Human Rights Defender Volume 28: Issue 3

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HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER Women’s Safety on Public Transport in Papua New Guinea


The New Law on Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in England and Wales: Progress But Not (Yet) A Solution?


Addressing economic abuse – can we bank on it?





AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE Website: Email: Twitter: @humanrightsUNSW LinkedIn: Australian Human Rights Institute

DR CLAIRE HIGGINS is a Senior Research Fellow at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, at UNSW Sydney. She is the author of ‘Asylum by Boat: origins of Australia’s refugee policy’ (NewSouth, 2017) and was a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar at Georgetown University, Washington DC, in 2018. Claire is the Editor-in-Chief for the Human Rights Defender. DR CAROLINE LENETTE is Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, UNSW Sydney and a member of the Forced Migration Research Network, an interdisciplinary network of leading researchers in refugee and migration studies. Caroline’s research explores how storytelling through creative means can influence decision-makers towards meaningful change, and the ethical considerations of collaborative, arts-based research. ANGELA KINTOMINAS is a Scientia PhD Scholar at UNSW Sydney. Her research interests are in the intersections of gender, socio-economic rights and migration. Her work is informed by feminist, socio-legal and interdisciplinary approaches to law. Angela is a Research Associate with the Social Policy Research Centre and the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative and a Teaching Fellow at UNSW Law. ANDY SYMINGTON is a PhD candidate at UNSW Law and an Associate of the Australian Human Rights Institute. He is researching business and human rights, focusing on the extraction of lithium in the high Andean salt flats of South America. In 2018 he was honoured to be the recipient of UNSW’s inaugural Judith Parker Wood Memorial Prize for human rights law. He is an experienced freelance writer and journalist. JOSH GIBSON is a current PhD Candidate and Garth Nettheim Doctoral Teaching Fellow at UNSW. As a member of both the Australian Human Rights Institute and Gilbert + Tobin Centre, Josh’s research interests include anything public law and human rights. His research focuses on human rights litigation, social movement strategies and the institutionalisation of human rights norms. Josh teaches human rights law at Macquarie University.

GUEST EDITOR: DR ANNI GETHIN is a health social scientist with an interest in domestic violence law reform. She coordinates the Brigid Project, a peer support charity for survivors of domestic violence, runs a research consulting business, and lectures in public health and criminology at Western Sydney University. To further her interests in law reform, Anni is completing a Juris Doctor at UNSW. Her current research focuses on legal remedies for victims of domestic violence, and perpetrator accountability.

© 2019 Human Rights Defender. The views expressed herein are those of the authors. The Australian Human Rights Institute accepts no liability for any comments or errors of fact. Copyright of articles is reserved by the Human Rights Defender. ISSN 1039-2637 CRICOS Provider Code. 00098G


PHOTOS Cover image: UN Women/ Mary Josephine Smare licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 In Papua New Guinea, UN Women Australia has partnered with Ginigoada Bisnis Development Foundation (Ginigoada) to expand the project Port Moresby: Safe City Free of Violence against Women and Girls to include safe public transport. This photograph from the 2013 launch coincided with the first anniversary of the Meri Seif Bus service. Contents page image: UN Women/Katherine Webber licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Student editor: Bonnie Hart Production manager: Gabrielle Dunlevy Designer: Stephanie Kay, On the Farm Creative Services





Intimate partner violence: The role of General Practitioners

Anni Gethin

Deepthi Iyer


The new law on controlling or coercive behaviour in England and Wales: Progress but not (yet) a solution? Cassandra Wiener


Strengthening laws to protect women from dowry abuse in Australia Anni Gethin


Women’s safety on public transport in Papua New Guinea Philip F Priestley


Aid Organisations reveal epidemic levels of violence against girls in Pacific and Timor-Leste Kavitha Suthanthiraraj


Maranguka Justice reinvestment


Intimate partner violence between queer womxn: Shining a light on the second closet

Alistair Ferguson and Jenny Lovric

Bonnie Hart


Responses to sexual violence in Australian universities Allison Henry


Addressing economic abuse – can we bank on it? Angela Kintominas



EDITORIAL: CAN WE BEGIN TO END THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN? ANNI GETHIN Dr Anni Gethin is a health social scientist with an interest in domestic violence law reform. She coordinates the Brigid Project, a peer support charity for survivors of domestic violence, runs a research consulting business, and lectures in public health and criminology at Western Sydney University. To further her interests in law reform, Anni is completing a Juris Doctor at UNSW. Her current research focuses on legal remedies for victims of domestic violence, and perpetrator accountability.

It is common to start articles about violence against women with a set of bleak statistics: the numbers of dead and injured women, the lifetime risks to women of sexual abuse, assault, harassment and domestic violence. The statistics never seem to improve, and at certain times they are worse, say over summer, at Christmas time, when a football final is on, or sometimes one month just for no apparent reason, men kill more women than they usually do. ‘It’s a war zone out there, that’s what people don’t realise’, my friend explained, about what it is like to live with an abusive partner. And war seems a far better descriptor of violence against women than the bland and perpetrator free ‘problem’ or ‘epidemic’. A war describes the experience of individual women constantly vigilant to psychological, physical or sexual attack by partners, former partners, or strangers. ‘A war against women’ captures the scope of seemingly endless and unstoppable gendered violence, with a vast front line of women’s private homes, and the war zone stretching into every institution and space in every society, with perpetrators everywhere, and mainly amongst the men we know. The sheer scale and complexity of violence against women can make it feel too vast and difficult a problem to ever solve: the causes seem both too close and personal, and at the same time too oblique and distant. If the roots of the war against women lie in patriarchy, do we have to wait for the overturn of patriarchy before women can live their lives free, safe and dignified?


‘Ain’t nobody got time for that!’ is the view of women sick and tired of being attacked and abused and feeling afraid.

This issue of Human Rights Defender aims to show that there is actually hope, that women, and also men, are starting to stop the war against women. But just as women are abused and attacked in a horrifying variety of ways on multiple fronts, so the responses and defences to violence need to be niche and fit what women want, and also properly address the many, many types of violence to which women are subjected. One of the biggest problems faced by women being abused by a partner is naming their experience as abuse, so they can start finding their way out of the living hell of domestic violence. The experience is terrifying and shameful, and typically women tell no one for a long time. Family doctors or ‘General Practitioners’ (GPs) provide an ideal and trusted ‘first person’ to start that difficult conversation. In this issue of Human Rights Defender, women’s health GP Dr Deepthi Iyer, explains how health professionals are at the forefront of working with victims of domestic violence, given both the prevalence of violence against women, and that being abused causes a range of physical and mental health problems that can bring a woman to see her doctor. Dr Iyer writes about how health


professional skills are starting to improve in working with victims of interpersonal violence, and the clear need for further training of doctors, starting at medical school. There are also signs of continuing progress in the legal sector. While we have moved a long way from it being lawful for men to beat and rape their wives (in some countries at least), there is still a lot of room for the law to more effectively protect women from violence. Two articles look at new laws against domestic violence, showing the value of both increasing the scope of criminalisation of domestic violence behaviours, and also of creating very specific domestic violence offences. Legal academic Cassandra Wiener discusses the new ‘coercive control laws’ enacted in England and Wales. These laws effectively criminalise patterns of violence and control and the extraordinary array of behaviours used by perpetrators to terrorise and restrict the autonomy of their victims. They are proving effective in giving legitimacy to the experience of victims, and in broadening judicial and community understandings that domestic violence is far more than physical assault. Dowry abuse is the subject of new Australian laws, and I talk to Melbourne psychiatrist and anti dowry abuse activist, Dr Manjula O’Connor for this issue. Dowry is an ancient custom where a bride’s family gives money and gifts to the groom on marriage. It is also a vehicle for perpetrating violence against women, where threats and violence are used to coerce more dowry. In Australia, an added abusive twist is the threat of withdrawing sponsorship for an Australian visa if the woman does not comply. Dowry abuse has been made specifically illegal in Victoria; Dr O’Connor reports that the new law has seen a fall in instances of dowry abuse, and calls for the enactment of this protection across all Australian jurisdictions. There are many parts of the world where it is not safe to simply be a woman or child, with little protection of any sort in private or public spaces. The Ginigoada Foundation’s Meri Seif Bus project in Papua New Guinea provides a women only bus service, and is a brilliant practical response to public harassment and violence against women. Program co-ordinator Philip F Priestley explains how the bright purple ‘women’s buses’ have changed the experience of some Papua New Guinea women, who are able to get to the shops and go about their

business without being attacked and robbed. The program also trains and employs women to drive the buses, and bus driver Gola Momo talks about her experiences driving a Meri Seif bus, and the personal benefits of gaining a job and new skills. In the Pacific region research indicates that millions of children are subjected to violent discipline in the home, and there are extremely high levels of sexual exploitation of, and physical violence towards girls. Save the Children’s Kavitha Suthanthiraraj discusses the embedded causes of the endemic abuse of children of Pacific countries, including high levels of gender inequality, the low status of children, poverty and economic stress, and weak child protection systems. Programs to address these issues face formidable challenges, and the article discusses community-based initiatives that are achieving some progress in challenging gender norms, helping parents to understand the impact of violence on children, and supporting children in developing resilience and help seeking behaviours. Australia’s own First People also face high rates of violence against women and children, and many feel Australia has completely failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in addressing family violence. We were pleased to be able to include an article about the successes of the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment project in Bourke, in northwestern New South Wales. Maranguka Founder and Executive Director Alistair Ferguson and Jenny Lovric of Just Reinvest NSW explain how high levels of crime and interpersonal violence in Bourke have been massively reduced by addressing the underlying causes and working holistically with victims, perpetrators and families. The program is driven by the local Aboriginal community with the Bourke Tribal Council applying and asserting its cultural authority across the whole system. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an urgent issue facing Australian queer womxn, and women who are subjected to violence from other women often feel particularly isolated, and experience what is known as a ‘second closet’ of shame in reporting abuse. Bonnie Hart, Human Rights Defender student editor spoke with LGBTQI support services for this issue. The article discusses the complex barriers which prevent queer womxn from accessing support, the development of specialised initiatives to address violence in same-sex relationships, and the urgent need for more resources to end the ‘second closet’.


