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Priority area 1: Gender-based violence

Rates of violence against women in Australia have remained alarmingly high over recent decades, in spite of increased efforts across the country.

Equality cannot be achieved when so many women are experiencing violence at the hands of men – often from men they know. This violence can be deadly. The threat of violence alone affects women's lives and the choices they make.

Gender-based violence – including sexual violence and harassment, and domestic and family violence – is complex, intricately linked to women's position in society and is a product of power imbalances between men and women. This is exacerbated by systems that fail to hold perpetrators to account, enable violence to continue or put the onus for change on the women it has affected.

Many women, including First Nations women, migrant and refugee women, and women with disability experience unique and compounding forms of violence, and greater barriers to justice and recovery. Children – girls and boys – who witness or experience violence can face lifelong impacts.

These experiences of violence are often a driver of economic inequality and can be a consequence of it. The impact of violence can be immediate, enduring and intergenerational, with long-term health, wellbeing and economic consequences. For too many women, seeking justice when they've experienced violence only leads to more trauma.

To achieve gender equality, men's violence against women must end, so women can be and feel safe – at home, at school, at work, in their communities and online. The Government is committed to implementing effective interventions to help stop violence against women.

See Data snapshot – gender-based violence for further analysis.

What have we heard?

'The experience and threat of violence significantly curtails women's safety and equality, limiting their full and equal participation in public and private life as well as their health, wellbeing and economic outcomes. If women and gender diverse people are not safe, they are not equal.'

— Respondent, public survey, April 2023

What we'll do:
Australian Government actions

The Government is committed to effective action, including working with states and territories, examining systems, and challenging gender attitudes and stereotypes to improve women's safety.

Actions under way

To end gender-based violence, the Government has already made a number of investments and reforms. The Government has:

  • released the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 jointly with states and territories, and is working in partnership with states and territories on its implementation. The Government has invested $2.3 billion towards achieving the outcomes of the National Plan across the 2022–23 and 2023–24 Budgets
  • amended the Fair Work Act 2009 to introduce an entitlement to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave, expressly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace and make subjection to family and domestic violence a protected attribute
  • placed a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, as recommended under Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report
  • reformed the Family Law Act 1975, including the establishment of enhanced information flows between the family law courts and state and territory child protection, policing and firearms agencies to improve safety
  • released National Principles to Address Coercive Control in Family and Domestic Violence, to inform more effective and consistent responses to family and domestic violence
  • highlighted the need for tailored, culturally appropriate services and supports for diverse communities, including for men who seek to address their use of violence, through the National Plan.

The Government will continue to:

  • develop a standalone national plan to address violence against First Nations women and children through genuine partnership and shared decision-making with First Nations communities, and align this plan with key principles under Closing the Gap (including target 13) and Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women's Voices)
  • support Australia's national Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission to amplify the voices of people with lived experience of domestic, family and sexual violence; provide evidence-informed policy advice; and promote coordination and accountability towards ending gender-based violence
  • further embed the voices of lived experience, including through work of the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Lived Experience Advisory Council
  • support delivery of crisis and transitional housing options for women and children impacted by family and domestic violence, and older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness
  • fully implement the recommendations from the Respect@Work report, and recommendations from Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces
  • provide access to financial and other support to people experiencing family and domestic violence, to reduce financial insecurity when leaving a violent intimate partner relationship
  • take action to improve the experiences of victim-survivors of sexual violence in the justice system. This includes progressing reforms under the Standing Council of Attorneys‑General's Work Plan to Strengthen Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Assault 2022–27 and through establishing and responding to an Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into justice responses to sexual violence
  • address online child sexual abuse material and children's access to pornography through the eSafety Commissioner, supported by consent and respectful relationships programs
  • set expectations of digital platforms for user safety under the Basic Online Safety Expectations
  • develop a successor plan to the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse) 2019–2023
  • increase safety in higher education, including through the Australian Universities Accord and through the Action Plan to Address Gender-based Violence in Higher Education, to recognise the leading role the higher education sector can and should play to prevent and respond to gender-based violence
  • address gender-based violence among young people and improve prevention and early intervention practices, including through the release of the Commonwealth Consent Policy Framework.

