their perceived roles in ‘holding the family together’ are also considered to play a role in the gendered nature of intimate partner and sexual violence.

The Commonwealth Government’s commitment of over $86 million to support of a range of important new initiatives will work to change organisational cultures, local communities, and broader social messages such as those portrayed in advertising and the media.  These include a suite of practical measures such as:

  • working through the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to support the inclusion of respectful relationships education in the Australian Curriculum, while continuing to implement and evaluate the 21 respectful relationships education projects targeted at young people to raise their awareness of ethical behaviour, develop protective behaviours and develop their skills in conducting respectful relationships;
  • encouraging young people to develop healthy and respectful relationships through the national social marketing campaign ‘The Line’, which includes an associated Facebook page, online advertising, traditional media such as magazine, newspaper and radio advertisements and editorials, as well as public relations activities;
  • funding the White Ribbon Foundation Workplaces program to establish and maintain an Australia wide approach to creating long term sustainable change in attitudes to violence and to implementing violence prevention strategies in Australian workplaces; and
  • funding community organisations and sporting codes to support community-level action to prevent domestic violence and encourage respectful relationships.

How will the Commonwealth, States and Territories work together to ensure the National Plan succeeds?

By working together and challenging the attitudes and behaviours that allow violence to occur anywhere in Australia, all governments are saying a very loud ‘NO’ to violence.  The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have provided an unprecedented level of collaboration in the development and implementation of the National Plan.

The National Plan complements the existing state and territory policies and programs in responding to violence against women. It ensures that there is a nationally coordinated, sustainable and long-term focus on addressing and preventing violence against women.

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What are the States and Territories doing to effectively tackle violence against women and their children?

In June 2010 the NSW Government launched a $50 million five-year Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan - Stop the Violence, End the Silence.  The Action Plan contains 91 actions across five key areas, including prevention and early intervention; protection, safety and justice; provision of services and support; building capacity; and data collection and research.

Since 2005, the Victorian Government has invested over $175 million in a number of significant whole-of-government reforms to reduce and prevent violence against women.  Victoria is focusing attention on the next major challenge - to stop the violence from starting.  A Right to Respect: Victoria’s Plan to Prevent Violence against Women 2010-2020, identifies strategies and initiatives to address the underlying causes of violence against women, promoting gender equality and respectful relationships.

The Queensland Government released its coordinated state strategy, For Our Sons and Daughters - A Queensland Government strategy to reduce domestic and family violence 2009-2014, in January 2010.  A 20-month trial of an integrated response to violence has been set up in Rockhampton, which involves a case-coordination team with police, child safety officers and a specialist domestic and family violence worker.

The Western Australian Family and Domestic Violence Strategic Plan 2009-2013 involves systemic reform of Western Australia’s response to family and domestic violence.  The reforms are currently being implemented by the Department for Child Protection and the Senior Officers’ Group for Family and Domestic Violence.

The Women’s Safety Strategy 2005–2010 (WSS) outlines the South Australian Government’s vision to address the issue of violence against women, including both rape and sexual assault and family and domestic violence.  The WSS has a broad focus from early intervention work focussed on preventing violence, through to community education to raise awareness about the level and complexity of violence against women.

Tasmania’s whole-of-government approach to reducing family violence, Safe at Home: A Criminal Justice Framework for Responding to Family Violence in Tasmania, was introduced in 2004 with major changes to legislation.  The Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) introduced economic and emotional abuse and intimidation as criminal offences and grounds for obtaining Family Violence Orders.  The act also recognises children as victims of family violence in their own right and amendments were made to the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997 to recognise exposure to family violence as a form of child abuse requiring mandatory reporting.

The Northern Territory uses a whole-of-government approach to family violence policy and programs, with the main policy framework called Building on our Strengths: A Framework for Action for Women in the Northern Territory 2008-2012.  The Territory became the only jurisdiction with mandatory reporting for domestic and family violence when the Government introduced its mandatory reporting scheme in March 2009.  The scheme was introduced with a $15 million package to combat violence and raise awareness. 

Australian Capital Territory initiatives are in accordance with the ACT Women’s Plan (2010-2015), which includes the objective to prevent violence against women and their children and instil an anti-violence culture in the community.  The ACT Office for Women has the lead role in the Territory’s initiatives to reduce violence against women.  The Courts Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 (ACT), introduced in December 2010, will legislate for a specialist Family Violence Court deal with domestic violence offences in the ACT.  The amending provisions recognise the complex nature of domestic violence and the need to protect victims, as well as the great personal and social harm that results from domestic violence in our community.

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Men are also victims of violence.  Why does the National Plan focus on women?

