As Alice Workman from Buzzfeed captured so eloquently with her tweets (featured above and below), the rhetoric emanating from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on Friday requires something of a reality check.
On the one hand, the nation’s political leaders spoke of the importance of ensuring greater representation of women in leadership positions; on the other, see the photos or refer to the COAG membership here.
Likewise, it is heart-warming to hear that COAG “reaffirmed that providing universal health care for all Australians is a shared priority”.
Perhaps it will be more like heart-stopping though for those affected by the funding squeeze on primary healthcare and public hospitals (see comments below about the “huge strain” facing public hospitals).
Meanwhile, there was not a mention of tackling climate change in the communiqué. Not one!!
While COAG discussed the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, its communiqué on this hardly inspires confidence there will be determined, wide-ranging and systematic action:
“There are still disproportionally high incarceration and re-offending rates for Indigenous Australians. COAG further agreed to develop ways to address barriers to employment on release and to support Indigenous people as they transition from incarceration to employment. The Commonwealth will undertake initiatives with states, drawing on existing programs.”
The Final Report of the COAG Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children was also released – read the full document here.
The areas for recommended action are:
1: National leadership to challenge gender inequality and transform community attitudes
The Advisory Panel recommends addressing the root causes of violence against women: gender inequality and gender biases. Making these long-term changes is vital to laying the foundations for change across all other Action Areas. The Advisory Panel recommends that governments and the corporate sector demonstrate national leadership by building a culture that challenges gender inequality and social norms that support violence against women and their children.
2: Women who experience violence should be empowered to make informed choices
The safety of victims must be paramount. The Advisory Panel recommends that responses should provide women with greater choice, information and control in decision making. Women should be supported to remain safe in the family home, if they choose to do so, and all interventions should ensure that the risk posed by the perpetrator is clearly understood and addressed.
3: Children and young people should also be recognised as victims of violence against women
Keeping children safe requires a better understanding of the impacts of violence on them and measures beyond just keeping their mother safe. The Advisory Panel recommends that early intervention and primary prevention should be strengthened to ensure harm is minimised. Research should also be carried out to improve trauma-informed responses to protect children and support them to build resilience, heal and rebuild relationships. Research, and the design and delivery of services specifically for children and young people, should actively involve children and young people.
4: Perpetrators should be held to account for their actions and supported to change
Women and their children can only be kept safe if perpetrators change their actions. To date, perpetrators have not been adequately held to account for their behaviours and attitudes and they have limited access to interventions that can change their future actions. The Advisory Panel recommends building a world-class perpetrator intervention system that focuses on perpetrator programmes, and establishing clear pathways to them, and to other support services, for men who are at risk of, or who are, perpetrating violence. Those who do perpetrate violence must face their actions and address them.
5: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities require trauma‑informed responses to violence
Family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can be especially complex, and some different approaches are needed. The Advisory Panel notes that a history of trauma underlies violence in many communities and recommends developing a trauma-informed conceptual framework for better understanding violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children. It also recommends building an appropriately qualified workforce and improving evaluation of programmes to build the evidence base. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be involved in shaping and delivering solutions for their communities.
6: Integrated responses are needed to keep women and their children safe
Responses to violence involve interaction between many different agencies and service providers. The Advisory Panel recommends addressing a range of barriers to enable better collaboration and integration between all agencies and services involved in responding to violence against women and their children, both at the national level and within specific sectors. Integration is crucial in order to better assess risk, reduce fragmentation and duplication, improve efficiency and achieve better outcomes for women and their children.
Below are a few key extracts from the post-COAG media briefing, via the PM’s website. You can read the full discussion here.
PREMIER ANDREWS (Victoria):
“I think it’s important that we take a deep breath and just acknowledge that whilst we’ve signed an agreement for additional support for our hospitals and that’s significant, hundreds of millions of dollars today in extra funding for say Victorian hospitals does not replace billions of dollars that have been taken away from Victorian hospitals. Premier Baird just made some comments about the unfair nature of 2014 and we can’t dance around that. We can’t ignore it and the Prime Minister went to it in his own comments earlier on.
I’d just ask people to remain focused on the context here and whilst an agreement today is a positive, there’s no getting away from or getting around or politely explaining away the fact that many billions of dollars will not be flowing to hospitals in my state and hospitals right across the nation as a result of decisions made in the 2014 Budget. They are not reversed today and that’s a really important point for us all to acknowledge, in a decent way but in a fundamentally honest way. We would not be true to patients across our nation if we didn’t do that.”
PREMIER PALASZCZUK (Qld):
“Our Federation works best when we all work together. And I thank the Prime Minister for the first step in recognising that health is one of the most fundamental issues that is facing Australians across our nation. In fact, there is nothing more important than making sure that we have good quality health care for all of our citizens, no matter where they live. In Queensland alone we have 169 hospitals. We have 20 in the regional cities. We have others spread right across from the Cape looking after communities as far as the Torres Strait. And that means that it’s going to cost us more to deliver those services. And whilst this recognition today of this health agreement will provide Queensland with $445 million over three years, which I didn’t have before I came to this meeting, that is a good first step. But also recognising what Daniel Andrews has said and Mike Baird, there is still a gap. There is still a huge gap.
And that means it’s going to place a huge strain on our hospitals. It’s going to mean more work for our doctors, our nurses, our administrators and I want to thank all of those health care professionals out there because they do good work day in, day out. Secondly, education is extremely important. You can’t have innovation and ideas unless you have good quality education and education starts at a young age. I’m very concerned if there’s any further proposals to look at splitting our public school system from our independent schools and our Catholics. I think that would be detrimental to the nation.”
Read more from the other jurisdictional leaders (including local government).