Too much talk, not enough action? Federal government responses to domestic violence.

Catherine Kevin, Ann Curthoys, Zora Simic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


On 9 March 2021, Anne Summer, livestreamed her International Women’s Day keynote speech. Are ‘we as a country’, she asked ‘succeeding in reducing domestic and family violence against women’? Pointing to evidence which showed no discernible reduction since the inauguration of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022, her short answer was ‘No. We are not.’ To explain the failure of the National Plan to achieve its core objective – ‘a significant and sustained reduction in violence against women and children’ – Summers offered two interlinked explanations: ‘political failure and bureaucratic ineptitude, manifested in the absence of any indicators to measure progress’. She also hoped that ‘someone is working on a history of the National Plan because we need to know, in granular detail, how it went awry’.

A week later, thousands of women protested across the country against sexism and gendered violence, including in Parliament House. Soon after these #March4Justice rallies, the federal government’s Women’s Safety Taskforce announced a National Summit on Women’s Safety to be launched with an online national survey to discuss the next 12-year National Plan.

In swift response, people from across the domestic and family violence sector expressed cynicism about another ‘talk-fest’ at a time of unprecedented pressure on frontline services, pressure due in large part to the ‘shadow pandemic’: the upsurge in domestic violence under conditions of isolation and lockdown. The domestic violence crisis of which so many spoke seemed intractable. Even as overall rates of violence have fallen, rates of domestic, family and sexual violence have not. Indeed, national surveys show that since 2014, there have been increases in women being hospitalised and people seeking homelessness services as a result of family and domestic violence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLessons from history
Subtitle of host publicationLeading historians tackle Australia's greatest challenges
EditorsCarolyn Holbrook , Lyndon Megarrity, David Lowe
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherUniversity of New South Wales Press Ltd
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781742239323, 9781742238425
ISBN (Print)9781742237473
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Domestic violence
  • Violence
  • Women's safety
  • Family violence


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