Back in Australia the focus is on universities, where a recent report has shown an unexpectedly high level of violence and harassment of women on Australian campuses. These behaviours were rampant when I was an undergraduate in the early 1990s, so it is disturbing to see little has changed in nearly 30 years. Allison Henry a PhD Scholar at UNSW Sydney with research interests in the regulatory responses of universities to gender based violence, discusses the investigations into violence against women on universities and the huge range of responses that the universities have provided. While it is encouraging that the universities are finally acting on violence against women (e.g. many students will have seen the ‘Cup of Tea’ consent video 1), there have been calls for better monitoring and evaluation, to provide evidence that the multitude of initiatives are actually effective. The banking sector in Australia is also making some encouraging changes to practice, specifically to help victims of economic abuse. Economic abuse and financial control are common tactics of perpetrators of domestic

violence and elder abuse, involving for example, coercing victims into signing loan or credit card documents, preventing access to joint bank accounts, or emptying accounts if a woman leaves. Angela Kintominas, a PhD Scholar at UNSW Sydney with research interests in the intersections of gender and socio-economic rights, discusses new banking industry guidelines on financial abuse and the role of banks in identifying cases of economic abuse and helping women in regaining control of their finances. Collectively, these examples of initiatives to reduce violence against women show promise. We look forward to following up in future years and reviewing the findings of more rigorous research, so that we can see what impact these efforts have had on making women’s lives better and safer. Clearly there is still a very long way to go in ending the war against women, however, I found focussing on solutions to violence uplifting and actually very encouraging. I hope readers feel similarly inspired.

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, or this magazine raises issues you need to discuss, here are some numbers to contact from Australia: SERVICE





Call if you are in immediate danger


1800 737 732

24/7 national sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service.



A national number which can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your state.

The Immigrant Women’s Health Service

(02) 9726 4044 (02) 9726 1016

Specific information and services for immigrant and refugee women.

1. Tea Consent by Blue Seat Studios:



INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE: THE ROLE OF GENERAL PRACTITIONERS DEEPTHI IYER Dr Deepthi Iyer is a General Practitioner in Melbourne and a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne exploring Australian young women’s perceptions of dating and dating violence. She has a special clinical interest in women’s health, children and young people’s health, mental health and IPV.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is one of the most common forms of men’s violence against women and includes physical, sexual, emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by an intimate partner1, 2. IPV is gendered and most commonly perpetrated towards a woman by a current or former male intimate partner 2. Approximately 1 in 3 women in Australia have experienced physical violence, sexual violence, or emotional abuse by an intimate partner since the age of 153. IPV has similar prevalence within gender diverse populations but more research is required in this area to enable health systems to respond effectively and appropriately4. IPV is a prevalent and major public health and human rights issue that has significant impacts on the health, life expectancy and well-being of women1, 5, 6. Thus, IPV results in high utilisation of health services by these women, including primary health care resources7-9. In order to reduce the social and economic burden of IPV, an effective multisectoral health care response is required10. This article will focus on the role of general practice in addressing IPV. INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE IN THE GENERAL PRACTICE SETTING In Australia, approximately 1 in 10 women presenting to a general practitioner’s (GP) waiting room have experienced fear of a partner or expartner11. Women might not disclose to their GPs due to not recognising the abusive behaviour, due to fear of being judged, misunderstood or not believed, or perceiving the IPV as irrelevant to their health9, 12, 13. However, while most women

experiencing IPV do not seek help at all, those who do seek help perceive healthcare providers to be the most trusted professionals with whom to discuss IPV14. Women also tend to feel more satisfied with the care they receive from health professionals when compared to other professionals such as police and social services15. Women who have experienced IPV want GPs to ask about it11 and over 1 in 5 women make their first disclosure of IPV to their GP16, thus the primary care setting is well-placed to address IPV5. While the general practice setting is ideal for addressing IPV, several challenges impede effective management of this issue. GPs face barriers to asking about IPV, such as lack of time and expertise in this area and fear of offending the woman by asking12, 13. GPs also struggle to know how best to respond when a patient discloses IPV12, 13. Some GPs are unaware that IPV is a common problem, while others believe that addressing IPV might not make a difference to the woman’s situation12, 13. GPs also fear the consequences for the woman and worry about the perpetrator being present12. Indeed, having the perpetrator present with the woman during appointments is a barrier to addressing IPV and thus GPs are left with the task of finding creative ways to consult with the woman alone. Women’s impediments to disclosure include the presence of other family members in the clinic, cultural barriers, fear of escalating violence, and fear of potentially negative consequences, such as being reported to social services12, 13.


Photo: ©Eakachai Leesin/Shutterstock

THE GP’S ROLE IN IDENTIFYING AND RESPONDING TO PATIENTS EXPERIENCING FAMILY VIOLENCE Despite these challenges, general practice is uniquely placed to identify and respond to women experiencing IPV, using the principles of trauma and violence informed care 5, 10, 17. While there is a scarcity of guidelines and resources on effective management of IPV in healthcare settings, there is global consensus that health professionals, including GPs, need to know how to identify IPV and provide first line response10, 18. It is not recommended to routinely enquire about IPV to everyone seeking healthcare19, 20 ; instead, GPs should ask about IPV when a woman or her children present with red flags that indicate IPV as a cause or contributor1, 21.

Women experiencing IPV do not usually present to GPs with obvious injuries and stories of abuse and violence, but rather, they present with a range of mental and physical health problems and injuries, substance abuse, sexual and reproductive health issues, chronic health conditions, as well as unexplained medical symptoms1, 22.


In light of this, general practitioners should be trained to enquire about the safety of women and their children, as well as to provide supportive counselling14, 23. While woman-centred supportive counselling does not necessarily improve quality of life, it has been shown to improve depressive symptoms in women who have experienced IPV 23. The GP’s role is to provide nonjudgemental validation of the woman’s experience, respect her wishes and take the time to listen, address safety concerns, and provide appropriate follow up and referrals to specialised family violence services14, 18. Disclosures of IPV do not usually require mandatory reporting to the police by the GP, except in the context of child maltreatment or life threatening situations, where there are state and territory legal requirements that must be observed 19. CONCLUSION – WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE? Intimate partner violence is a serious and prevalent public health and human rights issue impacting on the health and well-being of women and their children. It is recommended that a strong multisector healthcare response is required to reduce the social and economic impacts of IPV and thus the role of general practice is a vital part of the solution10.


In light of the multiple barriers to addressing IPV in the general practice setting, health professional training needs to occur at multiple stages, including in the medical curricula prior to doctors entering professional practice and then also in the clinical setting10. Health professional students, including GP trainees would benefit from courses of longer durations in order to effectively impact on attitudes towards IPV 24. Practice-wide training is required to strengthen the confidence of GPs and their teams to most effectively identify and respond to IPV in the general practice setting 25, using the principles of trauma informed care17, while supported by ongoing

1. World Health Organization. Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. 2013. 2. Garcia-Moreno C, Guedes A, Knerr W. Understanding and addressing violence against women. World Health Organization,, Health WDoR; 2012. 3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2016. In: Australian Bureau of Statistics, editor. Canberra2016. 4. Campo M, Tayton S. Intimate partner violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer communities: Key issues.: Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Family Community Australia; 2015. 5. World Health Organization. Summary Report: WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women: Initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses.: World Health Organization,; 2005. 6. Campbell JC. Health consequences of intimate partner violence. The Lancet. 2002;359(9314):1331-6. 7. Loxton D, Schofield M, Hussain R. History of domestic violence and health service use among mid‐aged Australian women. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2004(4):383. 8. Bonomi AE, Anderson ML, Rivara FP. Health care utilization and costs associated with physical and non-physical intimate partner violence. Heal Serv Res. 2009;44(3):1052-67. 9. Mertin P, Moyle S, Veremeenko K. Intimate partner violence and women’s presentations in general practice settings: Barriers to disclosure and implications for therapeutic interventions. 2015. p. 140-6. 10. García-Moreno C, Hegarty K, d’Oliveira AFL, Koziol-McLain J, Colombini M, Feder G. Series: The health-systems response to violence against women. The Lancet. 2015;385:1567-79. 11. Hegarty KL, O’Doherty L, Astbury J, Gunn J. Identifying intimate partner violence when screening for health and lifestyle issues among women attending general practice. Australian Journal of Primary Health. 2012;18(4):327-31. 12. Rose D, Trevillion K, Woodall A, Morgan C, Feder G, Howard L. Barriers and facilitators of disclosures of domestic violence by mental health service users: qualitative study. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2011;198(3):189-94. 13. Yeung H, Chowdhury N, Malpass A, Feder GS. Responding to Domestic Violence in General Practice: A Qualitative Study on Perceptions and Experiences. International Journal of Family Medicine. 2012;2012:7. 14. Feder GS, Hutson M, Ramsay J, Taket AR. Women exposed to intimate partner violence: expectations and experiences when

supervision and mentorship10. Training needs to include enhancing communication competency to aid disclosure of IPV, and also linking GP clinics to external family violence services to optimise effective coordination with referral networks10, 25, 26. Interactive training that includes practical application of knowledge to clinical practice is most helpful, as opposed to theoretical or didactic teaching methods24. Evidence-based knowledge in addressing IPV in primary care is slowly growing, but there is an ongoing need for further research investigating interventions to prevent and respond effectively to IPV, particularly in marginalised populations 4, 10.







21. 22.





they encounter health care professionals: a meta-analysis of qualitative studies. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(1):22-37. Djikanovic B, Wong SLF, Jansen HAFM, Koso S, Simic S, Otasevic S, et al. Help-seeking behaviour of Serbian women who experienced intimate partner violence. Family practice. 2012;29(2):189-95. Spangaro JM, Zwi AB, Poulos RG, Man WYN. Who tells and what happens: disclosure and health service responses to screening for intimate partner violence. Health & Social Care In The Community. 2010;18(6):671-80. Ponic P, Varcoe C, Smutylo T. Trauma- (and Violence-) Informed Approaches to Supporting Victims of Violence: Policy and Practice Considerations. In: Department of Justice, editor. Canada2016. World Health Organization. Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: A clinical handbook Field testing version. Geneva, Switzerland; 2014. World Health Organization. Responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women: WHO clinical and policy guidelines. 2013. O’Doherty LJ, Taft A, Hegarty K, Ramsay J, Davidson LL, Feder G. Screening women for intimate partner violence in healthcare settings: abridged Cochrane systematic review and metaanalysis. BMJ : British Medical Journal. 2014;348:g2913. Bedi G, Goddard C. Intimate Partner Violence: What are the impacts on children? Australian Psychologist. 2007;42:66-77. Lum On M, Ayre J, Webster K, Moon L. Examination of the health outcomes of intimate partner violence againt women: State of knowledge paper. Sydney: Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS). 2016. Hegarty K, O’Doherty L, Taft A, Chondros P, Brown S, Valpied J, et al. Screening and counselling in the primary care setting for women who have experienced intimate partner violence (WEAVE): a cluster randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2013;382(9888):249-58. Sammut D, Kuruppu J, Hegarty K, Bradbury-Jones C. Which Violence Against Women Educational Strategies Are Effective for Prequalifying Health-Care Students?: A Systematic Review. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2019:1524838019843198. Lewis NV, Dowrick A, Sohal A, Feder G, Griffiths C. Implementation of the Identification and Referral to Improve Safety program for patients with experience of domestic violence and abuse: A theory‐based mixed‐method process evaluation. Health & Social Care in the Community. 2019;27(4):e298-e312. Tan E, O’Doherty L, Hegarty K. GPs’ communication skills - a study into women’s comfort to disclose intimate partner violence. Australian Family Physician. 2012;41(7):513-7.



