Charity for girls’ equality Plan International Australia welcomes the Australian Government’s new 10-year national plan on reducing family violence, which calls for critical reforms to tackle the complex and intersecting factors – cultural, social, political and economic – that drive violence against women and their children.
The following statement can be attributed to Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena:
“This ambitious new National Plan demonstrates a renewed commitment to ending gender-based violence and child abuse within our lifetimes and centring victim survivors.
Racism and gender-based sexual violence are deeply entwined. We recognise the dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action plan and the importance of this being led and determined by First Nations leaders, as emphasised by the organisation Djirra. A review released by Plan International Australia last week highlighted the disproportionate rates of gender-based physical and sexual violence amongst First Nations girls, young women and gender diverse youth, with girls aged 10-14 at the greatest risk of sexual violence. First Nations experiences, voices and leadership are critical to addressing violence in Australia.
Along with urgent reforms to crisis housing for victim-survivors, this blueprint has also placed an emphasis on engaging men and boys in prevention processes, including by addressing toxic masculinity from a young age. For too long, gender-based violence has been seen as a “woman’s issue”. But it is men – as the overwhelming perpetrators of violence against all genders – who need to step up. As a society, together we need to address the culture of violence, where men take responsibility for violence against women and are a critical part of the solution.
We have seen the enormous impact that engaging men and supporting the next generation of boys to be allies can have through Plan International’s Champions of Change program. Run in almost 50 countries, the program works with fathers, teachers, sons and entire communities to identify and challenge harmful, negative masculinities that perpetuate discrimination and inequality. It supports men and boys to be good fathers, to develop healthy masculinities and challenge misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic views.
It is important that this plan also recognises sexual, street and online harassment as part of the continuum of sexual violence and abuse. Young people we have worked on in our Free to Be, Free to Be Online and Stand Up campaigning have been calling for greater action on these issues for a long time and it is good to see the government listening. There are a multitude of ways women can be abused, and harassment is one of these.
Additionally, in order to continue to address sexual, street and online harassment as part of the continuum of sexual violence and abuse, all forms of violence must be mitigated and addressed. Plan International Australia and the young people we work with have produced critical and timely research over recent years on these issues. Our Free to Be, Free to Be Online and Stand Up campaigning has been calling for greater action, investment and focus on violence that impacts young women and LGBTIQ+ people disproportionately.
This new National Plan can only be brought to life if it is funded and resourced adequately. After so many years of victim survivors, gender-based violence experts and community leaders advocating for urgent change, we need to honour their bravery and their voices – especially those we have lost – by ensuring there is a sharp focus on this National Plan in next week’s Federal Budget.