What structural change looks like: reforming the family law system

In 2023, the Government made changes to reform the Family Law Act 1975 to make it simpler and safer for parents and children. It repealed complex and confusing provisions around parenting orders, including the 'presumption of equal shared parental responsibility', which was often misinterpreted as entitling each parent to equal time with their child. These have been replaced with a simpler and clearer set of considerations focused on what is in the child's best interests. The Government also introduced new powers for courts to address systems abuse and improved the use of Independent Children's Lawyers.

Processes for the division of property after separation must be responsive to family violence, including economic coercion. With that in mind, the Government has increased services for separating couples with small property pools. The Family Law Priority Property Pools program that provides quick, fair and affordable resolution of small property disputes is now accessible throughout the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and has been extended to the Family Court of Western Australia. For couples seeking resolution outside court, the Lawyer-Assisted Family Law Property Mediation program provides separating couples with support to reach agreement safely and fairly on small property disputes.

The Government has also made a suite of changes to Australia's domestic framework that supports the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. These changes make it clear that allegations of domestic violence are considered before return orders are made for children, make it easier for children's voices to be heard and for Independent Children's Lawyers to be appointed in these difficult proceedings. In addition, the Government has introduced a financial assistance scheme to enable eligible respondent parents to have equivalent access to legal representation as applicant parents.

For many women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, a protracted family law case only adds to the trauma they have experienced. These structural changes streamline the system and address harmful misconceptions, helping to ensure that the family law system is more responsive to the needs of women and children experiencing domestic and family violence.

Future directions

To further accelerate progress, directions for future effort include:

  • continuing to invest in evidence-based approaches to ending gender-based violence by responding to what's working
  • implementing further reforms to the family law system to better support those impacted by family violence, and considering improvements to how the family law system responds to victim-survivors, including ensuring cultural safety for First Nations victim-survivors
  • responding to the Senate Inquiry into Missing and Murdered First Nations women and children, following delivery of the report
  • building women's safety online through improving policies and practices, providing support services for victim-survivors, working with industry to provide greater transparency about harms, and responding to new technologies like generative artificial intelligence
  • responding to the National Disability Insurance Scheme Review with initiatives designed with a gender lens, and responding to the Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
  • ensuring legal mechanisms and Commonwealth–state partnership agreements, like the National Legal Assistance Partnership, can support women's justice outcomes, particularly for women who experience intersecting forms of disadvantage and discrimination
  • considering how the Government's powers as a regulator can be used to improve women's safety, including on alcohol, gambling and pornography
  • considering how Government's role in service delivery can be enhanced to support people experiencing violence
  • improving the national evidence base by working towards consistent terminology and strengthening collection and sharing of data, to better prevent and respond to violence.

What others can do:
action outside of government

Ending gender-based violence requires combined and concerted effort from and in all parts of society, including people and families; education settings and communities, businesses and workplaces; the domestic, family and sexual violence sector; frontline workers; media; and all levels of government.

Attitudes and behaviours play a vital role in challenging attitudes and stereotypes that help to prevent gender-based violence in relationships, families and communities.

Community organisations, education settings and workplaces can take action to improve women's safety, from prevention through to recovery. To change community attitudes around violence, sporting bodies and community organisations can use their influence to set an expectation of zero tolerance for violence. Schools and education institutions, in particular, can engage young people on the subject of respectful behaviours and relationships, and challenge gender norms in classrooms and the broader education environment.

