The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘violence’

McClelland Talks, Says Mostly Good Things

Posted by caitlinate on July 24, 2009

Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced a series of (potential) changes to the family law system in Australia. These changes are aimed at tackling domestic violence and child abuse in Australia and altering the way the courts operate in terms of these issues. In the introduction to his speech he stated:

“I believe that at the moment there are still too many families that slip through the safety net. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions and they can’t be overcome by taking action in isolation. To address violence we need to identify holes in the system, and collaborate to tighten the safety net. It’s not enough to look for holes in the law, or in court processes or in the delivery of services, or any of these things on their own. Our safety net must provide the tightest protection possible for families negotiating the family law system.”

This is obviously in large part politician speak (he says ‘safety net’ three different times, somewhat unnecessarily) but I feel that his heart is in the right place and that revamping or strengthening the way the system works is a good thing. I do, however, have some reservations, in particular that the focus of this speech and these changes seems to be to the system after the fact – so after when the abuse occus rather than working on prevention in the first place.

The four main announcements he made are outlined in bold.

• A training package for family law system professionals and the development of minimum screening guidelines;

Training and information for ‘professionals’ within the system is a really amazing thing and I’m glad they are prioritising this. A lot of the problems that victims and survivors of violence have with legal system professionals (including the police) is that they are untrained and unaware of the impacts and complications involved in violence and abuse. This often results in behaviour/advice that can be further traumatising or unhelpful.

I am a little concerned that these training packages will be of a bureaucratic nature. The best way to inform people about the requirements and experiences of abuse survivors is to have survivors communicate about what they need or needed and the best ways to proceed. Nonetheless, it does seem that they are taking cues from the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children’s April report ‘Time for Action’ which came from a lot of community and survivor consultation.

The ‘minimum screening guidelines’ mentioned aren’t really elaborated on but I think McClelland’s talking about mandatory reporting levels and altering what he terms ‘inefficient jurisdictional boundaries’

• A pilot of legally assisted mediation for families experiencing violence;

I think this is an interesting one. The Howard government pretty much banished lawyers from some aspects of family law disputes, preferring separating couples to use counselors for mediation. McClelland has commissioned this pilot project to instead fund lawyers for mediation in cases where violence is alleged. He states:

“In assisting families to exercise choice in resolving their separation disputes, I am funding a pilot program to provide legal representation in mediation sessions to families who have experienced violence or are at risk of it.”

This could be positive. I don’t think that someone should have no legal support or recourse when the partner they are separating from has been violent towards them or their children. However allowing lawyers to the table could bring about two negative possibilities. One that bullying abusive lawyers will be in the room and it will be about forcing one party into submission. Secondly that if one partner is in a more stable financial position they will be able to hire a more experienced lawyer who can work for more favourable outcomes for their client – regardless of if they’ve been violent.

• A review of the family court practice and procedure, lead by Professor Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court judge;

This review seems to be about expanding the current model for dealing with children who have been abused or in abusive situations. Currently in use is the Magellan case management model – introduced in 1998. It brings together the family courts, police and child protection agencies to ensure the Court has all the information it needs to make decisions “in the best interest of the child” but is incredibly flawed. The current laws require the Family Court to presume the “best interests of a child” are served by a meaningful relationship with both parents after divorce, regardless of if one parent has been abusive. It forces parents into ongoing relationships with violent ex-partners and requires them to regularly hand over their children to the care of said ex-partner.

Chisholm is going to be consulting experts and examining whether the practices and procedures in the family courts encourage appropriate disclosures of family violence, and whether appropriate support is provided within the family court system for families who have experienced or are at risk of violence.

• An enquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to identify gaps in the law and reinforce the previously mentioned ‘safety net’.

This inquiry will look at two important issues raised in the National Council’s report:

1. It will examine the interaction of State and Territory laws relating to family violence and child protection with Commonwealth family laws and criminal laws to determine whether changes are required to better protect women and children; and

2. It will examine the impact of the inconsistent interpretation or application of laws in cases of sexual assault occurring in the context of family violence, on the victims of violence.

I can do nothing but applaud the fact that this enquiry is happening and cross my fingers that the outcomes will be positive for victims and survivors of violence, abuse and assault.

