Family violence is everyone's problem

Everyone has the right to feel safe  at home. Family violence is unacceptable.

It is not a police problem or a government problem or a poor people's problem or a Canberra problem. It is everyone's problem.

Family violence does not discriminate, it is a national issue that touches the lives of Australians everywhere.

All of us need to stand up and say enough is enough. There is no place for family violence in our community.

The statistics are alarming. Close to half of all Australians over the age of 15 have experienced violence. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence. One in four Australian women over the age of 15 has experienced emotional abuse by a partner. A third of Australian women have experienced violence by someone known to them. On average, one Australian woman is killed by  her current or former partner each week.

These are national statistics, but we've had our share of tragedy in the ACT. It has to stop.


This month the attorney-general and I released three reports the government had commissioned into different aspects of how the ACT government responds to family violence.

The reports give a full picture of family violence in the ACT and all  highlight the need for a collaborative and cohesive response to family violence, and the importance of information sharing.

As a result, the government is addressing these reports together, not in isolation, to ensure action is taken early.

Our situation is not unique.  Much like the report of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, these three reports demonstrate how the ACT family violence system needs to change to meet the needs of victims of family violence and their families and hold perpetrators to account.

We need to change the way we approach the problem and we need to do more.

Like other jurisdictions, the ACT government has made significant investments in countering violence against women and their children.

The government, along with other states and territories, is taking action to introduce legislation to allow for the setting up of a national Domestic Violence Order Scheme, paving the way for information sharing at a national level.

As individuals we can do more. Those of us who have taken the White Ribbon Day Oath have committed to stand up against violence against women. We can all report our concerns about other instances of family violence. We can all educate our children about what is acceptable.

We know our dedicated frontline service providers are already working hard every day to respond to family violence and to help those Canberrans who have experienced it.

We know Canberrans are concerned by these statistics and these reports.

We also know the ACT government can do more to respond to this issue and we will do more.

The budget I will deliver next week will have the most comprehensive family violence prevention package in the history of the territory. The ACT reports and the Victorian royal commission, which calls for new sources of revenue to fund better services, make it clear governments need to invest to respond to this issue. In the territory budget, my government will make that investment.

The ACT government is committed to ensuring we introduce the right measures to identify the earliest warning signs and prevent family violence from occurring wherever possible. When family violence happens the clues are there, but they aren't necessarily visible to one arm of government. Even if there is evidence of family violence, one agency may not have all the information to assess ongoing risk. It's clear we need to address these issues of co-ordination and communication, and we will, so we have as full a picture as possible of individual risks.

It's clear we need to do more to support the victims of family violence to help them get out of dangerous situations – that means making the criminal justice process simpler and more supportive to navigate and making it easier to leave an unsafe home or remain safely in the family home if appropriate.

We need to do more about the perpetrators of this violence with a legal system that is better resourced to prosecute them, but also with more in place to stop these crimes before they happen through education, counselling and drug and alcohol treatment.

We will take these steps.

We need an integrated solution to tackle this issue. We need to work together as a government and as a community.

We need to drive the next phase of reform to deliver a government, community-backed response to family violence.

The whole community has to come together, but it is clear there is work the government can, and will, do to take the lead in keeping our families safe.

Put simply, this is about doing everything we can to stop our neighbours and friends being hurt in their homes.

A cohesive, significant, co-ordinated response to family violence will  be at the heart of the budget on June 7.

Andrew Barr is Chief Minister of the ACT.