Businesses and organisations must create workplaces that proactively address violence against women, including having clear and effective ways to respond to sexism, discrimination, harassment, bullying and abuse at all levels of their organisation. Staff can be trained in positive bystander behaviour to call out these behaviours, with role modelling from senior leadership. Employers can introduce or enhance workplace policies to assist employees experiencing or recovering from violence, such as communicating the entitlement to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave or offering additional paid family and domestic violence leave, and ensuring they adequately respond to perpetrators of violence within their workforces. The Respect@Work and Our Watch websites have resources to support people and organisations to understand, prevent and address violence against women and workplace sexual harassment.

Systems and institutions beyond government also have a role to play. The legal and justice systems must respond to violence in a trauma-informed way and hold perpetrators to account. To complement government funding, a gender lens can also be applied to philanthropy to increase investment in the critical issues, such as safety, which affect women and girls.

How we'll measure progress

The Government will measure and report on the following ambitions and outcomes to demonstrate that change is happening. Where applicable, these ambitions and outcomes align with the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032.

Ambition: End violence against women.

Key outcomes:

  • all people live free from violence and are safe at home, at school, at work, in the community and online
  • employers support an end to gender discrimination, and sexual harassment and violence in the workplace.

To achieve gender equality, men’s violence against women must end, so women can be and feel safe – at work, at school, at home, online and in their communities.

Data snapshot – gender-based violence

Violence against women is a problem of epidemic proportions in Australia – with at least 2,369 women killed by intimate partners or other family members in Australia between 1989–90 and 2022–23.

  • One in 3 women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.Note 19
  • One in 5 women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.Note 20
  • One in 2 women has experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.Note 21
  • Women are 3 times more likely than men to experience violence by an intimate partner.Note 22
  • One in 2 women has experienced technology-facilitated abuse at least once in their lifetime.Note 23

Violence against women is experienced at all ages and stages of life, and in every location across Australia. It is experienced differently based on people's identities, backgrounds, and social positions.

  • First Nations women are more than 33 times more likely to be hospitalised, and 6 times more likely to die from assault related to family violence than non-Indigenous women.Note 24
  • Women with disability experience higher rates of intimate partner violence, sexual violence and physical violence.Note 25 They can also experience specific forms of gender-based violence, including forced sterilisation, forced medical interventions and reproductive coercion.Note 26
  • Women from culturally, racially, linguistically and religiously diverse communities and migrant and refugee women face higher rates of violence and barriers to accessing services. They may also experience specific forms of violence, including migration-related abuse, dowry abuse, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and trafficking.Note 27
  • For older women, violence includes elder abuse, which can occur in non-family or domestic settings, such as from paid carers and sexual violence in residential aged care.Note 28
  • Girls experience much higher rates of sexual abuse and emotional abuse, and are more likely to experience multiple types of maltreatment compared to boys. More than one in 3 (37%) have experienced child sexual abuse compared to almost one in 5 boys (19%).Note 29
  • Women identifying as bisexual or lesbian are more likely to report having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime than those who identify as heterosexual.Note 30
  • 23% of women living outside major cities have experienced violence from a current or previous partner since the age of 15, compared with 15% of women living in major cities.Note 31
  • 70 to 90% of women in custody have experienced domestic, family and/or sexual violence.Note 32
  • Some people can experience multiple intersections of discrimination and violence, such as transgender women of colour who are more likely to report being assaulted by a stranger.Note 33
A balance scale

Consultations for this Strategy heard that the justice system is failing women who have experienced violence, and that too many perpetrators are not held to account. For victim-survivors of sexual assault who do report, prosecution rates are low and conviction rates are lower. Women who report intimate partner violence, particularly First Nations women, risk being misidentified as perpetrators. Seeking justice can be impeded by structural and institutional challenges, and financial, geographical, cultural or linguistic barriers,Note 34 as well as trauma.Note 35 Participation in the justice system can also result in financial determinations that ingrain women's poverty.Note 36

The Government is committed to effective action, including working with states and territories, examining systems, and challenging gender attitudes and stereotypes to improve women’s safety.