CASSANDRA WIENER Cassandra Wiener was a corporate litigator at Simmons & Simmons LLP for ten years, following which she managed a Citizens Advice Bureau for two years before entering academia. She was a Teaching Fellow (Senior Lecturer) at the University of Law 2002 - 2012, where she taught the Law of Contract, Employment and Criminal Law. In 2012 Cassandra left the University of Law to pursue her own research interests in human rights at the University of Sussex.

That domestic abuse is ‘a global health pandemic of epic proportions’1 and a worldwide emergency requiring immediate political attention is not new knowledge.

In Europe, domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for women aged 16 – 44, more than cancer or traffic accidents;2 and one in four women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime.3 In England and Wales, between two and three women will lose their lives each week at the hands of their partners or ex-partners.4 Perhaps even more shockingly, between four and ten victims of domestic abuse will take their own lives each week.5 Despite the recognition of the magnitude and impact of domestic abuse, this has not translated into reduced incidence rates or greater safety for women. This article assesses a recent attempt by the government in England and Wales to put this right, with the introduction of s. 76 Serious Crime Act 2015, creating a new crime of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship. Prior to the introduction of s. 76 Serious Crime Act, the piece of law most often used to prosecute domestic abuse in England and Wales was the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (the OAPA). The OAPA was originally drafted to combat public order offences such as street fights and pub brawls, creating crimes such as ABH (actual bodily harm) and GBH (grievous bodily harm). The focus of these crimes is not on context but on isolated physical injuries that are visible and linked to specific incidents of attack. This method of categorisation is only really relevant to the ‘stranger’ attacks for which it was designed. Domestic abuse is different.



Survivors of domestic abuse report that physical injuries are of almost no consequence compared to being kept in a ‘state of siege’, a campaign of terror which keeps a woman in constant fear for her own and her children’s safety. Perpetrators often ensure the compliance of their victims by using gestures or looks that have meaning for victims but not to the outside world.

Jessica, a specialist adviser to women experiencing domestic abuse told me of a client whose ordeal began on her honeymoon: Her story was … that he strangled her with the bathroom towel. Really, really badly. There was a horrific, traumatic incident when he strangled her almost to death with the bathroom towel ... So then after that for that six years of their relationship … he never ever again used physical violence on her but whenever there was a moment of tension he would go to the bathroom and he would bring out a towel, and he would put it on the table. And that was the sign; and then she would just be, like, “and then I would just give in – I would just do whatever it is he was trying to get me to do”.6

The siege is made possible by implied threats – which, like the bathroom towel on the kitchen table, can seem innocuous unless you ask the right questions. Accompanying the threats is emotional abuse which can be humiliating and degrading and destroys a victim’s self esteem. Enforced isolation is common, which makes it much harder to resist the story that they are being told by their abuser. Economic abuse is a perpetrator’s best friend, as it allows him to control his victim’s actions. One survivor told me she could not relocate to a different café to talk to me, because her partner had ‘given’ her the exact money for her journey home. Constant surveillance means that a perpetrator always knows whether or not his victim is obeying him. Survivors have told me about being followed to work, watched at work, even monitored while they are on the toilet. The horrifying fear and instability at the core of victims’ lives makes physical pain from assault almost insignificant: or, as one survivor put it, ‘it was the least of my worries’. Anti-domestic abuse campaigners have long argued that this disconnect – between what survivors tell us about their experiences and how the criminal law conceives of a crime – affects all stages of the criminal justice process, from assessing risk, through to prosecutions and convictions. The new law represents a significant change, and a number of factors came together to make this possible. In 2007, Stark’s influential book, ‘Coercive Control’ facilitated a better understanding of what domestic abuse entails. From 2012, the portrayal of coercive control in the popular radio show ‘the Archers’ had the nation in its grip and generated unprecedented media coverage. In 2014, a critical report of the police response to domestic abuse was published7: a key criticism was the police inability to identify coercive control. Against this backdrop of media interest and political engagement a hard-hitting campaign was run by a coalition of women’s groups who argued convincingly of the need for reform.8 It was with considerable cross party support that section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (s. 76) came into force on 29 December 2015 making ‘controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship’ a criminal offence for the first time in England and Wales, and carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison. Before assessing how s. 76 is working in practice it is worth emphasising that recognising coercive control as a crime represents revolutionary progress. Instead of pinpointing abuse to times and places, prosecutors have to show that the offending behaviour was ‘repeated’ or ‘continuous’. Early reporting and empirical work with judges suggest that this has been a success.9


Women’s groups report on the impact they are witnessing:

For our sector, it’s absolutely a gift because we are now able to turn around to our survivors and say: this is a criminal offence. So it values and puts an evidence base underneath what they are experiencing. It is a criminal offence that he was behaving like that. It is just so valuable to us.10 It is perhaps too much to expect the implementation of an innovative new offence that requires a new way of thinking from police and prosecutors to go entirely smoothly. The prosecution counts are, still, undeniably disappointingly low.11 The police mindset of targeting discrete assaults is hard to abandon. Police training is available, and essential, but is expensive and has not been made compulsory. Despite these difficulties, s. 76 is changing the way that criminal justice agencies deal with domestic abuse for the better, albeit slowly. If police receive proper training, a focus on coercive control will assist them to make better and more informed decisions about risk, helping them to keep victims safe. Allowing the crucial notion of coercion into the courtroom encourages survivors to reframe their stories of abuse in a way that more accurately portrays both the wrong of the abuse and the harms that they have experienced as a result. This could allow increased successful prosecutions and is already allowing for more appropriate sentencing in domestic abuse cases. CONCLUSIONS It is not yet clear what, if any, impact s. 76 will have on domestic homicide statistics, and domestic homicide is not a ‘problem’ that the criminal law can ‘fix’. Domestic homicide is at an all-time high: an unthinkable 173 people lost their lives in the UK last year at the hands of their partners or ex-partners.12 There is no doubt, however, that recognising domestic abuse for what it is in the courtroom is the next chapter of a worldwide developing criminal justice response to domestic abuse and coercive control. Section 76 offers a new approach. We now need to see the immediate implementation of national-level compulsory training to help s. 76 fulfil its undoubted potential.

1. WHO, ‘Violence Against Women: A global health problem of epic proportions’ (News Release); 2013 20 June; available from: against_women_20130620/en/ 2. Amnesty International, Irish Section Report Justice and Accountability: Stop violence against women; 2013; [cited 2013 18 Feb] available from and_accountability.pdf 3. Council of Europe, Recommendation 2002/5 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the Protection of Women Against Violence. Council of Europe; 2002 4. Office for National Statistics, Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2018 available from https://www.ons. bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/ yearendingmarch2018 5. Monckton Smith J, Szymanska K, Haile S, Exploring the relationship between stalking and homicide, Gloucestershire: Homicide Research Group University of Gloucestershire; 2017. 13 p. Available from Report%2004.17%20-%20finalsmall.pdf 6. In an interview with ‘Sue’, Hammersmith Police Station (August 2016)


7. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate Constabulary, Everyone’s business: Improving the police response to domestic abuse. United Kingdom: HMIC; 2014. P 157. 8. Women’s Aid, the Sara Charlton Foundation, and Paladin. [cited 2016 20 October]. Available from: domestic-violence-law-reform-campaign-celebratesannouncement-new-law-will-enforceable-end-year/ 9. See, for an example of positive media reporting Stephen Wilkie, ‘Shetland man jailed for 30 years of abusing wife’ Express (11 October 2017) 10. In an interview with ‘Jen’ (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor – name changed) (January 2016) 11. There were only 235 successful prosecutions last year see ONS, Domestic Abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2018, available from: peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/ domesticabusefindingsfromthecrimesurveyforenglandandwales/ yearendingmarch2018. This is in the context of an estimated 1.5 million women experiencing domestic abuse 12. MacIntosh T, Swann S. Domestic violence killings reach five year high. BBC News [Internet] 2019 Sept 20 [cited 2019 Oct 3]. Available from:



Dowry is an ancient custom where cash, gold and other gifts are transferred from the wife’s family to the husband’s family on marriage. The custom is illegal in many countries, and dowry can also be a direct source of abuse and violence toward women. Dowry abuse occurs where further dowry payments are coerced from a woman and her family, through means such as threats, blackmail, and harassment; it is also associated with horrific violence toward women including, beatings, rape, wife burning, murder, and forced suicide. In India over 7000 women a year are killed in relation to dowry.1 While dowry is not a mainstream Australian custom, dowry abuse is a growing problem in Australia from within cultures that practice dowry, including Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Middle Eastern communities.2 The issues in Australia particularly centre around visa sponsorships and migration, with the prospect of Australian residential status through marriage providing additional coercive power to abusive men and their families. Families of sons who are Australian citizens or permanent residents can feel, in the first instance, that they are entitled to a large dowry from a non-Australian resident partner; charities have reported instances of demands for exorbitant

weddings in India of up to $80,000,3 and a dowry of $500,000 in exchange for Australian residency.4 Additional dowry can then be extorted by threats to not proceed with the marriage. The woman’s family is placed in a situation where they must either pay up, or risk the woman being deported from Australia due to not meeting the fiancé visa requirements, or being abandoned without support in Australia. I spoke to Australian anti-dowry abuse activist Dr Manjula O’Connor about the situation in Australia. Dr O’Connor is the founder of the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health and a Melbourne based psychiatrist. She works with survivors of family violence from Indian and South Asian communities, seeing around 60 women every year who have been abused. A large proportion of her patients have been victims of abuse related to extorting or coercing dowry. Dr O’Connor explained that victims of dowry abuse in Australia are particularly vulnerable and face substantial barriers to seeking help. A failed engagement or divorce is highly shameful, so a woman may feel compelled to try and meet demands for more money and consumer goods, and to endure violence and abuse from a man angry that she has provided ‘insufficient dowry’. Dowry abuse is frequently perpetrated by the abuser’s family as well. Perpetrators can think they are doing nothing wrong, as the conduct is common in their countries of origin and not illegal in Australia (except in Victoria). Women have also found their own families unsupportive (despite being extorted for excessive dowry), often experiencing pressure from the family to remain with an abusive husband.


Photo: ©cjmacer/Shutterstock

Victims of dowry abuse commonly find themselves subjected to other forms of domestic violence. This includes physical assaults, emotional abuse, and coercive control measures such as being isolated, locked in the house, prevented from working and having all their money taken. If a woman does manage to escape her abuser, or is thrown out of her home or abandoned by a partner, she can end up homeless and destitute unless helped by charities. Particularly vulnerable are women who come to Australia to get married on a tourist rather than partner visa (as is quite common); these women cannot access subsidised health and support services, or receive financial assistance from Centrelink welfare payments or Medicare. Dowry abuse is a pressing legal issue in Australia. Submissions to the 2019 Senate inquiry into dowry abuse showed that Australian migration laws are allowing for the perpetration of violence against women.5 Specifically, the inquiry showed that women who come to Australia on the promise of marriage are not adequately protected from dowry abuse and other forms of domestic violence. Although the Australian Migration Act has a regulation to avoid deportation for victims of domestic violence who are


on partner or prospective marriage visas,6 the definition of family violence is very narrow and does not include dowry abuse. The regulation also does not extend to temporary visa holders, so women on tourist visas have no protection from deportation if the promised marriage and partner visa does not eventuate – making them especially vulnerable to threats and coercion by abusive partners. State and territory family violence laws also provide uncertain protection against dowry abuse and vary markedly by jurisdiction. In order to address these issues, the Senate committee recommended making changes to migration regulations, the Family Law Act and Australian state and territory family violence laws.5 In Dr O’Connor’s view, implementing these recommendations will significantly address dowry abuse, and she has already seen a positive impact of recent changes to family violence laws in Victoria. Dowry abuse was added to the Family Violence Protection Act (Vic) in 2018, as a specific form of family violence, namely: “using coercion, threats, physical abuse or emotional or psychological abuse to demand or receive dowry, either before or after a marriage”.7


Dr O’Connor observed that since the change in legislation there has been a substantial drop in the numbers of women seeking her help for dowry abuse. In 2012, 75% of her patients who were being subjected to family violence were also experiencing dowry abuse, this proportion decreased to 40% of her patients in 2018. “Once the men understand that what they are doing is illegal, it does change the behaviour,” Dr O’Connor explained. Apart from NSW, all Australian state and territory family violence legislation includes economic abuse as a form of family violence 8-10. Economic abuse can cover some of the abusive behaviours associated with dowry abuse, but the provisions centre on perpetrator behaviour such as taking the victim’s wages or Centrelink payments, restricting access to financial support, controlling all the finances or disposing of joint assets. As such, the legislative wording does not match the conduct of dowry abuse, which involves extorting resources from a woman’s family with the implied threats of abandonment, deportation from Australia, and cultural and gender shaming. Police may find no grounds for a criminal prosecution or to apply for a protection order for the woman. Including dowry abuse in the legislative definitions of family violence across all Australian jurisdictions will

1. Nigam, C. 21 lives lost to dowry every day across India; conviction rate less than 35 per cent. India Today [Internet], 2017 April 22 [cited 2019 Sep 18]; Available from: mail-today/story/dowry-deaths-national-crime-records-bureauconviction-rate-972874-2017-04-22 2. State of Victoria, Royal Commission into Family Violence, Report and Recommendations, Vol Melbourne: State of Victoria; 2016. 286 p. (Parl Paper No.: 132 (2014–16)) 3. Oorja Foundation, Submission. In The Australian Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2019. Submission 49 4. Anti-Slavery Australia, Submission. In The Australian Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2019. Submission 47 5. The Australian Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia; Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2019. 106 p. 6. Migration Regulations 1994 (Cwlth) 7. Family Violence Protection Act 2018 (Vic) 8. Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA)

mean vulnerable women are far better protected from this specific form of abuse. In terms of Australian migration regulations, the Senate Committee has recommended a broadening of the definition of family violence to align with that in the Family Law Act, and to specifically extend protection to women experiencing dowry abuse.5 They have also recommended that protection be extended to victims of family violence on temporary visas, and to introduce a ‘Woman at Risk in Australia’ visa, to ensure that abused women on tourist visas have some protection.5 Criminalisation of dowry itself in Australia is also seen as an important step in stopping dowry abuse. Dr O’Connor and organisations in India and Australia have called for dowry to be made illegal in Australia, as it is in India.11-13 The practice is fundamentally exploitative of women, Dr O’Connor argues: “the young women and their parents have been hoodwinked by society into continuing the practice of dowry believing that it is their duty to give, and the grooms have been groomed to believe that they are entitled to receive the bride’s family wealth.” Other groups have argued that dowry is a legitimate cultural practice, and enforcing a prohibition on dowry is likely to be difficult. For example, the practice has been illegal in India since 1961, but is still widely practiced.14 There is strong agreement, however, that clear laws against dowry abuse are needed in Australia, and that these laws are likely to be effective in protecting vulnerable women from coercion, violence and abuse to extract more dowry.

9. Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) 10. Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT) 11. United India Association;. Submission. In The Australian Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2019. Submission 8 12. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Submission. In The Australian Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2019. Submission 9 13. The Indian (SubContinent) Crisis & Support Agency (ICSA), Submission. In The Australian Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2019. Submission 50 14. Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and inTouch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence (GSANZ and inTouch), Submission. In The Australian Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2019. Submission 6


WOMEN’S SAFETY ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA PHILIP F PRIESTLEY Philip F Priestley is Assistant Foundation Manager MSB, M-Bus, Vehicle Operations Manager at Ginigoada Foundation in Port Moresby. Twitter: @Ginigoada  Facebook: @GinigoadaFoundation

Papua New Guinea was once called “like every place you have never been” or “The Land of the Unexpected”. Today, this motto has changed from Unexpected to Expected when it comes to women’s lack of safety on public transport.

When women and girls have to wait at a bus stop, they are either sexually harassed by being touched or verbally abused using sexually explicit insults, or have their bags stolen. These assaults can occur on a daily basis. Working women and young schoolgirls are easy targets and at risk of being attacked.

I work with a non-government organisation called The Ginigoada Foundation in Port Moresby (the capital city) with an Office in Lae (our second largest city). We train people living in villages and settlements in life skills, adult literacy, first aid, and financial literacy. We have a multi learning centre (MLC) teaching courses like computer skills, accounting, front desk and reception, hospitality and tourism.

Why does this happen? I have lived and worked in Papua New Guinea for 38 years (I am originally from England) and I have observed the way the country has changed since I came here for a twoweek holiday from Australia where I was living in 1981. PNG is blessed with abundant natural resources.

We also run two bus services to carry women and girls only. In 2014, our then foundation manager noticed that women standing at bus stops were finding it hard to board a bus in the mornings due to young men crowding the doorway, climbing into the bus through the windows, and taking up all the seats, causing women to be left behind. Women were subject to different forms of sexual harassment, had their string bags (Bilums) cut open with razor blades or stolen either at the bus stop, or on the bus itself, and no one would attempt to stop this from happening. These assaults also occurred on the streets of all our major centres.

Our cities are growing because of the number of settlements created by rural and other province people moving at a rate too fast for the government to keep up with. This in turn causes overcrowding, poverty, limited work, and growing crime rates. It is impossible for the common worker to buy or own his or her own home, as housing is too expensive.

The foundation manager created a new bus service called the “Meri Seif Bus” (Pidgin for Women Safe Bus). The first bus was painted purple (symbolic of International Women’s Day) and only picked up women and girls. It proved to be a big success and the women seemed very grateful that this bus service created only for them was free of charge.



Photo: ©UN Women/Mary Josephine Smare

By 2015, and with the help of the national capital district governor who supplied more buses to The Ginigoada Foundation, we had two buses operating around various areas of the city. UN Women came on board with funding to run the buses, which was of great help. In 2017, the Australian branch of UN Women raised more funds to purchase a brand new 30-Seater Mitsubishi Rosa Bus. It was covered with signs representing the work that UN Women did in PNG, covering all aspects of women and girls’ safety on the public transport system and in public space.

Between 2017 and 2018, over 400,000 women and girls used our Meri Seif Buses, and because of this success, UN Women Australia once more raised money for the purchase of a fourth bus. These four buses helped women and girls to travel safely and without the threat of sexual harassment that they had experienced before. In mid-2017, an Australian bus company, Ventura Bus Lines (Melbourne), heard about the Meri Seif Buses and

donated four of its older model 74-passenger buses to The Ginigoada Foundation, with the help of Rotary International to ship them to Port Moresby at no cost to the foundation. This initiative gave us the opportunity to develop the second phase of our operation, which was to register our buses as Public Motor Vehicles (PMV) so we could charge fares. This bus line, called the M-Bus or Meri Bus, was developed so that when the current donors’ contracts for Meri Seif Buses end in 2021, we should have a fully sustainable, registered bus company operating independently. These four additional buses came into operation in July 2018, along with two other 29-seater buses donated by a local vehicle hire company. This gave us the chance to send our buses further out of town to transport women and young girls who were experiencing similar situations of harassment. But we didn’t stop there. When we created this bus service, it was decided to train women drivers to operate these buses and act as a way of developing a future for women to engage in work only men have done before. Benefits include self-esteem and working, as most of these women have never worked before.


IN CONCLUSION Our bus services have created a safer environment with reduced sexual harassment, incidences of bag snatching, and verbal and or sexual abuse, which women and girls were subjected to on a daily basis beforehand. This initiative has received recognition from the government, local churches, and the police. In May 2019, we shipped two Meri Seif Buses to Lae in the hope of improving women’s safety on public transport in this area. We are hopeful that we can get more buses to expand this service to a wider area, especially in some of the rural areas, to bring village women to town markets enabling them to sell their products to sustain their families. Since writing this article, the Ginigoada Foundation has been gifted another four buses from China by our government, which were used during the recent APEC meetings held in Port Moresby in 2018.

Gola Momo, 41, is one of the women bus drivers in the crowded city of Port Moresby, carrying up to 400 women and girls every Monday to Friday. Gola’s parents could not afford to send her to school after grade 10, and although her husband encouraged her to continue schooling at an adult learning centre, finding a good job was hard. Now, the mother of four children aged between 20 and seven-years old is a bus driver for Meri Seif. Here, Gola talks about how it has changed her life.

I think that I speak for my sisters that are engaged as female drivers. The main benefit we see is the fact that we are employed in a business that is dominated by males only and has been since PMVs (Public Motor Vehicles) first came onto the roads in PNG. It is very hard for females to get good jobs as most lack the requirements to take on management positions in companies and government as we did not have the chance to finish our schooling. Training as a bus driver gave us the chance to break into a profession that as I mentioned was male dominated, as most of us could drive a vehicle anyway. Now, as a female doing a ‘man’s job’, it gives us more respect and we are congratulated by the female passengers that we carry who are telling us that we are doing a great job and are thankful that we are offering them a chance to be safe when they travel as the amount of harassment they experienced before was bad. Of course, it does not come without problems as we, the female drivers, are constantly verbally abused by the drivers and bus crews of PMVs who even throw hard objects at us and tell us we are stealing their business. But some of the PMV crews actually respect us and have accepted us now as we have been going for nearly 18 months now and are a familiar sight on the roads. Respect and acceptance is all we want as we are doing a very important job for the safety of women and girls here in PNG.