Overall I find the announcements to be on the positive side, even if only because action is being taken and family violence is being taken seriously. Some of the measures that will be introduced do raise questions but I don’t feel that any are to be damned but rather watched closely to see what the results are. I do wish that this was all less about enquiries and reviews and about real and substantial action being taken. However if the ‘reviews’ and ‘enquiries’ involve talking to communities, affected groups and survivors then I think extended evaluation is probably a better thing that rushed but ineffective action.

Finally, one other thing of interest McClelland mentioned is the following:

“Measures to address family violence will assist the Government’s effort to halve homelessness by 2020, as we now know that family violence is the principle cause of homelessness among young women with children.”

This statement displays, to me, an understanding of the wide and varied effect that domestic violence has on families, individuals, women and children, something of a relief after the draconian attitude of the previous government.


Posted in law, Parenting & Family, Politics, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

You’re Using the Wrong Pronoun

Posted by caitlinate on May 4, 2009

I’m angry, really angry.

There’s this article up at my favourite place, The Age, this morning. It’s titled: “Court lets girl, 17, remove breasts” and already they’ve ruined my day. Guess what? The court did not “let a ‘girl’ remove ‘her’ breasts”. The court let a (trans) male remove his breasts because they don’t fit with his gender identity.

Throughout the article they consistently use the wrong pronoun in describing “Alex”. Once or twice they used he, they repeatedly used his name to avoid using a pronoun and most of the time just went with ‘she’. When quoting the Justice that ruled on the case talking about him, and using the correct pronouns, they put his name in brackets afterwards. You know, in case any readers got confused with all this he-ing and she-ing. This is something that happens repeatedly in the mainstream media when reporting on trans issues. Think about how frustrating and silencing it is to see the word ‘sex’ being used instead of rape in the papers. Now imagine how it would feel if every time you read a report on trans related issues in the paper your entire identity was mocked, maligned and completely disrespected. It is silencing and hurtful to use the wrong pronoun when referring to a trans person. Sure, people make mistakes. A syndicated newspaper being lazy in checking in on that kind of thing? It’s not a mistake, they made a fucking choice and it’s an oppressive one and it’s not good enough.

The article also publishes examples of times when the Court has made a decision in regards to acts related to gender identity for minors that may have not turned out so well or when someone who has altered their biological gender regretted the decision. Yet no mention of the thousands of people who have changed their gender or reject gender or are happily and healthily trans. I can’t imagine why, she says with a sneer.

The teenager had been diagnosed with “gender identity dysphoria”, a psychological condition in which a person has the normal physical characteristics of one sex but longs to be the opposite sex.

Why don’t you go read a book? Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein or Whipping Girl by Julia Serano could be good starting points. Bonus fuck you points for the emotive language of “longs to be”. I long for water when I’m thirsty. I long for gloves when my hands are cold. A person whose biological gender doesn’t align with their gender identity does not ‘long’ to be the ‘opposite sex’. They want to be and are sometimes able to be and in the process face institutional and personal hate and discrimination. Oh and p.s. sex does not equal gender. Sex is fucking or making love or ‘sexual intercourse’. Sex is something I generally do with another person. Gender is an ambiguous, fluid and nebulous concept that is regarded in some quarters as socialised and performative. It has nothing to do with my cunt so please stop trying to force it to.

But ethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini said mainstream medicine did not recognise hormone treatments and surgery as treatment for gender dysphoria. He said it was a psychiatric disorder qualifying under American guidelines as a psychosis because “it’s a belief out of accordance with reality”.

Having a gender identity that differs from your biological sex is not a disorder. How many times must this be repeated? If by mainstream medicine in America he’s referring to the American Psychological Association then he is referencing the group that only finally stated that homosexuality wasn’t a disorder in 1975. What a trustworthy and knowledgeable group they are. Plus, Nicky, could you maybe clarify exactly what your concept of reality is? Sarah Palin running for Vice President of the United States of America seemed completely removed from any kind of sane reality to me. The fact that you can get pancakes in a spray can is something I find hard to believe. There are millions of people around the world who are completely adamant that there is a dude who lives on a cloud in the sky and makes decisions about their lives – shall we rush them off to the sanatorium too then? Since when does anyone get to make decisions about other peoples lives and, not only their choices about how to represent themselves, but their self-knowledge of who they are and who they want to be?

