Safe Systems - A Blueprint for Action
The Safe Systems Coalition commends the Western Australian Labor Government on their efforts to ensure a more effective response to family and domestic violence in our State. Much more must be done if we are to reduce the high incidence of violence against women and children in Western Australia and promote safe and healthy communities. A meaningful, sustainable reduction in violence against women and children will not be achieved without stronger, faster action, long-term certainty and joined-up planning and commitment.
Family and domestic violence is a serious public health and social issue. Women and children no doubt have the capacity to experience family and domestic violence, make sense of it, and respond to it in ways that are agentic, resilient and resistant. This notwithstanding, it contributes to a range of negative health outcomes for women and children including:
- poor mental health, problems during pregnancy and birth, alcohol and illicit drug use, suicide, injuries and homicide;
- contributes more to the burden of ill-health than any other risk factor in women aged 18-44 years; more than well known risk factors like tobacco use, high cholesterol or use of illicit drugs;
- is estimated to make a larger contribution than any other risk factor to the gap in the burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women aged 18-44 years; and
- has serious consequences for the development and wellbeing of children living with violence.
Beyond the personal harm that family and domestic violence causes, it also has a significant economic cost at a societal level. This arises from the direct costs of responding to family and domestic violence (for example, policing, courts and crisis services) and also the indirect costs associated with its effects on housing and homelessness services, health system and child protection services.
Current state government budget structures and departmental funding processes make it difficult to quantify expenditure on family and domestic violence. However, based on the 2012 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), KPMG estimates that the total cost of violence against women and their children is $22 billion in 2015-16. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, pregnant women, women with disability, and women experiencing homelessness are underrepresented in the PSS.Taking these groups fully into account may add $4 billion to these costs in 2015-16. Other research found that for every woman whose experience of violence is prevented, $1,154 in health costs can be avoided. Even with hidden reporting and under-recording in the health system, the current system in place for WA Health inpatient data collection puts the total cost of family and domestic violence at: $51,879,097 (2009-2015) across all WA Health regions.
Increased investment in prevention and early intervention initiatives is critical to reducing these costs in the long term. A more coordinated and strategic investment framework is required to meet the enormous challenges of this serious public health and social problem. The Safe Systems Coalition believes that a reconsideration of funding priorities and the identification of new revenue sources to promote the safety and wellbeing of women and children would be widely supported in the Western Australian community.
The Safe Systems Coalition – Who we are
In late 2015, the Safe Systems Coalition formed to compel major political parties to prioritise family and domestic violence election commitments in their policy platforms.
Members of the Coalition:
- Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services
- Women’s Community Health Network WA
- Community Legal Centres Association
- Domestic Violence Legal Workers Network
- Unions WA
- Shelter WA
In March 2017, the WA Labor Government was elected, and the State’s first Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence was appointed. The Safe Systems campaign was successful in securing important election commitments, several of which have been met.
One year on, the Safe Systems Coalition is:
- Assessing what has been achieved since the Safe Systems election campaign
- Identifying systemic gaps that are failing to achieve Safe Systems for women and children living with family and domestic violence and to hold perpetrators accountable
- Outlining the next steps required to promote the immediate and long-term safety and wellbeing of women and children in Western Australia
- Identifying ways to overcome the existing fragmented and episodic response to perpetrators, and create a mutually reinforcing ‘web of accountability’
The Safe Systems Blueprint for Action was presented to the Hon. Simone McGurk, Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence at a launch in the city on May the 7th.
 ANROWS (2016). A preventable burden: Measuring and addressing the prevalence and health impacts of intimate partner violence in Australian women: Key findings and future directions
 KPMG 2016 The cost of violence against women and their children in Australia Final Report. Report prepared for the Department of Social Services.
https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/women/publications-articles/reducing-violence/national-plan-to-reduce-violence-against-women-and-their-children/economic-cost-of-violence-against-women-and-their-children?HTML#health [Viewed 1 March 2018]
 Department of Health, Western Australia. WA Health costs associated with family and domestic violence – a snap shot. Perth: Women’s Health Strategy and Programs, Women and Newborn Health Service, Department of Health, Western Australia; 2017.
 This concept was cited in: Rodney Vlais, Sophie Ridley, Damian Green and Donna Chung Stopping Family Violence Inc. 2017.Family and domestic violence: Issues paper of current and emerging trends, developments and expectations. Stopping Family Violence Inc.