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Characteristics of Violent Experiences of Australian Women

Violence against women is a common social problem, irrespective of a state being modern or belonging to a developing nation, thus not leaving Australia to be an exception (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2022). There are many characteristics of violent experiences that Australian women are still going through today, which makes it a gendered problem and to be differentiated from the ones faced by Australian men. Studies show that Australian women are most likely to be subjected to violence from men who are known to them: mainly previous or current cohabiting partners (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022). Apart from these instances, cases of violence in general like rape or sexual assaults are also to be taken up as challenges that needs to be advocated through policy development (Mao, 2019). This paper shall point out relevant theories of policy change that are required pertaining to restricting and eradicating violence against women along with scanning over the governmental and non-governmental bodies that are working in this area to bring a change. An initial plan for policy change shall also be discussed by addressing the desired changes and the targeted audience to be influenced in order to bring this change.

Studies have confirmed that women are more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted in their homes by men who are closely associated to them, especially previous or current cohabiting partners (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022). This type of violence is brought under the umbrella of family and domestic violence by the Human Rights Commission (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2022). Nevertheless, other general acts of violence are also recorded against them, like rape, sexual assault, physical hurt, homicide, et cetera, which often goes unreported and thus unrecorded in the national data (Our Watch Quick facts, 2022). Anything that is not recorded or undocumented would automatically be left out of consideration of the deciding authorities whether to spend their precious time on making policy changes or leave it as it is, for things are hardly reported regarding it. In contrary, many a times, the concerned authority overlooks certain matters, essentially for being tangled in controversies related to it, like allegations brought by Brittany Higgins against a colleague hailing from the ruling Liberal Party (Mao, 2021).

In this regard, there is an utmost need for advocacy pertaining to policy change in this area, so that the shocking statistics of violence against women are reduced. Statistical records like almost 2 million adults have gone through one instance of sexual assault since they were 15 or approximately 639,000 Australian women have experienced incidents of sexual assault in the last 10 years (Sexual assault in Australia, 2020). Thus, it is imperative to put an end to such negatively impactful incidents on women, with the help of strict policies that needs to be implemented.

Considering the issue of violence against women to be of crucial importance, a great impact needs to be brought forward as directed by the ‘large leap’ theory that suggests a large-scale change that could be achieved when the issue is properly framed and discussed strategically as mentioned by Baumgartner, Jones & Mortensen (2018). Also known as the Punctuated Equilibrium theory or PET theory, it was developed by Frank Baumgartner and Brian Jones, which is an ideal model for longitudinal studies pertaining to setting up agendas for policy change. The theory lays down conditions for bringing large-scale changes (Baumgartner, Jones & Mortensen, 2018):

  1. the specific issue that is the concern of the hour needs to be well-defined in order to be understood by the targeted audience;
  2. involvement of new actors is required who would see the issue from a different angle to decide for the necessary changes required;
  3. the issues to be brought before the common people through media attention so that the need for the change is much more visible and supported.

Gendered Nature of Violence Against Women

The Australian government through its Institute of Health and Welfare and the Human Rights Commissions has been vocal about the issues of violence against women through various publications, reports, campaigns and programs in order to draw public attention. The authorities believe that through public awareness about the perils of the vulnerable women and the consequences it brings to the society, they could bring some changes to the current situation. To expediate the process, they have even classified women into certain vulnerable groups like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities, women subjected to domestic violence, women with disabilities, pregnant women, homeless women, young women, et cetera (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022).

The Human Rights Commission explicitly quotes the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 1993 and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1976 to highlight the different gender-based violence that women have to go through, which needs to be eradicated with immediate effect (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022). In addition, the Commission lays down its current initiatives to address the various forms of violence against women, like the Haven Project, The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children, Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, Trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, Violence against women and girls with disability, et cetera (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2022).

To one’s surprise, Australia, a modern state, still lacks a dedicated legislation that could address the different forms of violence that women are subjected to, day in and day out, irrespective of the substantial number of cases of physical, sexual, financial, psychological violence against women that are reported in the country annually (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2022). A strict policy solely dedicated to address these issues is a must in today’s time. The policy is assumed to secure provisions that would define the issues along with laying down sanctions for violation. Bronsther (2021) in his article published in the Virginia Law Review has mentioned that the deterrence which is a significant part of the corrective justice theory of punishment is the key weapon to bring the necessary change, where the perpetrators must be given harsh punishments for bringing violence towards women and degrading the condition of the society.  

