Are Politicians Finally Starting To Pay Attention To Domestic Violence?

It's long overdue, but domestic violence is starting to become a major election issue.

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Trigger warning: this article discusses domestic violence.

This past year has seen no shortage of politicians talking about ebola, suicide bombers and ISIS (spoiler: all of those links are provided courtesy of Jacqui Lambie), but domestic violence is still one of the biggest issues facing Australians today. It is the biggest contributor to injury and premature death in Australian women aged between 15-44, it will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime, and in the 21 days of this year so far, six women have already been murdered by someone who was known to them.

It’s something we’ve been talking about. There are a number of hard-working organisations out there that are producing campaigns to raise awareness, and assisting victims who are in need of help. Each new case stimulates a lot of discussion in the media, and it’s gotten to the point that state police are even starting campaigns on social media.

But now, it looks as though our politicians are getting their act together too. No, we’re not talking about that time Tony Abbott got up in front of the UN and said domestic violence wasn’t “torture, cruel or inhumane treatment”, nor that time he opposed a ban on spanking. With Victoria’s new Royal Commission Into Family Violence getting underway with the public support of Rosie Batty after the murder of her son Luke, and NSW Labor leader Luke Foley proposing better legal process and tougher punishments for perpetrators of domestic violence yesterday, the real changes seem to be happening in state government.

Is it possible domestic violence is finally becoming an election issue?

Luke Foley And His Exciting Election Promises

The NSW election is still more than two months away, but Sydneysiders have already been inundated with campaign promises. Premier Mike Baird has a lot to say about the city’s infrastructure, but it’s Labour leader Luke Foley who has really been kicking the election campaign into gear. It may just be that he’s hired some kind of Olivia Pope-like genius to re-wrangle headlines away from his DUI charges, but he’s been announcing new promises on the reg.

Look; here he is opposing looser regulation around lottery ticket sales. Here he is promising Illawarra a cool $280 million for infrastructure projects. Here he is offering Australia its first koala national park.

A KOALA NATIONAL PARK! Everyone knows koalas are political gold.

But yesterday, Foley made an election promise that struck us as a little more genuine.

Announcing his plan through an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph, the Labor leader has expressed his dissatisfaction with the legal system as it stands and the efforts of politicians to fight the problem at hand. He promises, if elected, to stop the closure of women’s shelters that have been occurring as a result of NSW Premier Mike Baird’s Going Home Staying Home reforms, increase the penalties for perpetrators who break their AVOs and create a new court network exclusively for cases of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“[Victims of domestic violence] are entitled to a safe roof over their head. They are right to demand an ­assurance that justice will be as close to immediate as practicable and that where a criminal case can be proven, their tormentor will be placed behind bars,” he said.

Though Foley still has an incredibly tough election campaign ahead of him and such promises are far from becoming a reality, it’s definitely reassuring to hear them being brought up at all. NSW has gone to enormous lengths to stop alcohol-related assault in this past year; wouldn’t it be reassuring to know our politicians were just as eager to take on domestic violence with equal rigour?

Daniel Andrews And The Royal Commission Into Family Violence

Similar attention has been placed on the issue in Victoria. New Premier Daniel Andrews established the Royal Commission Into Family Violence in the first Question Time of his new Labor government just last month. This was a similar kind of promise made by Andrews, who announced the idea while campaigning in May last year.

This no doubt had much to do with the high-profile murder case of 11-year-old Luke Batty last February — though the case got thorough Australia-wide media attention, the fact that it occurred in the Victorian town of Tyabb struck home for many in the state. It instigated one of the most high-profile discussions of family violence in recent memory. It also may have been one of the first times that a senior politician legitimately looked at the problem as an election issue.

When announcing the initiative in Parliament, Andrews described it as a “full and frank examination of a broken system that is failing our community each and every day”. The Commission currently has a budget of $40 million to review the legal and custodial systems, the resources given to police and those in place to support and help those who have been affected.

This is an idea which had unanimous support from Victorian politicians. Then-Premier Denis Napthine also pledged a sizeable sum to tackle the problem. And it’s a big one too: in 2014 more than 60,000 incidents were reported to the Victorian Police. In 2011, that figure was closer to 50,000. Things aren’t getting better.

The issue has had some incredible support from public figures like soon-to-be-retired Chief Commissioner Ken Lay in recent years — seriously, he’s a champion, you should read that link — but it now looks like it might be getting the funding and support it needs in Parliament.

Hopefully this paves the way for some serious change.

Queensland May Soon Be Gearing Up For Action

The domestic violence stats up north are not any better. In 2012, around 58,000 incidents were reported to police. In 2013, this number went to around 64,000. And though this may indicate a growing trend of victims seeking help, around one third of Queensland’s homicides are still due to domestic violence.

Late last year, Premier Campbell Newman worryingly left these statistics out of a police report about the crime rate decreasing by 11 percent. This was made worse by the fact that the report which domestic violence was excluded from was actually called ‘Crimes That Matter’. Ooft.

Three days later he had commissioned a task force on the issue to be led by Quentin Bryce. Its report will be released to the government next month.

But with the state election scheduled for January 31, Campbell Newman may not even be the one around to read it. Labour leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has already come out in support of tougher sentencing laws for perpetrators of domestic violence suggesting an extension of standard jail times.

“All parties need to do all they can to tackle the scourge of domestic violence that can leave long-term psychological and emotional trauma,” she said at a Labor Women’s conference in November. “Women, men, children, and families in Queensland should not have to live under a cloud of fear about violence in their homes.”

If ABC’s Vote Compass is anything to go by, this is a popular opinion. This was one of the few issues where voters from all political allegiances agreed completely.


As we go forward into two state elections, and start another year where Destroy The Joint’s dead woman counter starts ticking once again, we should embrace any step forward on this issue. The more we talk, the more politicians have to listen; the more they listen, the more systems get put in place to help victims and the more punishment gets doled out for those who offend.

It’s not a problem with an easy solution, but it’s one that all elected representatives should be working towards helping.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family violence of any kind, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit