Ask any woman, and she’ll tell you the many things that she does on a daily basis to keep herself safe. She might be forced to avoid catching public transport after a certain hour; only walk down brightly lit streets after dark; stay away from secluded public areas; keeping someone on standby to call if she feels unsafe; crossing the road if she sees a group of people coming towards her. And the list goes on. And on. And on.
The mental and emotional load that women carry around to protect their safety is relentless and exhausting. But the truth is, with one in four women experiencing physical violence from a current or former partner and one in six experiencing sexual assault in their lifetimes, the fact remains that women and girls are still not safe. Not in their homes, workplaces, the streets, or even in digital spaces.
Family violence is now the biggest health risk for women in Australia. That’s before smoking, alcohol and obesity, with on average at least one woman killed every week at the hands of a current or former partner. However, in October 2018 the numbers were even more disturbing; six women were killed in a week, all at the hands of male perpetrators.
These numbers are alarming. We urgently need change.
And there are positive signs of action. Family violence is now recognised as a serious problem in Australia, with devastating impacts on individuals, that ripples out into families and communities. In Victoria, the Government has stepped up since the Royal Commission into Family Violence and has committed to supporting all 227 recommendations (with 90 implemented so far).
But the reality is family violence sector has always been chronically underfunded and there are significant funding gaps emerging in Victoria. This is where the philanthropic sector must also step up and start playing a key role.
That’s why for our 2019 Small Grants Program, our focus is on safety for women and girls. We are particularly keen to support projects that work with diverse communities such as Aboriginal communities; CALD communities; LGBTIQA communities*; older Victorians; and Victorians with a disability and/or mental illness.
We know that many people from these communities face an increased risk of family violence. And the impacts of family violence for these groups can be intensified and prolonged as a result of social isolation, cultural and linguistic barriers, and limited access to appropriate services that recognise their specific needs.
Violence statistics and experts in the field show us that:
- Women from CALD backgrounds are less likely to report family violence. Some women on temporary visas have increased risks of family violence due to lack of access to service and eligibility barriers.
- For people who are gender non-conforming, non-binary, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual, or queer, their experiences of family violence may be compounded by a dearth of appropriate support services.
- Violence against women with disabilities needs to be urgently addressed. Recent stats show that women with disabilities are 40% more likely to experience domestic violence compared to other members of the community.
- First Nations people continue to receive inadequate funding and support with Aboriginal women 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence related assaults, compared to non-Aboriginal women .
There’s no denying the cold reality. It is abundantly clear: targeted investment is urgently needed and this is why we are committing our entire 2019 Small Grants Program towards safety.
We know from experience that our investment will make a difference. Since opening our doors in 1985, we have funded close to $3 million in circuit-breaking projects that address violence in our community and support the wellbeing of thousands of survivors. Projects like these make up the largest proportion of our funding, and we will to continue to support safer communities through progressive grant making.
As long as women are not safe, they will never be equal. We are committed to creating a world where women and girls can walk down the street without fear; where they can speak up without the threat of violence; and where they can go to work without being harassed.
Join us in 2019 as we invest in a safer future for women and girls, giving them the opportunity to fully participate in society, reach their full potential and thrive.
*applications must be for women-identifying, non-binary or gender non-conforming people.
Photo: Edmund Rice by Breeana Dunbar