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ANROWS at the Prevalent and Preventable Conference
Tuesday, 27th September 2016
Last week, the ANROWS team attended and presented at the Prevalent and Preventable conference hosted by the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) and Our Watch. The conference explored practice and policy in the prevention of violence against women and their children.
The three day conference began with a keynote address by Our Watch Ambassador, Natasha Stott Despoja AM, who discussed the ANROWS and Our Watch collaborative report, Change the Story. Other keynote speakers included international guests Marai Larasi, from Imkaan, a UK-based, Black feminist organisation dedicated to addressing violence against women and girls; and Professor Rashida Manjoo, who was the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women from 2009 until July 2015. She put forward a powerful framework for rethinking domestic and family violence as a human rights issue.
Other keynote speakers on the first day included Zoe Bettison MP, Minister for the Status of Women in South Australia; and Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of The Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria (FVPLS Victoria). Antoinette anchored the discussion to come, through a case study of Ms Dhu, the 22 year old Aboriginal woman who died in policy custody in August 2014. Had she received adequate support as a victim of domestic violence, as well as proper healthcare, Ms Dhu would be alive today. Speakers would come back to Antoinette’s poignant speech throughout the conference.
On the second day, Our Watch CEO, Mary Barry, took us through urgent national statistics about the economic and social costs of violence against women. Australia’s national spending to address this critical issue is negligible compared with our neighbour, New Zealand, and other OECD nations such as Canada. Tania Farha, the Director of the Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality in Victoria, discussed state approaches and future direction for developing strategic policy.
On the final day of the conference, Julie Oberin, Chair of AWAVA and WESNET discussed the need for national leadership on violence against women. Dr Merrindal Andrew, Program Manager for AWAVA, reflected on the recurring themes of the conference, specifically on improving dialogue and action on intersectionality for our sector. She spoke of the need to support strong, independent feminist organisations, with a view to having intersectionality reshape our feminist practices within these women’s organisations.
The ANROWS team attended different streams, but we were live tweeting from intersectionality sessions throughout the conference. The first intersectionality panel on Day 1 provided a critical basis that other participants would build upon throughout the conference: we cannot move forward with our feminist work in the fight against violence against women without an intersectional focus. There is no one solution for all women survivors, victims and their children. We must take into consideration culture, language, religion, sexuality, race, disability, class, age and the intersections in between these social positions. The panellists included Dr Maggie Walter, Ms Marai Larasi, Ms Jen Hargrave, and Dr Regina Quiazon plus Dr Cathy Vaughan, who together discussed the ANROWS-funded study, ASPIRE, on the experiences of migrant and refugee women in Australia.
The next panel on intersectionality focused on capturing experiences of women from under-represented groups, the unique Womanist perspective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, as well as addressing the “othering” of men from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The panel included Dr Michael Flood, Ms Monique Hameed, Ms Tracy Castelino, Dr Anne Kavanagh, and Ms Dorinda Cox, who is a member of the ANROWS Practitioner Engagement Group. Dorinda discussed the contributions of Aboriginal feminists to a more culturally appropriate framework to address violence against women.
The afternoon panel grappled with issues of health and crimininalisation of women who have experienced violence. The discussion included Ms Deb Kilroy, Dr Aminath Didi, Ms Lara Fergus and Dr Jasmin Chen. Amongst other contributions, Jasmin spoke about the ANROWS-funded “ASPIRE” study, which explores community-led responses to violence against immigrant and refugee women in metropolitan and regional Australia.
On Day 2, the mid-morning panel on intersectionality addressed the rights of women with disabilities, with the Honourable Kelly Vincent MLC and Jess Cadwallader, Advocacy Projects Manager with People with Disabilities Australia. Erin Gillen, Acting Director of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA) discussed issues facing women on temporary visas. Another highlight was Tracey Currie, CEO of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA), who showed how colonial history continues to shape the privilege of White Australians, to the disadvantage of women of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
The afternoon panel considered issues of sexuality, disability and ethnicity, demonstrating how current responses to violence against women are overly simplistic and do not adequately address diversity among sub-populations of women. The speakers were Loren Days from Our Watch (and convenor of the intersectionality stream); Dr Philomena Horsley; Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli; and Dr Anastasia Powell.
