Funding announcement for domestic violence – is it about violence against women or another chance to vilify other cultures?
Last week the Federal Government announced $100 million dollars to address violence against women and children.
A most welcome announcement.
There is some sad irony that this announcement is being made when women’s shelters in NSW are closing down due to lack of funding – and the Queensland government are planning to do the same.
Nevertheless it is good news that the major focus of the new funding is on developing and testing
“a prototype for a National Domestic Violence Order (DVO) Scheme, to strengthen the identification and enforcement of DVOs across state and territory borders.”
This is indeed important news.
How then is this being reported in the media?
The media focus has been on forced marriages and genital mutilation.
These are certainly serious and concerning issues, although not reflective of the media release from the Government.
The Australian started this way:
“PROTECTION against genital mutilation is one of the measures to safeguard women under a new $100 million domestic violence plan announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.”
Further down in the report Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews
“We need to respond to harmful cultural practices in woman and their children.”
The other focus of media coverage is on women with disabilities, women from culturally diverse backgrounds and indigenous women.
It certainly is true that these women do have additional barriers within the current system in achieving safety from violence. (For more information about these barriers check out Women’s Safety After Separation website under Violence and Abuse).
For example, women who come to Australia on temporary visas to either partner with an Australian man, or with a partner who is also on a temporary visa do find it difficult to separate from an abusive man, given their temporary visa status. Developing better systems to help these women and lessen the barriers to safety is worthwhile.
There is always a dilemma when reporting on male abuse of indigenous women, migrant women and women from culturally diverse backgrounds.
It can feed into racism and cultural imperialism.
We risk sending out the wrong message
– that domestic violence is not a problem for white middle-class Australians
– that the problem lies in ‘other’ cultures – in cultures that not our norm.
I am suspicious that these headlines perpetuate this myth and feed into racism that is far too evident in Australia today.
And I wonder if this is a deliberate tactic on the part of the government and mainstream media.
The Coalition Government’s Immigration policy certainly points to the racism and cultural imperialism that exists.
And a news report from February 17, 2011 tends to confirm the tactics of the Coalition government, where the suggestion is that Mr Morrison is trying to pursue an anti-Muslim political strategy.
In NSW, under Going Home, Staying Home reforms, women-only refuges are being given to other organizations, most of them large religious charities:
“The other big change is that the ”big four” religious charities (Salvation Army, Mission Australia, Wesley Mission and St Vincent de Paul) are now the main non-government providers of services for homeless people. Of the $16 million handed out for inner-city services, $11 million has gone to the big four via an invitation-only tender process, according to a document prepared by a women’s services advocate. Another person close to the scene has calculated that 62 per of the tenders have gone to these charities, either as lead agencies or as partners.” Anne Summers
So let’s put them together
- anti-Muslim strategies,
- a focus on “other cultural practices” in relation to domestic violence,
- and women’s shelters in NSW being run by large Christian organisations.
What is the real agenda here?
Suspicions about the Liberal-National party’s statements about addressing domestic violence are also confirmed when we see the budget cuts and their impacts on women.
Cutting support to single mothers, cuts to women’s legal services and GP co-payment are all strategies which will reduce women’s abilities to escape from violent relationships.
Senator Larissa Waters from the Greens in her media release has stated:
“… the proposed budget cuts were “insensitive” to victims of domestic violence and could trap women in these violent relationships by cutting support for single parents and women’s legal services, and the GP co-payment would mean women in violent relationships may not be able to see their doctors without their partners knowing.”
“The Abbott Government’s abolition of the National Rental Affordability Scheme will force women back into violent homes and increase the pressure on already under-funded women’s shelters.”
The Greens have initiated a senate inquiry into domestic violence.
You can understand my skepticism that this current government is serious about bring about any significant change for women subjected to male violence.