Fuck Nick Tonti-Filippini, fuck the mainstream media and fuck mainstream medicine.

I sincerely hope you understand why I am writing about this here. If not:

A million years ago Simone de Beauvoir said: “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” Trans men and women are punished and dismissed and beaten and murdered by our society because their gender identity doesn’t fit the ‘norm’. They are oppressed by gender the same way women are. Violence – whether physical or not – against trans people is a feminist issue. Get with it.

Posted in Media Watch, Trans | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Women Are Always To Blame, Part Two

Posted by Cate on November 26, 2008

Dawn Chorus blogger Caitlinate provided a recent sterling analysis of new governmental advertising to curb binge drinking, one advertisement in particular concerning a drunken teenage women who had sex due to the influence of alcohol (and possibly sexual violence).

Well the media again provides a replica of real life, as a 15 year old male has been charged with the rape of a 14 year old female after she passed out drunk at a party. According to the Herald Sun:

She first knew of the alleged rape when she was taunted at school during that week

Apparently a parent was home at the time but unaware, and there were 12 other teenagers at the party.

The male is yet to be sentenced, but let’s hope it will set a reminder and deterrent in the greater community that being unconscious due to alcohol is not an invitation to unwanted sexual acts. I’m not clear if the other youths in the house were aware of the act as it occurred or after the fact but taunting and teasing is deplorable and a hideous way to realise you’ve been sexually assaulted. Surely they should be put up as examples of those who condone sexual violence and be vilified accordingly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Surpise, Surprise, Violence Begets Violence

Posted by Cate on November 17, 2008

The White Ribbon Foundation has released some of the initial findings of their  latest research report,  An Assault On Our Future: The Impact Of Violence On Young People And Their Relationships.

The report, which reviewed data from the past seven years, including a survey of 5000 12 to 20-year-olds, linked an exposure to domestic violence to attitudes about violence. Some of the surveys results include:

One third of boys surveyed believe “it’s not a big deal to hit a girl”.

One in seven thought “it’s OK to make a girl have sex with you if she was flirting”.

Up to 350,000 girls aged between 12 and 20 – one in seven – had experienced sexual assault or rape.

Almost one third of girls in Year 10 had experienced unwanted sex.

The survey also shows one in four teenagers lives with violence at home, prompting calls for domestic violence education programs in schools.  None of this is particularly new in my personal opinion, educators and welfare pundits have long correlated domestic violence/parental attitudes with interpersonal behaviour.

Will this be another research report that sits on a well meaning person’s desk gathering dust? Will there be timelines for concrete action? And how can the impact of familial violence as a precursor to violence, be isolated from the impact of peer and larger societal perceptions of violence towards women?

Further, does family or childhood violence not only predict but excuse future behaviour? Seems to be trotted out in court sentencing at an alarming rate. At a very basic level, many victims of family violence do not hold misogynist attitudes, (though of course they may possess more interpersonal and social resources). Let’s hope this research leads to structural and interpersonal efforts at change.

November 25th is the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For more information on the White Ribbon Campaign including events in each state and how to buy ribbons and wristbands go to

Posted in Politics, Sex Crimes, sexual assault, violence against women | Tagged: , | 20 Comments »

Eyes Without A Face

Posted by Cate on July 30, 2008

Today’s Guardian newspaper has an update on their long running campaign regarding acid attacks on Indian women. The Guardian has been involved in the issue for many years and in 2003 launched CSAAW (Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women) to work towards the prevention of acid attacks and lobbying the government to rehabilitate the survivors.

They note:

[W]hile there has been some change, there is still terrible indifference. The state is still reluctant to take on the acid manufacturers and there is still no regulation of the sale of acid. Money that has been set aside for the survivors is slow to reach them.

And, not unlike the issue of domestic violence in western countries,

[T]here are enough laws on paper to prosecute attackers, enforcement is, as ever, a problem. The police are reluctant to interfere with what they consider domestic disputes…

You can find out more about how to help from the Acid Survivor’s Foundation.

You can also view the documentary Burnt, Not Defeated here:

Posted in Uncategorized, violence against women | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »