10 advocates on what we all need to know about gender-based violence in Australia

During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, millions of people around the world take action for the elimination of violence against women. Gender-based violence is one of the most widespread human rights abuses in the world, and it remains rife in Australia.

But everyday, advocates take a stand against gender-based violence. They take to the streets, campaign to change laws, policies, and culture, and so much more – all to ensure that women and girls, and everyone ,everywhere, can live free from violence.

To mark the 16 Days, Amnesty International spoke to 10 advocates about what we all need to know about violence in Australia, and actions everyone can take to end violence.

Lula Dembele

“Respect is sharing power. Respect is valuing difference equally.

I think so much of what we are trying to achieve through cultural change to end violence against women and girls is about addressing the structural imbalances of power, who is seen and heard. Who is deemed credible, who gets to make decisions, who controls resources.”

When we stop devaluing ‘others’ as less than, stop creating in/out groups to find our sense of belonging based on superiority, then we will create true equality.

Lula Dembele is a victim survivor and gender equity advocate.

Antoinette Braybrook

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience family violence at vastly disproportionate rates.”

We want governments to invest in Aboriginal women, our solutions and our self-determination. This will ensure that we, together with our children, families and communities, can thrive in culture and identity.

Antoinette Braybrook is an Aboriginal woman who was born on Wurundjeri country. Antoinette’s grandfather and mother’s line is through the Kuku Yalanji. Antoinette is the CEO of Djirra, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation which provides culturally safe and specialist legal and non-legal support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience family violence. Antoinette is also the Co-Chair of the Change the Record Campaign, and the Co-Chair of Change the Record and the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum.

On 25 November 2021, Change the Record launched a roadmap for a dedicated First Nation Women’s National Safety Plan – written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Add your voice to the call for a First Nation Women’s National Safety Plan today.

Maria Dimopolous

“We need to reject outright this persistent idea that an automatic inherent vulnerability attaches itself to any discussion around family and domestic violence and migrant and refugee women!

It’s about eliminating the structural and systemic barriers that limit the options for migrant and refugee women.

It’s about the homogenising of complex and intersectional experiences… it’s this that need to be urgently addressed!”

Maria Dimopolous is an expert on the intersections of diversity, gender equality and the law. Maria is also a recipient of an Amnesty International Human Rights Award for her work on the legal and human rights of women from CALD backgrounds.

Dr Judy Tang

“There is so much work to be done and actioned in the space of women’s rights – the time for talk is well and truly over.

It’s not acceptable that Australian women on average make $300 less than men.”

It’s not acceptable that 1 in 3 women in Australia experience physical or sexual violence. The time to demand better is now.

Dr Judy Tang is an adviser from Amnesty International’s Australia Refugee Advisory Group and a Commissioner at the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)

“Across Australia, efforts to address violence against women primarily focus on intimate partner violence. While addressing this form of violence is essential, it too often is at the exclusion of other forms of gender-based violence that don’t fit neatly within this terminology.

Women with disabilities also experience violence from people such as carers, parents, children, and support workers. They also experience violence within institutions like aged care residential settings, hospitals, mental health institutions, prisons, and group homes.

Today, WWDA is calling for recognition, prevention, and resourcing to address the specific forms of gender-based violence women, girls, feminine-identifying and non-binary people with disabilities experience.

The fifth National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children must address ALL forms of gender-based violence, including those specific to women with disabilities.

Forced sterilisation – when sterilisation has been performed without that individual’s informed consent – is an act of gender-based violence, a form of social control, and a clear and documented violation of the right to be free from torture. In the context of settler-colonial Australia, forced sterilisation has been used as an ongoing weapon of genocide against First Nations women and those with uteruses, upholding racially violent ideas around eugenics.

We know that perpetrators are rarely held accountable and that both disabled and First Nations people with uteruses who have experienced this violent abuse of their rights are rarely, if ever, able to obtain justice.

Successive Australian Governments have not acknowledged this pervasive practice, have not expressed regret, and have not offered redress to the women, girls and gender diverse people with uteruses affected.”

Women With Disabilities Australia aims to improve the rights, safety and well-being of everyone that we represent. WWDA is run by and for women, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people with disabilities.

For the 16 Days of Activism this year, WWDA is calling for action to #SmashTheAbleism and end all forms of violence against women, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people with disabilities.

Rida Aleem Khan

There is an increasing need to highlight the voices of tribal women of our world. And tribal Pakistani women, tribal Muslim women and tribal women in multicultural Australia deserve recognition & respect.

Rida Aleem Khan is a Founder of the South Asian Women Network And Allies (SAWNAA).

Eloise Layard

“Most LGBTQ+ people are in safe, healthy and happy relationships. Unfortunately, we know that for some in our communities, this isn’t the case.

ACON stands strong in our mission to change the structures in our society that permit violence against LGBTQ+ people, and to ensure those experiencing violence have access to supports and safety; through our advocacy, programs, and community resources like SayItOutLoud.org.au.

I think so much of what we are trying to achieve through cultural change to end violence against women and girls is about addressing the structural imbalances of power, who is seen and heard. Who is deemed credible, who gets to make decisions, who controls resources.

Underpinning this must be an intersectional approach that truly values our differences equally, rather than a focus on sameness or making people conform in order for their opinions and experiences to be valid.

We can all take a stand against cisgenderism and heteronormativity, which drive violence against people in our communities. Get involved by listening to the voices of LGBTQ+ people, especially Sistergirls and Brotherboys, speaking up when you see discrimination, and asking your government representatives what they are doing to prevent and respond to gendered violence against LGBTQ+ people.”

Eloise Layard is the Program Coordinator on Sexual, Domestic and Family Violence at ACON.

Check out Say It Out Loud, an initiative of ACON to encourage LGBTQ+ communities to have healthy relationships, get help for unhealthy relationships, and support their friends.

Sienna Aguilar

“As someone who facilitates spaces for social change advocates, I’ve learned that we need to keep shifting gears and grow communities that care.

When we care as a collective, we can fully name the truth and impact of gender-based violence, across our communities and in all its forms.

We can value the care work of healing from intergenerational trauma, and tend to our relationships with each other and the land. When we embed care into our systems, we can build futures safe and equal for the next generations.”

Sienna “Shenna” Aguilar (she/her) is a social ecologist and facilitator of The Shift to gender equality network

Shamreeza Riaz

Shamreeza Riaz’s mother Ami

“I want to express my gratitude to a woman who never have been to school even a single day and devoted her entire life for girls’ education.

Yes, that’s my mother. Who supported my five sisters, including me, in a male dominated patriarchal society and empowered us. Thank you, Ami, for gender equality and so much bravery.

Today, I am human rights activist, lawyer, legal researcher and an active member of my community just because of you.”

Shamreeza Riaz is a human rights activist and legal researcher.

Human rights advocates like these women work tirelessly to make the world a place where everyone can be free from violence and discrimination. One of the best ways to guarantee that the rights of women and girls in Australia are protected is with a Human Rights Act. A Human Rights Act would enshrine the rights of all Australians in law and ensure that they cannot be stripped away or transgressed by people in power. Learn more about our women’s rights campaigns and our campaign for a federal Human Rights Act.