AID ORGANISATIONS REVEAL EPIDEMIC LEVELS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST GIRLS IN PACIFIC AND TIMOR-LESTE KAVITHA SUTHANTHIRARAJ Kavitha Suthanthiraraj is the Policy and Advocacy Advisor at Save the Children Australia and author of ’Unseen and Unsafe: Underinvestment in Ending Violence Against Children in the Pacific and Timor-Leste’.

The levels of physical, emotional and sexual violence, as well as neglect faced by children living in the Pacific and Timor-Leste is disturbingly high. A recent report titled Unseen, Unsafe by Save the Children, ChildFund, Plan Australia, and World Vision shows that over 70% or 4 million children across eight countries experience violent discipline at home, including a staggering 2.8 million (75% of the child population) in Papua New Guinea.1 The levels of extreme violence are also troubling. Data obtained from Save the Children’s child protection program in Papua New Guinea reveals that 27% of parents or carers reported beating their children “over and over as hard as they could”.2

Girls are very vulnerable with the data showing that 1 in 4 adolescent girls experienced physical violence, and 1 in 10 sexual violence. Figure 1: The endemic levels of physical and sexual violence experienced by girls aged between 15 and 19 across eight countries in the region.1


DRIVERS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST GIRLS Gender Inequality and Prevailing Gender Norms The drivers of violence in the Pacific and Timor-Leste are complex and include the widespread acceptance of violence as a form of discipline, high levels of gender inequality, low status of children, poverty and economic stress, and weak child protection systems. Gender inequality is a common issue, with unequal gender power relations and discrimination driving high levels of violence against women and children. For example in the Solomon Islands 64% of women aged between 15 and 49 years reported they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner.3 Many communities are deeply patriarchal with entrenched notions of gender roles developed through traditional ideologies, customary practices and powerful religious influences. For example, Kastom in the Ni-Vanuatu community has strict divisions of labour which places men in an inherently superior position. According to the National Child Protection Policy, this “culturally embedded and pervasive gender inequality can be harmful to children and contributes to domestic violence”.4 “Some of the challenges I see is that women are seen as the weaker sex and even tradition devalues women. Therefore, in the house many roles are based on this mentality, putting girls only in the house. That is what I see, and this results in a lot of abuse”. – Bougainville, PNG Male


Existing gender norms are not only affecting the immediate well-being of children but are also having an intergenerational effect. Children who have experienced abuse or witnessed abuse between their parents are more likely to experience or perpetrate violence as adults.5 The data below relating to experiences of Kiribati women and children, captures the cyclical nature of violence. Economic and Governance Factors Across the region, there are many examples of how economic factors and weak protection systems exacerbate violence against children and girls in particular. In the Solomon Islands, for example, the rapid growth of the extractive industries such as logging and fishing has been associated with increased commercial and sexual exploitation of children.

The logging industry is a central part of the country’s growth strategy, with 17% of GDP attributed to logging, which amounts to 60% of the country’s exports.6 Yet, few safeguards have been put in place to monitor and prevent the exploitation of young girls near the logging sites. Young girls looking for work are hired as domestic helpers. However, once working they are at high risk of being forced into relationships based on transactional sex.


Photo: ©Robert McKechnie/Save the Children Australia

There has also been a rise in ‘Solair’ activity. Solairs are intermediaries who arrange local girls for sex for foreign logging or fishing workers. Findings show that the procurement of girls may be carried out in response to personal requests from individual foreign workers or a request from local managers or supervisors at the company.7,8

The development of ‘community bylaws’ in some provinces has further distorted the magnitude of the crime. For example, fines of only SBD$50 (approximately USD $6) are imposed for the offence of the “selling of female members of the community for sex for personal monetary gain or beer”.9 While national legislation such as the Child and Family Welfare Act 2017 and Family Protection Act 2014 are in place, limited resourcing to implement legislation often results in cases of abuse being addressed through informal village level mechanisms.

STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE The scale of violence in the region coupled with the entrenched and intergenerational nature of the drivers of this violence can make achieving an outcome seem out of reach. How can we prevent the tide of violence against children and girls when it is so ingrained in everyday life, and how can we respond to the needs of children who are victims of violence? We know that the solution, or solutions, must be embedded into a ‘socio-ecological framework’10 and address drivers of violence in the home, family, community and broader society. This approach would reflect the complex nature of interpersonal violence and the need to address the root causes across various entry points, through multiple sectors and stakeholders. To assist with this, an approach called INSPIRE was developed by leading experts and organisations in the field, outlining seven evidence-based strategies that have shown success in reducing violence against children around the world.11


One strategic area in the INSPIRE framework is focused on tackling the root causes of violence through changing harmful social and cultural norms and behaviours. Specific interventions in this category include; community mobilisation programs with men and women targeting norms on domestic violence, violence against children, gender roles, and child rights.12 In addition, there are already a range of proven programs in the Pacific and Timor-Leste that are helping teach parents about the impact violence has on young girls. There are also programs focused on gender roles, promoting healthy masculinity and respectful relationships, and response services such as children’s helpline and adolescent focused sexual and reproductive health services. These efforts are supported by national governments, NGOs, churches and community organisations. Civil society in particular is actively engaged on this issue and continues to work tirelessly to support children, parents and the community to end this scourge.

1. Save the Children, ChildFund, Plan, World Vision. Unseen, unsafe: The underinvestment in ending violence against children in the Pacific and Timor-Leste. 2019. Available from: https://www. 2. Save the Children. Safe communities, safe children baseline report. Internal document. 2018. 3. Asian Development Bank (ADB). Gender statistics: the Pacific and Timor-Leste. Philippines: ADB; 2016. 49 p. Available from: https:// 4. Government of Vanuatu, Ministry of Justice and Community Services. National Child Protection Policy 2016-2026. Vanuatu: Government of Vanuatu; 2016. Available from: vu/images/policy/Vanuatu_National_Child_Protection_ Policy_2016-2026_FINAL_Nov16.pdf 5. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Literature review: Ending violence against women and girls. Canberra: DFAT; 2018. 82 p. Available from: 6. World Bank. Solomon Islands systematic country diagnostic priorities for supporting poverty reduction promoting shared prosperity. World Bank Group; 2017. Available from: https:// Solomon-Islands-Systematic-Country-Diagnostic-2017-06222017. pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y 7. Save the Children. Dynamics of child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in Solomon Islands: Cross


WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE? The findings from the Unseen, Unsafe report are clear more targeted aid expenditure on ending violence against children is needed to address this epidemic. Our analysis estimates that in the Pacific and Timor-Leste, the Australian Government and major donors only spent AUD$3.4 million (or 0.1% of Australian Official Development Assistance in 2017) on programs specifically designed to end violence against children. Analysis from the various NGOs working in the Pacific shows that targeted programs are making a difference.13 Interventions targeted at increasing children’s resilience and ability to seek support when they are unsafe; along with positive parenting training with parents to support them to better understand the impact of their actions, are reducing violence and abuse against children. While money alone will not end violence against children in the Pacific and Timor-Leste, the absence of adequate funding limits progress, and means a huge number of young girls and children remain invisible in a system that has failed to invest in their wellbeing and safety.





12. 13.

provincial study. Save the Children; 2015. Available from: https:// Save the Children. Assisting Solomon Islands ratify and implement optional protocol 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Save the Children; 2017 Save the Children. Solomon Islands non-government organisations’ alternative report on the combined second and third periodic reports of Solomon Islands to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Save the Children; 2017 A ‘socio-ecological framework’ is a holistic model that combines response and protective mechanisms with steps to address the structural drivers of violence, from investing in institutional protection systems through to transforming harmful norms and social practices. UNICEF. INSPIRE Indicator guidance and results framework: Ending violence against children: How to define and measure change. New York: UNICEF; 2018. 122 p. Available from: https:// World Health Organization. INSPIRE: seven strategies for ending violence against children. WHO; 2016. See more program level analysis in the Unseen, Unsafe report section two focused on country level case studies. Available from: web-(1).pdf.aspx


MARANGUKA JUSTICE REINVESTMENT ALISTAIR FERGUSON AND JENNY LOVRIC Alistair Ferguson, Executive Director and Founder, Maranguka Justice Reinvestment in Bourke. Jenny Lovric, Manager Community Engagement, Just Reinvest NSW


Evidence shows strategic community-driven investment in localised early support, prevention and diversionary solutions can reduce crime, build local capacity and strengthen local communities. If there’s less crime, there’s less imprisonment. By addressing the underlying causes of crime, savings on criminal justice costs are available to be reinvested in strategies that strengthen communities and prevent crime. In 2013, the Bourke community in north-west New South Wales partnered with Just Reinvest NSW to develop a ‘proof of concept’ for justice reinvestment in Australia. Maranguka – meaning ‘caring for others’ in the Ngemba language – is a model of Indigenous self-governance guided by the Bourke Tribal Council. Formed by a coalition of organisations and individuals, Just Reinvest NSW has been exploring justice reinvestment in NSW as a data-driven, place-based and community-led approach to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in prison. Maranguka Justice Reinvestment has developed a whole-of-community and life course approach to

its work, which is expressed in the community strategy for change Growing our Kids up Safe, Smart & Strong (Safe, Smart & Strong). The work is an ecosystem of collaboration, with the Bourke Tribal Council at the centre, authorising the onthe-ground work designed by the community. According to Alistair Ferguson, Founder and Executive Director of Maranguka Justice Reinvestment in Bourke, Maranguka’s success to date has been a result of the Bourke Tribal Council applying and asserting its cultural authority across the whole system, providing real definition and substance to concepts and government-led initiatives including Closing the Gap and NSW Aboriginal Affairs’ Local Decision-Making. MULTI-PRONGED AND COLLABORATIVE RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE For many years the Bourke community struggled with the perception that the town was dominated by justice and social issues. Bureaucratic data showed significantly high rates in domestic and family violence. In 2013, domestic assault was 14 times the NSW average and long-term unemployment was high. Bourke wanted to re-introduce a different way of doing business. According to Alistair “The concept of Maranguka is 65,000 years old and it still holds the same meaning today within a contemporary context. This is a genuine partnership with everyone and we value them in the process.”