No form of violence in our community is acceptable.  The National Plan recognises that men and boys can be victims of domestic and family violence and sexual assault and has committed $0.75 million to expand counselling services for male victims of violence through Mensline.

While a small proportion of men are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the majority of people who experience this kind of violence are women in a home, at the hands of men they know.   Men are more likely to be the victims of violence from strangers and in public, so different strategies are required to address these different types of violence (ABS Personal Safety Survey, 2006).

In the 12 months leading up to the 2006 Personal Safety Survey, 65% of men were physically assaulted by a male stranger, whereas only 15% of women were physically assaulted by a male stranger.  Over the same duration, 31% of women were physically assaulted by a current or previous partner, compared to 4% of men.

According to the Personal Safety Survey, the overall experiences of physical assault for men and women, in the 12 months period prior to the survey, were different.

  • Of those men who were physically assaulted, 65% (316,700) were physically assaulted by a male stranger compared to 15% (35,500) of women who were physically assaulted by a male stranger.
  • Of those women who were physically assaulted, 31% (73,800) were physically assaulted by a current and/or previous partner compared to 4.4% (21,200) of men who were physically assaulted by a current and/or previous partner (ABS Personal Safety Survey, 2006).

The statistics clearly demonstrate that if you are a man, you are more likely to experience violence from another man.  Qualitative and international statistical research has also found significant differences in men’s and women’s general experiences of such violence.  For instance, male-to-female intimate partner violence is:

  • more likely to involve frequent or repeated acts rather than one-offs,
  • more likely to be part of a pattern of coercion and control,
  • more likely to induce fear, and
  • more likely to cause injury or death.

Women were also more likely to have been sexually abused than men.  Since the age of 15, the incidence of sexual violence has been different for women and men, with 17% of women experiencing sexual assault compared to 4.8% of men and 4.6% of women experiencing sexual threat compared to 0.9% of men.

As men are far more likely to perpetrate violence than women, the Commonwealth Government has committed $3 million for research into perpetrator treatment programs.  Additionally, $4.6 million has been committed for new programs in the States and Territories that will be most effective in stopping perpetrators committing acts of violence and for the development of national standards in perpetrator treatment programs.

The Government has also pursued the following initiatives to reduce violence against women and their children, which target both males and females and different age groups:

  • Respectful Relationships education projects to encourage the development of respectful, non-violent relationships;
  • ‘The Line’, a social marketing campaign specifically aimed at encouraging young people to develop healthy, respectful relationships; and
  • an 1800 RESPECT national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling service, which is available to both men and women.

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How will the National Plan make a lasting difference?

The 12 year time frame to 2022 has been set for the National Plan, to ensure that its vision of achieving a significant reduction in violence against women and their children will have a sufficient time to be realised and, therefore, make a lasting difference to their lives.

How will we know the National Plan is working?

The effectiveness of the National Plan will be measured by:

  • a reduced prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault;
  • an increased proportion of women who feel safe in their communities;
  • reduced deaths related to domestic violence and sexual assault; and
  • a reduced proportion of children exposed to their mother’s or carer’s experience of domestic violence.

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How is the National Plan different from other government initiatives?

Although States and Territories have primary carriage for responding to violence against women and their children, these programs and policies vary across jurisdictions and many women relocate as a consequence of experiencing violence. For these reasons all Australian governments recognise the need to work together to reduce violence against women and children.  Together, governments across all jurisdictions have agreed to focus on the following key outcomes under the National Plan.

National Outcome 1 – Communities are Safe and Free from Violence

Positive and respectful community attitudes are critical to Australian women and their children living free from violence in safe communities.  Research shows that social norms, attitudes and beliefs contribute to all forms of violence against women, whether it is emotional, psychological, economic, physical or sexual violence.

National Outcome 2 – Relationships are Respectful

Changing and shaping attitudes and behaviours of young people is critical to preventing domestic violence and sexual assault in the future.  While prevention at the community level is essential, governments will also support individuals to develop healthy respectful relationships. 

National Outcome 3 – Indigenous Communities are Strengthened

The National Plan is focussed on supporting Indigenous communities to develop local solutions to preventing violence. 

National Outcome 4 – Services Meet the Needs of Women and their Children Experiencing Violence

Specialist and mainstream services are critical to helping women rebuild their lives following violence. 

National Outcome 5 – Justice Responses are Effective

Domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes and the National Plan will drive more effective justice responses where violence has occurred.

National Outcome 6 – Perpetrators Stop their Violence and are Held to Account

Perpetrator interventions include a broad range of responses for perpetrators, including criminal justice and other legal responses and rehabilitation programs.  The primary objective of perpetrator interventions is to ensure the safety of women and their children.

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Why does the National Plan focus so heavily on primary prevention?

