The National Women’s Safety Summit, which commenced on Sept. 6 and ran online over two days, saw advocates, politicians, service providers and survivors across Australia unite to help shape the next national plan against violence toward women and their children. 

The event, hosted by the federal government, featured panel discussions, roundtables and keynote speakers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and was attended by Australian of the Year Grace Tame and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who shook the nation when she alleged a colleague raped her at Parliament House in 2019. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the summit. 

1. Scott Morrison Reads Survivor’s Testimonies

During his opening keynote speech, Morrison spoke about the need to achieve long-term cultural and behavioural change regarding women's safety, claiming "too many Australian women do not feel safe" and that "sorry doesn't cut it."

"There is still an attitude, a culture, that excuses and justifies, ignores or condones gender inequality that drives ultimately violence against women, and that is on all of us,” he said. "I don't believe we can talk about women's safety without talking about men. About the way some men think they own women. About the way women are subjected to disrespect, coercion and violence."

At the end of his speech, Morrison read out survivors' stories in their own words, a move Tame vehemently opposed.

“Scott has just finished his opening keynote address at the Women’s Safety Summit in which he appropriated private disclosures from survivors to leverage his own image,” she tweeted, before further labelling his remarks “completely unethical.” 

2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women Request Separate Domestic Violence Plan

In the final summit statement from delegates, one of the key recommendations is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples receive their own plan to tackle domestic violence, due to the various issues and dynamics that are specific to First Nations communities.

“Family violence ... has no place in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander societies; however solutions to this are complex, multi-faceted and require long-term commitment and action. There must be a standalone National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander action plan under the National Plan,” the statement reads. “This requires all stakeholders to prioritise effort to tackle systemic racism and in the promotion of culturally safe practices and holistic approaches that also address trauma.”

The previous National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, accounting for the years between 2010 and 2022, shows Indigenous women are up to 35 times more likely to experience domestic and family violence than non-Indigenous Australian women.

3. Government Condemned For Failing to Do Enough

The two-day summit ended with criticisms over the federal government’s recent response to violence against women and their children. Of particular concern to critics was that, just last week, the Senate brought into law only six of the 12 legislative changes recommended by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in her highly anticipated, final Respect at Work report.

"It's so hypocritical and reductive to virtually stand in front of survivors and experts and say, 'Oh, we really need to do something about this'," said Saxon Mullin, sexual assault survivor and director of advocacy at Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy, according to SBS. “We know. The call is coming from inside the house.”

Victorian Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams, Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman and West Australian Minister for Women's Interests Simone McGurk echoed Mullin’s concerns, according to the ABC.

More than AU$1 billion was pledged in the most recent budget to tackle women's safety.

Submissions are open until Sept. 15 for Australians who would like to have a say on the summit’s topics. 

If you or anyone you know needs help or advice, contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT for 24/7 support or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are in Australia and in immediate danger, call 000.


Demand Equity

3 Key Takeaways From Australia’s National Summit on Women's Safety

By Madeleine Keck