Understanding that sustained change to complex issues, including domestic and family violence, cannot be changed by a single organisation or program acting alone, there is a commitment to collaboration between all parts of the system including community, services, policy-makers and families. Maranguka in Bourke has adopted a collective impact approach to its work in Bourke, including the domestic and family violence work.1 Change is also dependent on leadership to ensure that commitment and collaboration is maintained.

A critical feature of the work through Maranguka Justice Reinvestment in Bourke is that the change has been driven by the Aboriginal community in partnership with local communitybased groups and agencies include the Men of Bourke, Journey to Healing Women’s Group, the Bourke Police, Birrang, Thiyama-li Family Violence Prevention Legal Service, Catholic Care and Mission Australia. These groups collaborate, develop and participate in programs that enable more community trust and improve the strengths of families. Adopting a collaborative approach, initiatives have developed that support both victims and perpetrators in family violence. For example, under the Gawimarra Burrany Ngurung (Picking up the pieces) initiative, a five member team, including a mental health nurse, based at the Maranguka Hub, works with the whole family unit including the children, mother and father. In another initiative, Operation Solidarity, police accompanied by a community member or service provider visit homes where there have been domestic violence charges to support people to reduce reoffending. The data tells a compelling story of positive change for the reduction of domestic and family violence in Bourke. Between 2015 and 2017, significant drops have been recorded for incidents of violence and related crimes including:

• 18% reduction in the number of major offences • 39% reduction in the number of domestic violence related assaults • 34% reduction in the number of non-domestic violence related assaults.


• 43% reduction in domestic related assault by young people up to 25 years. There was also a 15% reduction in the rate of domestic violence re-offending among domestic violence offenders aged between 18 and 25 from 2014 and 2016.2 The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project Impact Assessment undertaken by KMPG in 2018 found that the savings over a one-year period was approximately AUD$3.1 million, of which AUD$1.9 million savings where made in the justice system and a further AUD$1.2 million savings were made in the service system. KMPG found that the economic impact was five times greater than its operational costs. Further, If Bourke can sustain just half of these results, it would achieve an additional gross impact of $7 million over the next five years.3 To sustain the successes from working differently, and to continue to support collaboration between the community, police and services in Bourke, the community recognised that they needed to develop a set of collective principles that would support them to further unify and coordinate their actions.

With the assistance of The Australian Centre of Social Innovation (TACSI), Collaboration Principles and practices have been established. From a series of workshops in late 2018 attended by community, service providers and police, six core principles were co-created by community that spoke to their vision: 1. We value community ownership and control 2. We cooperate and collaborate – we are in this together to improve outcomes for everyone 3. We are proactive and strategic in how we prevent, act and respond 4. We speak up and speak out and act to prevent violence in Bourke 5. We share data and evidence to build shared accountability and transparency 6. We support everyone involved and work towards whole family responses to stop violence this generation.


A ‘Collaboration Agreement’ sets out these principles and operationalises and formalises the collaborative partnerships, embedding practices for better domestic and family violence outcomes in Bourke. Central to the Collaboration Agreement is the notion of inter-agency information sharing, working together to deliver client-focused outcomes which are flexible, culturally appropriate and enduring. The successes in domestic and family violence in Bourke are one of many domains where Maranguka Justice Reinvestment’s vision and approach through the community’s strategy Safe, Smart & Strong illustrates how local know-how can lead change. RELENTLESS COLLABORATION Maranguka Justice Reinvestment in Bourke is a social movement for change centred around community empowerment and place-based action.

While the statistics are promising, and the intent to continue the collaboration to maintain change domestic and family is and always will be a complex issue. What is clear is that interconnecting factors can drive a reduction in domestic violence. Maranguka has led and continues to lead the collaboration of services in Bourke to create better outcomes and well-being of all families and children in Bourke. This way of working provides insights and pathways for other communities to lead their solutions.

1. The recent video in this link explains how collective impact works: 2. Number of recorded incidents for Jan-Dec 2015 as compared to Jan-Dec 2017. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Reference sr18-16096. 3. KPMG Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project Impact Assessment (2016) Impact Assessment Report, pg.42-45. Available from: http://


INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE BETWEEN QUEER WOMXN: SHINING A LIGHT ON THE SECOND CLOSET BONNIE HART Bonnie Hart is a sixth-year International Studies/Laws student at the University of New South Wales, who is passionate about human rights and advancing equality in law in the Asia Pacific region. Bonnie was a student editor on this issue of Human Rights Defender.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an urgent issue facing Australian queer womxni, with up to 40% experiencing violence within the intimate setting1. Despite this, current literature on IPV continues to centre violence against women in heterosexual relationships. This conceptualises IPV narrowly, as something which only occurs between male and female partners, silencing IPV between queer womxn2 and creating a kind of ‘second closet’. This article aims to counter this, by centring queer experiences and unveiling the unique challenges queer womxn face in experiencing IPV and accessing the help they deserve to love freely and safely. PATTERNS OF VIOLENCE While IPV is characterised by abuse, control and coercion3, it has unique patterns within queer relationships. While all abuse can feel shameful for survivors, due to enduring homophobia and misogyny queer womxn face a second closet in reporting or acknowledging abuse. Social misconceptions that queer womxn’s relationships aren’t as serious or that woman aren’t capable of abuse, work to further isolate queer womxn experiencing IPV. Abusers often use this to coerce


their partner into staying. Examples include threats of outing them at work,ii making them ‘prove their sexuality’ through coerced sexual acts, telling them that services ‘won’t believe them’, or gaslighting them by saying ‘abuse can’t happen between two womxn’. These acts piggyback on hetero-gendered conceptions of IPV and work to silence a survivor and minimise abuse 4. Public ignorance of IPV between queer womxn exacerbates their vulnerability and results in womxn often struggling to recognise abuse within their relationships. Queer womxn who come from culturally diverse backgrounds which may not accept same-sex relationships are particularly at risk of both IPV and secondary violence from their community. The small and often close-knit nature of queer communities can add another layer of pressure, as survivors considering leaving their partners are at risk of losing not only their relationship but hard-fought community. BARRIERS TO SUPPORT Beyond social stigma is a myriad of barriers which prevent queer womxn from accessing support. The current sociolegal model, based on violence within heterosexual relationships, has been the foundation for state and federal policy 2. While it has provided some helpful avenues of support for women experiencing violence from men, it’s heteronormative focus has reinforced systemic inequality for queer womxn. The framework’s lack of queer research and public campaigning has resulted in minimal awareness of IPV between queer womxn. This


not only keeps survivors cloaked in stigma and secrecy but also creates blind spots for family and friends of queer womxn, who are integral in support and intervention. When it comes to existing programs, the majority of queer womxn are forced to attend generic IPV services. This is problematic considering the historical distrust of police, government and health programs experienced by the queer community. Furthermore, this can place queer womxn at greater risk within shelters as they must contend with homophobia or transphobia from staff and/ or other survivors sharing the crisis space.5 Turning to service delivery, services are often unfamiliar with queer specific forms of IPV and lack the cultural sensitivity to meaningfully support queer womxn 6. On a base level, many don’t use inclusive language7, offer an option on forms regarding sexual identity or employ queer practitioners who can provide tailored assistance. The AIDS Council have reported that only 18% of services considered themselves ‘fully competent’ to support queer people 8. Equally troubling is that without specific training and services, abusers are more able to pursue violence with impunity, as seen in anecdotal reports wherein law enforcement authorities falsely characterising womxn as less ‘dangerous’9, or stories of abusers being able to sneak into safe spaces to further abuse10. These misconceptions, combined with the lack of any behavioural or rehabilitative service for womxn perpetrators, mean that solutions to violence against queer womxn remain solely reactive rather than preventative, allowing for cycles of violence and marginalisation to continue. Going inward, internal pressure through minority stress, defined as psychosocial stress born from membership of a minority which is already marginalised11, encourages survivors to stay quiet and not access help12.

Because queer womxn exist in a society in which their sexuality is devalued, by the time they do come out, many feel pressure to justify their identity by publicly representing idealised relationships. An American study on lesbian communities found that queer womxn were more likely to undertake concerted efforts to present their relationships as a ‘utopian existence’, both as a form of community protection and resistance to heteronormativity.5

Kai Noonan, Associate Director for LGBTIQ Health Programming and Development at ACON, agrees that understanding the impact of minority stress is imperative to conceptualising IPV. Kai says, “The community doesn’t talk about minority stress and lateral violence enough, but they are issues which need to be addressed to end abuse.” SOLUTIONS AND HOPE FOR THE FUTURE Holistic solutions are needed to combat marginalisation of queer womxn experiencing IPV. Theoretically, IPV needs to be conceptualised through an intersectional lens. If IPV can be understood as something that manifests differently depending on someone’s complex identity (e.g. sexual identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, physical or mental abilities) a more inclusive dialogue and policy can be created4. Practically, this conceptualisation needs to be grounded within a preventative dual approach model which centres queer experiences and include both awarenessraising and service enhancement. Campaigns, advocacy and educational programs are essential in supporting public awareness and educating young queer people who can interrupt cycles of violence within queer relationships. To meaningfully improve support, both service creation and training are needed as a matter of urgency. Existing services that cater to all survivors of IPV need to be supported in cultural competency training and queer inclusivity practices. Kai Noonan from ACON calls for increased government funding to make this happen, stating “The number one need is specialist funding to address gaps in research, service support, interventions and programs targeting queer women. Mainstream services need incentives and support to make their services more inclusive.” Simultaneously, queer specific programs need to be created. While there are incredible existing programs including Inner City Legal Centre’s ‘Safe Relationships Project and ACON’s counselling and IPV toolkits, this is not enough to address the various needs of queer womxn. In particular, support programs for perpetrators of abuse are necessary to combat minority stress and cyclical violence. Kai Noonan considers support programs an essential piece in the puzzle: more support programs for people who have been abused as well as intervention programs for people who use abusive behaviours and healthy relationship groups to prevent escalation into unhelpful behaviours. As queer womxn’s relationships are scarcely represented, programs which prioritise good relationship modelling and peer support are essential in educating womxn on signs of abuse and normalising conversations around healthy relationships within the queer community.


Finally, we need more research on the prevalence and patterns of this violence. A more comprehensive government-funded national study on IPV within LGBTQI relationships is essential. With close consultation from queer womxn and a thorough study, tailored programs can be created which meaningfully support queer womxn in their experiences as both survivors and perpetrators and help to decrease IPV within the community.

IPV is a threat to human rights and equality in Australia. It is a complex issue which requires communities, organisations and governments to listen to queer womxn and actively support their right to safety. With increasing social and political recognition of the importance of samesex equality and ending violence against women, the time for action is now. All womxn deserve to live and love safely. There has never been a better time to work together and end the second closet.

