WESNET MEDIA RELEASE
20 February 2004
WESNET, the national peak advocacy body working on behalf of women and children who experience domestic and family violence, is dismayed that the planned media campaign to address domestic violence has been apparently stopped by the Commonwealth Government.
On the 17th February 20004 the 7.30 Report (ABC) disclosed that the Howard Government had decided to shelve the National Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault Campaign after two years of planning and 15 million dollars.
According to Maria Hagias, National Chairperson of WESNET “the reasons stated for pulling the campaign appear to be once again based on misinformed statements made by individuals who have no idea of the nature of domestic violence and its impact”. Ms Hagias said “it is women and children who suffer from domestic violence. It is a fact. Statistics clearly show that over 90% of perpetrators are male and overwhelmingly the victims are women and children”
According to Ms Hagias these attitudes are part of the problem in the community. “Domestic Violence is fundamentally about abuse in a relationship of unequal power and control. It often results in physical violence; however there is always the threat of harm and emotional damage to the victims involved” In spite of the alarmingly high statistics of reported assaults by women and their children, these senior officials still do not appear to see this issue as a priority. “Womens refuges turn women away on a daily basis because they are full” said Ms Hagias. “How many more women and children need to be killed before we invest as much into this as we do into preventing car accidents?” she said.
According to Pauline Woodbridge also from the National Board of WESNET, “valuable resources have once again been wasted.” According to Ms Woodbridge “experts working in the domestic violence sector know that domestic violence can come in many forms such as verbal, cultural, financial or emotional abuse and physical or sexual violence may not be present”.
Ms Woodbridge said “verbal and emotional abuse escalates- sometimes rapidly. If we are to prevent or intervene into relationships where domestic violence is present we must recognise these indicators”. She went on to say “Hundreds of women and children will continue to face abuse, violence and assault every day because many people in our community have unhelpful attitudes”
According to Ms Hagias, WESNET and many domestic violence services working across Australia were not aware of this campaign until it was pulled. Nor was there any consultation with WESNET to either advise on the quality of the messages in the media campaign, or to discuss the impact that such a campaign would have on the capacity of services to deal with increased need.
“Ultimately women and children facing violence continue to be victims not only within the context of their family but also by the system that should protect them,” said Ms Hagias.
Established in 1992, WESNET has almost 400 member services across Australia. More than 300 of these are womens refuges in locations ranging from busy metropolitan areas to isolated remote communities in central and northern Australia. WESNET works to ensure all women and children live free of domestic and family violence and its consequences.
For comment please call:
Maria Hagias, National Chairperson of WESNET: 0408 896774
Pauline Woodbridge, Queensland Delegate on: 07 4721 2888
Maxene Schulte, Northern Territory Delegate on : 08 8953 5912