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Report of Victoria's Royal Commission on Family Violence hardly surprises

By Brendan O'Reilly - posted Friday, 8 April 2016


When a lefty Labor government commissions a report into a "women's issue" like domestic violence, we have come to expect a regurgitation of the entrenched views of its feminist wing. We also anticipate a list of recommendations requiring expensive government programmes and new laws, along with a goodly dollop of "male-bashing" (pun not intended). In all these respects we can hardly claim to be disappointed with what came out of Victoria.

According to the Victorian Premier, implementing the report's recommendations will cost "many hundreds of millions of dollars". Despite all the money being thrown at this problem,it can be expected to have very little effect in actually reducing domestic violence levels.

The Royal Commission's report came up with no less than 227 recommendations, and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (without any detailed consideration) promptly responded by saying that he would implement all of them. Mr Andrews conceded there would be a massive cost, but said funding to stop violence was an "investment". "This will be many hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. "(But) family violence is costing us at least $3.1 billion each year, 40 per cent of police work, and how do you put a price on a life lost?"

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The feminist line is embedded right through the report and includes the usual redefining of the English language, starting with the sisterhood's own definition of "violence".

Reference books like the Oxford Dictionary universally define violence along the lines of "behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something". The Royal Commission, however, continues a trend advocated by feminists (now embedded in Victoria's Family Violence Protection Act 2008) by defining violence to also include things like "emotional abuse", "economic abuse" and "controlling behaviour". (Is "nagging" controlling behaviour and therefore violence?) While abusive behaviour of any form is to be condemned, if it does not involve physical force, it is not in itself "violence" according to any accepted form of plain English.

The feminist line continues in the report with core assertions like "the causes of family violence are complex and include gender inequality and community attitudes towards women". The report also contains acts of faith like "there is no doubt that violence against women and children is deeply rooted in power imbalances that are reinforced by gender norms and stereotypes".

One would therefore think that (based on this ideology), if the economic and social status of Australian women could be raised to the level achieved in (say) Sweden (the nirvana of the left), the problem of family violence would be permanently solved. The only problem is that Scandinavian countries in general, and Sweden in particular, suffer some of the highest rates of partner violence against women.

The heavy emphasis on gender inequality being at the heart of family violence is a big exaggeration, though it certainly plays some part. Female violence perpetrated against male partners or violence involving same-sex partners can hardly be rationalised on the basis of "gender inequalities". Inequality in physical strength between the sexes is definitely a factor in cases of male violence against females but I don't think this is quite what the report had in mind.

On a positive note, the report does break from feminist rhetoric by acknowledging that a quarter of victims of domestic violence are male. It, however, does this somewhat cryptically and only indirectly (by saying that "in Victoria three-quarters of victims in family violence incidents attended by police are female"). While acknowledging that "the family violence system needs to respond more supportively to male victims of family violence", the report then goes on to disingenuously also add that "resources should not be diverted from women and children, who constitute the majority of victims". (Surely resources should go to the areas of greatest need irrespective of the victim's sex or age?)

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The solutions to Victoria's domestic violence problem, put forward in the report's recommendations (and agreed to by Premier Andrews), are heavily bureaucratic in focus. The first is to implement a Common Risk Assessment Framework in order to deliver minimum standards, roles and responsibilities throughout Victorian agencies. The report also calls for family violence education programmes for police, and for more police resources to be devoted to family violence.

The Commission recommends the creation of seventeen Support and Safety Hubs to act as one-stop-shops for family violence victims. The report also called for specialist Family Violence Courts to be established across the state. It further wants the Victorian Government give priority to supporting victims through the expansion of the Safe-at-Home programme, including rental and mortgage subsidies as well as any benefits offered by advances in safety devices. Suitable case management as well as monitoring of perpetrators by police and the justice system is also recommended. The report also calls for increased emergency accommodation.

Dedicated funding for perpetrator programmes is recommended, along with better monitoring of attendance at men's behaviour change programmes. Employers probably cringed at the recommendation that Family Violence Leave should be introduced and made a paid entitlement for full-time employees.

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About the Author

Brendan O’Reilly is a retired commonwealth public servant with a background in economics and accounting. He is currently pursuing private business interests.

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