AUSTRALIAN-BASED RESOURCES Aids Council of New South Wales (ACON), Another Closet: Domestic and Family Violence in LGBTQI Relationships Website (includes a DV toolkit, info on other services and support, personal stories and how to support someone close to you experiencing IPV) Safe Relationships Project at Inner City Legal Centre. Provides legal advice to LGBTQI people experiencing IPV or DV. Twenty 10 GLCS provides specialised services for young queer people (age 12-25) including housing, mental health, counselling and social support. Provides web chat and phone support for all ages through QLife. QLife, provides support services for queer persons. Website: Phone: 1800 184 527 (3 pm – 12 am AEST) Online chat (3 pm – 12 am AEST) Gender Centre provides services for the trans and gender diverse community. Inner City Legal Centre provide legal services for queer people including Specialist Transgender legal advice, Gay and Lesbian legal advice and court support for LGBTIQ people experiencing or escaping domestic/family violence.

1. Pitts M, Smith A, Mitchell A, Patel S. Private Lives : A report on the health and wellbeing of GLBTI Australians. [Internet]. La Trobe Univesity: Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria; 2006 [cited 2019 Oct 28]. Available from: publication68347 2. Cannon C. Illusion of Inclusion: The Failure of the Gender Paradigm to Account for Intimate Partner Violence in LGBT Relationships. Partner Abuse. 2015 Jan 1;6(1):65–77. 3. World Health Organization. Understanding and addressing violence against women. 2012. 4. Our Watch. Primary prevention of family violence against people from LGBTI communities [Internet]. Victoria State Government; 2017 Oct [cited 2019 Oct 21] p. 125. Available from: https://www. 5. Merlis SR, Linville D. Exploring a Community’s Response to Lesbian Domestic Violence Through the Voices of Providers: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy. 2006 Sep 13;18(1–2):97–136. 6. Fileborn B. Sexual violence and gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer communities. Australian centre for the Study of sexual assault; 2012 Mar p. 12. 7. Calton JM, Cattaneo LB, Gebhard KT. Barriers to Help Seeking for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2016 Dec;17(5):585–600. 8. Aids Council of Australia. One size does not fit all : gap analysis of


9. 10.


12. i.


NSW domestic violence support services in relation to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities’ needs [Internet]. Surry Hills: ACON; 2011 [cited 2019 Oct 17]. Available from: Russell B. Police perceptions in intimate partner violence cases: the influence of gender and sexual orientation. Journal of Crime and Justice. 2018 Mar 15;41(2):193–205. Campo M, Tayton S. Intimate partner violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer communities [Internet]. Australian Institute of Family Services; 2015 Dec [cited 2019 Oct 29]. Available from: Balsam KF, Szymanski DM. Relationship Quality and Domestic Violence in Women’s Same-Sex Relationships: The Role of Minority Stress. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 2005 Sep;29(3):258–69. Carvalho AF, Lewis RJ, Derlega VJ, Winstead BA, Viggiano C. Internalized Sexual Minority Stressors and Same-Sex Intimate Partner Violence. J Fam Viol. 2011 Oct 1;26(7):501–9. This paper uses term queer womxn to include any femaleidentifying person who is sexually or gender diverse. While the paper centres same-sex relationships between queer women, this is not limited to lesbians but includes bisexual, pansexual, transgender, intersex and queer women alike. Finally, this paper recognises that transgender women remain the most at risk of any group along with queer women with disabilities, and that more research and conversation is needed to address this meaningfully. ‘Outing’ refers to disclosing someone’s sexual or gender identity without their consent.


Photo: ©Chris Ryan/istockphoto

RESPONSES TO SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES ALLISON HENRY Allison Henry is a PhD candidate with the Australian Human Rights Institute at the University of New South Wales, examining regulatory and institutional responses to campus sexual violence in Australia. Her research draws on her experience as Campaign Director of The Hunting Ground Australia Project between 2015 and 2018 – a collaborative impact campaign based on the US documentary The Hunting Ground which has been instrumental in raising awareness and driving an institutional shift in responses to sexual violence on Australian university campuses – and her two decades of professional experience in law, politics and public policy.

INTRODUCTION It is now more than two years since the Australian Human Rights Commission released the landmark Change the Course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities,1 documenting the first-ever national survey of Australian university students and their experiences of sexual violence.


The report was met with sensational headlines, together with promises of robust institutional action. The university peak body, Universities Australia, announced an initial 10-Point Action Plan, then Education Minister Simon Birmingham called for universities to detail their responses to the survey’s findings and recommendations and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) duly sought reports from all higher education providers. Much has reportedly occurred since Change the Course was released: Universities Australia is fond of referring to “at least 800 major initiatives” instigated across Australian universities in its media releases.2 Yet how effective these initiatives have been in actually addressing sexual violence in Australian university environments remains largely unknown. THE SCALE OF THE PROBLEM Conducted by the Commission in late 2016, the national student survey collated the responses of 30,930 students across 39 universities and drew on 1849 submissions from current and former students and staff. The report highlighted what Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins described as a “disturbing picture” of sexual and gendered violence within Australian university settings.1

The Commission found that 1.6% of students were sexually assaulted and 21% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2015 and/ or 2016.1 Given that there were just over 1.1 million students at public universities in Australia in 2015, this finding suggests more than 17,000 students experienced sexual assault and around 230,000 experienced sexual harassment in a university setting during this period. The Commission found that women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, culturally and linguistically diverse students and international students, students with disability, and LGBTIQ students were more likely to experience these incidents.3 The report documented in disturbing detail the vulnerability of students to sexual violence, commonly in residential settings but also on university grounds or in teaching places, at off campus events, at university employment or placements, while travelling to or from university and via technology. The survey found that perpetrators were often known to the victim / survivor and that abuse of power relationships – between staff and students or more senior and junior students – was a recurring theme. The pervasive impact of alcohol consumption was identified as a factor that contributed to many student’s experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment. While the findings on prevalence were concerning enough, the Commission’s findings around institutional structures and responses were also troubling. The Commission found that 87% of students who were sexually assaulted in a university setting (and 94% of students who were sexually harassed) did not make a formal report or complaint to anyone at the university and 79% of those sexually assaulted (and 92% of those sexually harassed) did not seek support or assistance from their university following the most recent incident.1 Among the reasons cited for not reporting were that students feared not being believed, being blamed, being victimised, concerns about needing evidence to meet a legal burden of proof, and not believing that action would be taken.1 Lack of awareness of reporting mechanisms and procedures was also identified as a particular barrier: the Commission found that “the majority of students had little or no knowledge about where they could go to formally report or make a complaint” about an experience of sexual assault (62%) or sexual harassment (60%)1 and the majority of students had little or no knowledge about their university’s policies on sexual assault (54%) and sexual harassment (52%).1 HOW UNIVERSITIES ARE RESPONDING TO THE FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSION’S REPORT The two key peak bodies, Universities Australia (UA) and University Colleges Australia (UCA), introduced a range of measures in response to the report. UA’s 10-Point Plan in August 2017 highlighted the



development of respectful relationship education for students, extending first responder training to more frontline university staff and specialist professional development for university counsellors. In 2018, UA published guidelines for universities to respond to reports of sexual assault – including recording data, timeframes for reporting, resolutions and criminal investigations – and principles to guide interactions between supervisors and postgraduate students. In early 2019, UA announced a partnership with Our Watch and the Victorian Government’s Office for Women, to develop an online respectful relationships education program. UCA established an internal Respectful Relations, Response and Resources Advisory Group, which developed a Cultural Renewal framework with seven key components including primary prevention and education; early intervention; incident/emergency response; counselling and support; investigation / disciplinary processes; recording and reporting and continuous improvement. Individual universities and residential colleges have also reported a myriad of initiatives. According to the Commission, all 39 universities reported steps to increase the availability and visibility of their support services, and provide greater training support to staff and students most likely to receive disclosures. TEQSA found that 26 universities were utilising ‘Consent Matters’ online training for students. Canberra University and the University of Tasmania were among the first to commission independent, expert-led reviews of their policies and response pathways to sexual assault and sexual harassment. UNSW launched a stand-alone Sexual Assault, Harassment & Misconduct portal, providing a central reporting and data collection point for students and staff. Victoria University has partnered with AMES Australia to develop and a Preventing Violence Against Women Leadership Program.4, 5, 6 The University of Sydney, ANU, the University of New England, amongst others, instituted independent reviews into their residential colleges and university residences, to identify factors contributing to sexual assault and sexual harassment in those environments. HOW PROGRESS ON REDUCING SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN UNIVERSITIES CAN BE MEASURED Measuring the effectiveness of these efforts in actually reducing sexual violence is challenging. While the Commission and TEQSA have attempted to track the sector’s response by asking universities to self-report their actions, to date no resources have been allocated to independently enforce the implementation of these reported measures, or to effectively and holistically assess their quality and impact. In early 2018 student activists and key stakeholders called for the Australian Government to establish an independent expert-led taskforce to provide oversight and accountability of university responses and “to ensure that all policies being put in place to address this problem are good practice, and achieving their objectives.”7 Former Education Minister Simon Birmingham was reportedly close to announcing such a taskforce but his successor Minister Dan Tehan has declined to pursue this avenue.8 The Australian Human Rights Centre’s On Safe Ground report, released in August 2017, drew on international comparative research to outline a good practice framework for Australian university responses to sexual assault and harassment. The report noted that such policies should:

• provide sensitively delivered and effective redress for victims of sexual violence • deliver procedural and substantive resolution • be part of
a broad institutional framework that addresses the underlying causes of sexual violence, such as gender inequality and gender-based discrimination • be comprehensive and consistent in relation to design or structure and content • be culturally and socially appropriate • be accessible and transparent to the students who will potentially use them • be rigorously enforced by senior members of university staff with relevant authority and expertise • endorse collaborative partnerships with external agencies that may assist in both managing cases and supplementing internal support services • be underpinned by comprehensive resourcing of student support services and of prevention strategies and mechanisms.3


In the absence of any coherent enforcement or assessment framework we are currently unable to make an assessment against these good practice benchmarks. In this context, it may be that the next student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment, recently announced for 2020, will provide the clearest indication on potential progress.

In the interim, students themselves appear to be sceptical. The National Day of Action against Sexual Assault protests in August 2019, demanding universities take greater action to eliminate sexual misconduct, suggests that students believe much more still needs to be done.

1. Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. Sydney: AHRC; 2017. 264 p. Available from 2. Universities Australia, Respect. Now. Always. 800 major strides forward and more to come, Media Release. 2018, Aug 1. Available from 3. Australian Human Rights Centre, On safe ground: A good practice guide for Australian universities. Sydney: Australian Human Rights Centre. 2017. 124 p. Available from Guide_online.pdf 4. Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Audit of university responses to Change the course report – Audit 2017. Sydney: AHRC; 2017. 47 p. Available from 5. Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Audit of university responses to the Change the Course report: Snapshot of progress: August 2018. Sydney: AHRC. 2018. 3 p. Available from pdf; 6. Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), Report to the Minister for Education: Higher education sector response to the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment: An overview of Australian higher education provider responses to the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment. TEQSA: Canberra. 2019. Available from 7. Fair Agenda, End Rape on Campus Australia, National Union of Students and The Hunting Ground Australia Project, Joint Statement 2018. Feb 22. Available from 8. Di Natal V, Tehan turns back on taskforce after TESQA university sexual assault findings released. Farrago. 2019. Feb 1. Available from



ADDRESSING ECONOMIC ABUSE – CAN WE BANK ON IT? ANGELA KINTOMINAS Angela Kintominas is a Scientia PhD Scholar at UNSW Sydney. Her research interests are in the intersections of gender, socio-economic rights and migration. Her work is informed by feminist, socio-legal and interdisciplinary approaches to law. Angela is a Research Associate with the Social Policy Research Centre and the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative and a Teaching Fellow at UNSW Law.

Discourses around domestic and family violence (DFV) tend to focus on episodes of physical and lethal violence. But research shows that DFV encompasses much broader and more insidious tactics of power, coercion and control.1 One of these is economic abuse.2 Economic abuse is a deliberate pattern of control to undermine someone’s agency, economic security and independence.3 It means preventing access to cash, bank accounts, financial records or bills, demanding all spending be justified or preventing a partner from taking part in financial decisions. It includes sabotaging work or study opportunities or forcing a partner to work for a family business without being paid. Economic abuse also includes refusing to contribute to expenses or withholding financial support; coercing a partner to take out a credit card or loan, guarantee a loan or relinquish assets; exploiting a partner’s savings or wages; or deliberately accumulating debts in their name. It extends to interfering with a partner’s ability to acquire assets by, for example, refusing to put their name on a mortgage deed or car title. Damaging property or not making rent or mortgage repayments, which causes housing insecurity, is likewise a form of economic abuse. Recent attention on dowry abuse, namely coercive demands for more gifts, cash or remittances from brides or their families, is another example.4 As a type of control and

manipulation, economic abuse is regularly (but not always) accompanied by other forms of DFV.5 Economic abuse is often long-term, can persist after a relationship ends, or may only begin after separation. Like other forms of DFV it is highly gendered, and the majority of victims are women. Economic abuse is closely related to poverty and financial insecurity.6 Victims are more likely to be financially dependent on their abusers. This makes it harder for them to leave – and not return to – an abusive relationship. Economic abuse can make the toll of separation worse by deepening material hardship in the short term (if a victim is unable to pay for things to re-establish their life, secure adequate housing, or pay for food, transport and bills) and in the long term (if they have no assets, are in debt, have a poor credit score, or have been left with an unreliable rental or work history). This compounds with gendered inequalities over the lifecourse: women are already likely to earn less, be responsible for more unpaid care (which takes them out of paid work) and have lower superannuation and savings later in life.7 Economic abuse has not always been at the forefront of policy and public conversations about DFV, although this is changing slowly. In Australia, a turning point was Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.8 One of the Commission’s recommendations was a specific direction to the Australian Banking Association (ABA) to develop industry guidelines on financial abuse in the context of DFV.9 These guidelines were a first step in recognising the banking sector’s responsibility in facilitating economic abuse.


Photo: ©mdphoto16/istockphoto

The guidelines have set a new standard that banks should implement protocols and procedures that are automatically triggered when economic abuse is identified. Modest measures include ensuring that banking systems keep a victim’s contact information secure and confidential, minimising the number of times they need to provide the same information, and supporting them to set up new accounts or change access codes. More critically, the guidelines emphasise the role of banks to help victims gain control of their finances. This includes allowing customers to more easily amend operating instructions on joint accounts or place holds. In the case of joint liabilities or debts, the guidelines recommend that financial hardship requests should be accepted without the consent of the co-borrower. Where there is a joint loan and parties are jointly and severally liable, the guidelines state that banks should consider settling whole or part of the debt against the victim of abuse.


The ABA guidelines and quick follow-up by banks is promising.10 But as expressed in the recent Royal Commission into Banking, “[i]f industry codes are to be more than public relations puffs, the promises made must be made seriously”.11 The guidelines are not enforceable. It is not clear if or how this discretion to intervene in cases of economic abuse will be monitored or reviewed, or what recourse victims will have if a bank has failed to act and made the situation worse. An encouraging step is that the ABA’s new Banking Code of Practice creates new obligations in relation to dealings with customers in vulnerable situations or facing financial difficulty, including those experiencing financial abuse, DFV and elder abuse.12 The Code specifically includes requirements to not approve co-borrowers who will not receive a substantial benefit from a loan unless the bank is satisfied they are not experiencing financial abuse. Importantly, the Code will be enforced by an independent monitoring body, the Banking Code Compliance Committee. But in the aftermath of the Royal Commission, the community has a right to be concerned about banks’ capacity to ‘take extra care’ of customers in vulnerable situations, especially those who are


often targets of deeply entrenched cultures of profitmotivated, deceptive and irresponsible lending. A challenge in the implementation of new protocols around economic abuse is that it is very difficult to detect. Real change requires significant investment of resources, time and money in effective and ongoing training and awarenessraising for staff.13 Victims are reluctant to raise economic abuse, may not initially recognise their experiences as abuse, and it can be hard for others to distinguish economic abuse from more ubiquitous forms of ‘gendered financial management’.14 Although there is increased awareness of economic abuse in specialist hardship teams and peak bodies, significant cultural shifts and systems changes within complex and vast organisations are required, especially among front-line staff who will need to identify and quickly respond to economic abuse when it first emerges.

1. Evan Stark, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life (Oxford Univ. Press, 2007). 2. Judy L Postmus et al, ‘Economic Abuse as an Invisible Form of Domestic Violence: A Multicountry Review’ [2018] Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 1, 2. 3. Natasha Cortis et al, Building Effective Policies and Services to Promote Women’s Economic Security Following Domestic Violence State of Knowledge Paper (ANROWS, 2015) https://; Kristin Natalier, ‘Tackling Economic Abuse of Women Must Be Part of Our Domestic Violence Response’, The Conversation (online at 13 October 2015) 4. Commonwealth of Australia, The Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, The Practice of Dowry and the Incidence of Dowry Abuse in Australia (14 February 2019) https:// Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/DowryAbuse/Report. 5. Jozica Kutin, Mike Reid and Roslyn Russell, ‘Three Charts on: How Emotional and Economic Abuse Go Hand-in-Hand’, The Conversation (online at 20 November 2017) http:// 6. Jane Bullen and Natasha Cortis, ‘Domestic Violence Also Has an Economic Penalty – We Need to Tackle It’, The Conversation (online at 29 November 2016) domestic-violence-also-has-an-economic-penalty-we-need-totackle-it-69337. 7. kylie valentine and Jan Breckenridge, ‘Responses to Family and Domestic Violence: Supporting Women?’ (2016) 25(1) Griffith Law Review 30. 8. State of Victoria, Royal Commission into Family Violence: Summary and Recommendations (March 2016) Recommendation 111 RCFV_Full_Report_Interactive.pdf. 9. Australian Bankers’ Association Inc, Industry Guideline: Financial Abuse and Family and Domestic Violence Policies (Version 1.0, November 2016) uploads/2019/05/ABA_Industry_Guideline_-_Financial_Abuse_ and_Family_and_Domestic_Violence-Nov-2016.pdf. See also Roslyn Russell, ‘The Banking Sector Can Do Its Bit to Combat Family Violence’, The Conversation (online at 7 April 2016) http://

Like service and utility providers, telcos and government agencies, banks have an important role in intervening in situations of economic abuse and addressing related financial hardship.15 They also have a responsibility to redress their complicity in magnifying risks of such abuse in the first place. As the ABA guidelines highlight, there are very practical steps banks can take, such as making it easier for victims to change their details, placing holds on accounts, or reducing victims’ debts. These steps are important but also not panacea. A coordinated approach requires adequate specialist legal assistance, financial counselling, employment support and housing support.16 Banks can also play a role in funding and supporting these broader interventions that address structural drivers of economic abuse and help survivors rebuild their lives.

combat-family-violence-57215. 10. For examples of bank policies, see ANZ, Financial Vulnerability Guide: Feeling Financially Vulnerable? A Guide to Regaining Financial Independence resources/5/b/5bae397a-1706-41ae-a020-4284f5a3072b/ financial-vulnerability.pdf?MOD =AJPERES; Commonwealth Bank, Addressing Financial Abuse: A Domestic and Family Violence Community Resource Guide New South Wales https://www. opportunity-initiatives/addressing-financial-abuse-guide. pdf?ei=help_FinancialAbuse; NAB, ‘Financial Abuse and Keeping Your Banking Safe’; Westpac, ‘Protecting You From Financial Abuse’ https://www. 11. Commonwealth of Australia, Final Report: Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (1 February 2019) 12 https://www. See also Becky Batagol and Marcia Neave, ‘Banks Are Enabling Economic Abuse. Here’s How They Could Be Stopping It’, The Conversation (online at 1 February 2019) http:// 12. Australian Banking Association, Banking Code of Practice: Setting the Standards of Practice for Banks, Their Staff and Their Representatives (1 July 2019) wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Banking-Code-of-Practice-2019web.pdf 13. Russell (n 9). 14. Postmus et al (n 2) 19. 15. See eg Essential Services Commission, Victoria, Better Practice in Responding to Family Violence: Exploring Ways Energy and Water Retailers Can Provide Family Violence Assistance That Is Safe and Effective (6 August 2019) 78 default/files/2019-08/pdf/better-practice-in-responding-to-familyviolence-20190820.pdf 16. Carolyn Bond, Stephanie Tonkin and Ciara Sterling, Responding to Financial Abuse: Community, Business and Government Responses to the Financial Impacts of Family Violence in Victoria (Economic Abuse Reference Group) ; Stephanie Tonkin, Restoring Financial Safety: Collaborating on Responses to Economic Abuse (WEstjustice, July 2018) https://

THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS The Australian Journal of Human Rights is Australia’s first peer-reviewed journal devoted exclusively to human rights development in Australia, in the Asia-Pacific region and internationally. It aims to raise awareness of human rights issues by providing a forum for scholarship and discussion. From its November 2019 issue, the Journal will contain an editor-reviewed Current Perspectives section, in which human rights scholars and practitioners reflect on their work and discuss recent developments in human rights-related policy, praxis and law. The Australian Journal of Human Rights is published by the Australian Human Rights Institute and Taylor & Francis.

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