The time available for Australians to respond to the Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children has been extended by two weeks, after activists and domestic violence groups rebuked the government’s initial decision to set the feedback period to just 14 days.

The plan, released on Friday, details the government’s strategy for preventing gender-based violence over the next decade. 

On the same day the draft plan and its consultation period were revealed, dozens of Australia’s most well-respected gender equality champions united to pen a powerful letter urging the government to extend the time frame to a minimum of six weeks. 

Former MP Julia Banks, academic Blair Williams and activist Marie Coleman were among the signatories. 

"[The initial two-week consultation period] speaks volumes about the seriousness with which the government is taking this issue. By comparison, a home [renovation] regularly takes four weeks consultation,” the letter reads. “The tiny window of consultation diminishes this issue to our society and is shallow and disrespectful to our country.”

Following the outcry, the date was shifted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 14.

“Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston contacted state and territory ministers who make up the Women’s Safety Taskforce … and they have jointly agreed to extend the timeline for public comment by four weeks, particularly in light of the COVID-related workforce pressure the sector is under,” the spokesperson for the minister said in a statement to SBS. “The draft national plan is the culmination of 18 months of extensive, detailed and thorough consultation with victim-survivors, advocates, sector representatives, academics, business leaders and the broader community.”

The newly proposed scheme is split into two five-year action plans, with four pillars and four founding principles.

The four pillars include stopping violence before it starts, prioritising early intervention, supporting survivors and lastly, ensuring an ongoing process is in place to enable survivors to be "safe, healthy and resilient, to have economic security, to recover and thrive."

The foundation principles centre around addressing gender inequality, putting survivors at the heart of solutions, guaranteeing that the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are placed at the forefront of the plan and recognising the importance of intersectionality when analysing and responding to gendered violence.  

A First Nations-specific plan has also been included under the draft. 

"A dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan will set the foundation for healing-informed, strength-based approaches that are culturally based and community-led,” the report reads. “It will build on the commitments made through the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, particularly in relation to the four reform priorities.” 

Narungga woman Cheryl Axleby, the co-chair of advocacy group Change the Record, said the dedicated Indigenous Australian action plan — which will likewise focus on systemic change and addressing the drivers of violence — is simply an afterthought to the master document. 

"We need a dedicated, self-determined national plan which isn’t a footnote to a mainstream report, “ she said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “[This] is the issue that we face time and time again.”

Indigenous women experience violence at 3.1 times the rate non-Indigenous Australian women do.

They are also 11 times more likely to die from assault than their non-Indigenous counterparts.


Demand Equity

Australians Now Have Extra 2 Weeks for Input Into Gendered-Violence Plan Following Outcry

By Madeleine Keck