The day ended with the CEOs of two of Australia’s leading violence against women organisations in conversation with Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. Heather Nancarrow, CEO of ANROWS, and Mary Barry, CEO of Our Watch, started by each discussing what our organisations are currently working towards with regards to intersectionality, acknowledging that more work lies ahead. Kate Jenkins discussed how her title, seemingly focused on sex discrimination only, does not reflect her commitment to broadening the focus to intersections of sex and gender with other social disadvantages.
Heather began by discussing the contributions of Aboriginal scholars, who have shaped thinking about how to decolonise research. Heather then moved to discuss how ANROWS research and knowledge translation activities will expand upon this thinking in our pursuit of intersectional goals.
Heather discussed how, through her role as ANROWS CEO, she will seek to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to achieve their objectives. She paid respects to the Black feminist scholars who have laid out the framework for intersectionality, Patricia Hill Collins and Kimberlé Crenshaw, as well as Indigenous Australian scholars Melissa Lucashenko, Jackie Huggins and Aileen Moreton-Robinson.
The speakers asked for questions and comments from the floor in response to a series of prompts they provided. They sought feedback about how to better address intersectionality.
The third and final day included workshop sessions; one of which was facilitated by our ANROWS team. Director of Research, Dr Mayet Costello, provided an overview of our organisation and our research priorities. Director, Evidence to Action, Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, discussed our knowledge translation and exchange (KTE) program, which facilitates the take-up of our research by practitioners and policy developers.
Two of ANROWS’ senior researchers discussed their projects and how they might contribute to enhanced approaches to prevention. First, Violetta Politoff, Senior Research Officer, discussed statistics and planned methodology for the 2017 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS) Project.
Elizabeth Orr, Project Leader for the Action Research Support project, talked about how her team is supporting community organisations to document, reflect and share their learning from projects.
Following the afternoon sessions, the conference ended with exciting and comprehensive panel, with all of the conference keynote speakers, as well as leading voices from the concurrent streams, and some of the most important audience contributors who helped shape discussions in new directions.
Some of the highlights include Tracey Currie reflecting on the recurring themes of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stream, which she convened. She noted that White feminism does not work for addressing Aboriginal Australians, who have a more egalitarian and collectivist approach to life. Indigenous responses to violence against women must be led within and by communities. National responses to violence against must also address racism, while responding to the cultural needs of Aboriginal people.
One of the most innovative aspects of the conference was that organisers were responsive to conversations. Maha Hajjeh, CEO of the United Muslim Women Association, had been central to challenging the audience to be more inclusive of Muslim Australian women’s voices, and to examine uncomfortable feelings in discussions about White privilege.
Heather Nancarrow spoke about how ANROWS research priorities will respond to the challenges and opportunities for intersectionality. “I want to reflect on the dated (nature) of the concept of gender equality. It’s by no means over; (but) it’s not enough. If we didn’t know it before this conference, we certainly know it now.” Heather reflected on the historical feminist movement on violence against women, and noted that the conditions that create violence against women suggest the way forward. In the past it was about patriarchy. In Australia today, we must be ready and willing to address intersections. ANROWS’s leadership in the National Community Attitudes Survey will help to capture and respond to the conditions that perpetuate violence against women. Another research priority for ANROWS is addressing the intersections of race and gender in addressing violence against Indigenous women.
“We are on Aboriginal land here. We are responsible for the colonisation and destruction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. In my heart that’s a priority – and it’s not to minimise other priorities. I don’t mean any disrespect in saying that. But we have created the conditions that have led to those high levels of violence against Aboriginal women and Torres Strait Islander women. I think that has to be our priority.”
Read more of our coverage of the conference on our Storify below!