Primary prevention involves taking action to prevent the problem of violence before it occurs.  It means working to change the underlying causes of the problem, in the different environments where people live and work.  A number of strategies have been designed to assist in forming, implementing and assessing primary prevention at a national level, through different groups including:

  • encouraging schools, community, sporting and business groups to prevent, respond to, and speak out against violence;
  • fostering community initiatives to reduce alcohol and substance abuse;
  • changing community attitudes and behaviours through a national social marketing campaign complemented by local initiatives; and
  • promoting positive media representations of women.

How does the National Plan assist Indigenous communities to combat violence?

Indigenous women are 35 time more likely than non-Indigenous women to be hospitalised as a result of assaults related to family violence (ABS, 2006). In some communities, these statistics are much higher.

The latest research report into Indigenous violence in 2010 by the Australian Institute of Criminology, has found that the rate of violent offending by Indigenous persons is consistently higher than that of non-Indigenous persons.  The report also found that the levels of re-offending among violent Indigenous offenders are disproportionately higher than for non-Indigenous offenders, with alcohol consumption and abuse being a primary risk factor for Indigenous communities.

These statistics clearly demonstrate an overwhelming need to focus Australia’s national energies on the trend violence in Indigenous communities. 

The National Plan focuses on supporting Indigenous communities to develop local solutions to preventing violence.  This includes encouraging Indigenous women to have a stronger voice as community leaders and supporting Indigenous men to reject violence.  Improving economic outcomes and opportunities for Indigenous women are critical to reducing violence. The National Plan has been designed to improve:

  • the cultural appropriateness of mainstream and specialist services;
  • community responses to perpetrators of violence; and
  • services for Indigenous women and their children.

Under the National Plan the Australian Government has committed to focus on the needs of Indigenous communities to reduce violence against women and children by:

  • developing and trialling new ways to improve police responses and community planning for Indigenous family safety, including the development of community safety plans in remote areas;
  • implementing The Line, a social marketing campaign primarily aimed at youth to encourage and promote respectful relationships, with specific indigenous focused elements;
  • funding the Indigenous Women’s Program and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance to strengthen Indigenous women's leadership, representation, safety, wellbeing and economic status. Indigenous women will be supported to identify issues and develop their own solutions;
  • funding work to Close the Gap in Indigenous housing, health, early childhood, economic participation and remote service delivery;
  • supporting the establishment of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, with half the members being Indigenous women;
  • establishing the Healing Foundation to address trauma and aid healing in Indigenous communities, particularly for members of the Stolen Generations; 
  • providing a funding pool for quick and flexible responses to the high priority needs identified by Indigenous communities in 29 remote service delivery communities; 
  • providing training for practice nurses and Aboriginal health workers in regional and rural areas to undertake training on domestic violence;
  • providing 22 safe houses (in 15 remote communities and in Darwin and Alice Springs), a mobile protection team and Remote Family Support workers in the Northern Territory;
  • supporting victims of family violence through the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services program, and
  • providing Community Action Grants to assist women who experience violence and abuse.

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How will the National Plan be implemented over the next 12 years?

The National Plan will consist of four complementary three-year Action Plans as follows.

  • First Action Plan (2010–2013) – Building a Strong Foundation;
  • Second Action Plan (2013–2016) – Moving Ahead;
  • Third Action Plan (2016–2019) – Promising Results; and
  • Fourth Action Plan (2019–2022) – Turning the Corner.

Each three-year Action Plan will contribute to the broader outcomes of the National Plan, while allowing for States and Territories to tailor their efforts and act in a locally relevant and responsive way.  Importantly, each Action Plan will help to build the skills, systems and data for governments to improve policy making and service delivery.  This is essential to governments having the capacity to work together, support lasting change and respond to emerging priorities as new evidence becomes available.

How does the National Plan link with other Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reforms?

The National Plan has been designed to complement and enhance other COAG initiatives to bring about positive change for women and children experiencing violence, through:

  • Closing the Gap targets between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in housing, health, early childhood, economic participation and remote service delivery;
  • The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, with additional funding under the National Partnership on Social Housing and the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing to increase housing options for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and
  • Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business, which is aimed at reducing child abuse and neglect across Australia between 2009 -2020. 

How will the outcomes in National Plan be monitored?

A National Plan Implementation Panel will oversee the delivery of key government priorities in the first three-year Action Plan (2010 to 2013), whilst maintaining a focus on building stronger foundations for subsequent Action Plans to 2022.  The Implementation Panel will comprise government and non-government representatives. 

Will progress on the National Plan be made public?

Progress on the National Plan will be made public through annual reports made to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).  In addition, information about the National Plan will be made available on the websites of all relevant government departments across all States and Territories.

Content Updated: 7 June 2012