Through this policy change, it is desired that the rate of violence against women would significantly decrease and the current position of women in the society, especially the vulnerable ones, would improve. In this quest, public awareness programs along with strong agendas need to be planned to bring it to the government’s notice that a strict policy in required to be drafted and implemented as soon as possible to rectify the recurring incidences of violence against women all over the country, irrespective of class, creed, religious or financial background. Non-governmental organisations like Our Watch, AWAVA, et cetere are suggested to conduct studies and surveys which would help them to generate data that shows the current rate of criminal offences committed against women. Campaigns and protest rallies need to be planned to attract government’s attention towards the genuine need for the change (Our Watch, 2022); (The Australian Women Against Violence Alliance, 2022).

Types of Violence Women Face in Australia

In regard to my agency, it is recommended that we arrange programs where we could invite The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, Minister for Social Services and certain government officials along with opposition leaders for debating over women’s issues and the cases of violence against them (Department of Social Services, 2022). In this way, we could convince them about the need to incorporate a dedicated policy that would strictly address cases of violence against women.

For the starters, government officials such as Prevention Council members of the DFV Prevention Council could be reached out to, in order to make them aware of the situation, for they are the ones who get to work from the grass root level of the society, bearing the responsibility of local areas as a representative of the government (Department of Justice and Attorney-General, 2022). Subsequently, the members of the Parliament and Ministers such as The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, Minister for Social Services and The Hon Justine Elliot MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence could be reached out to, for them to comprehend that there is a need to start a debate in the Parliament regarding the cases of violence against women along with the need to introduce a bill in this regard (Department of Social Services, 2022). However, influencing the non-governmental organisations and common people in general is also necessary who could help in pursuing the government to bring this necessary change. Public hue and cry often act as an effective strategy to pursue the government; thus, it is imperative to push the common people to raise this agenda of having a new legislation that would protect women, especially the vulnerable ones, from all forms of violence, along with ensuring strict actions to be taken against the perpetrators.

Conclusion 

Therefore, a policy change, rather introduction of a new policy is imperative in terms of addressing the issues of violence against women, which would comprise of all form of violence, be it an act of violence committed against a cohabiting female by her partner or a sexual offence committed by a colleague or even a stranger. The dedicated policy would ensure that the different forms of violence committed against women are well defined along with the requisites to fall into each category, in addition to prescribing deterrent punishment for the perpetrators. The main objective behind advocating this change, as discussed above, is to improve the condition of women in Australia, especially those who belong to certain vulnerable groups who are subjected to criminal acts and violence more than others. Thus, it is high time that the government considered the necessity for bringing out a more effective policy to protect these women, than what it already offers. The initiatives and programs observed by the Human Rights Commissions in collaboration with other organisations is undeniably commendable, however it also need to be agreed to that there are gaps to such initiatives that requires to be covered by a defending legislation that would offer stringent sanctions as a means of deterring potential perpetrators from committing an act of violence against women in future.

References

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2022). Violence against women | Australian Human Rights Commission. Humanrights.gov.au. Retrieved 7 April 2022, from https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/projects/violence-against-women.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Sexual assault in Australia [Pdf]. Retrieved 7 April 2022, from

https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/0375553f-0395-46cc-9574-d54c74fa601a/aihw-fdv-5.pdf.aspx?inline=true.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018, Summary - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Retrieved 7 April 2022, from

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/family-domestic-sexual-violence-in-australia-2018/summary.

Baumgartner, F. R., Jones, B. D., & Mortensen, P. B. (2018). Punctuated equilibrium theory: Explaining stability and change in public policymaking. Theories of the policy process, 55-101. eBook ISBN9780429494284

Bronsther, J. (2021). The Corrective Justice Theory of Punishment. Va. L. Rev., 107, 227.

https://www.virginialawreview.org/articles/the-corrective-justice-theory-of-punishment/ 

Department of Justice and Attorney-General. (2022). DFV Prevention Council | Department of Justice and Attorney-General. Retrieved 2 June 2022, from

https://www.justice.qld.gov.au/initiatives/end-domestic-family-violence/dfv-prevention-council#:~:text=The%20Domestic%20and%20Family%20Violence,(the%20Third%20action%20plan).

Department of Social Services. (2022). Ministers | Department of Social Services, Australian Government. Retrieved 2 June 2022, from https://www.dss.gov.au/ministers

Mao, F. (2019). How dangerous is Australia for women?. BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-46913913.

Mao, F. (2021). How rape allegations have rocked Australian politics. BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2022, from

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-56178290.

Our Watch Quick facts. (2022). Quick facts. Retrieved 2 June 2022, from https://www.ourwatch.org.au/quick-facts/

Our Watch. (2022). Change the story. Retrieved 2 June 2022, from https://www.ourwatch.org.au/ 

The Australian Women Against Violence Alliance. (2022). Young Women's Report. Retrieved 2 June 2022, from https://awava.org.au/

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