(TAS) Governments unite to launch national research body aimed at improving women’s safety

Friday, 16th May 2014

A national research organisation funded jointly by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments has been launched today to undertake research aimed at addressing the high rates of domestic, family and sexual violence against women and their children and improving outcomes for victims. 

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) was established in 2013. It is the first of its kind in Australia and was officially launched at Parliament House, Canberra by Federal Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews and Federal Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women Michaela Cash. They were joined by state and territory ministers from across Australia, and by representatives from the services sector, women’s organisations and researchers.

ANROWS will work with governments and non-government agencies, researchers, and practitioners to undertake high quality research that aims to influence policy, service provision and professional practice.

The Tasmanian Government is investing $35,100 a year, as a part of the total contribution from all governments of $3 million per annum over three years to enable the organisation to begin its own research projects and provide funding for other researchers. The Commonwealth has also invested an additional $1 million per annum over 3 years to support specific research on interventions with perpetrators of violence against women.  The investment in ANROWS delivers on a key commitment under the $170 million National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

Research over the past seven years shows violence against women remains alarmingly high. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey 2012 found one in five (19%) Australian women had been subjected to sexual violence, and one in six (17%) had experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner. 

The survey found no reduction in the rates of women who reported partner violence between the 2005 ABS Personal Safety Survey and that undertaken in 2012, despite numerous programs and initiatives aimed at addressing the issue.

ANROWS Chair Emeritus Professor Anne Edwards said there is a need to bring a uniform, coordinated and national approach to the issue.

“Violence against women is one of the most significant issues facing our community, and is all the more confronting because we have seen little change in the rates of violence against women, despite the best efforts of governments, service providers and the research community.

“To tackle this issue we need a coordinated approach to build a strong evidence base for what policies and practices will be most effective for reducing violence against women,” Professor Edwards said. 

ANROWS CEO, Heather Nancarrow, said that recognition of diversity across the Australian community, was essential in the work of ANROWS. 

“We are aware of the cultural, geographic and other diversity across the states and territories and the need to understand the variety of circumstances facing different groups of women so that services are attuned to these various circumstances. We also know that there are many people working in innovative ways to support victims and intervene with perpetrators and we want to engage them in the process of building evidence to guide policy and future practice,” Ms Nancarrow said.

Today’s launch also marked the announcement of the National Research Agenda to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, addressing the four key areas of experience and impacts of violence against women, gender inequality and prevention, effectiveness of service responses and interventions, and the impact of systems (see below for summary). The National Research Agenda was produced by ANROWS on behalf of the Australian governments to develop a cohesive and comprehensive national evidence base to support the National Plan.

ANROWS will undertake a program of research under the National Research Agenda, with the ANROWS Research Priorities for 2014-15 also announced at today’s launch. Applications are now open for ANROWS research grants in priority areas. 

Professor Edwards said the creation of this research organisation marks a turning point in how we respond to reducing violence against women.

“The organisation is unique in Australia as it aims to combine the capabilities and views of the many groups involved in working to reduce violence against women and their children across the country, ensuring a comprehensive and relevant body of research is undertaken.  It will have a significant national and international leadership role in research on violence against women,” Professor Edwards said. 

Ms Nancarrow said improving outcomes for women will be a priority for the organisation.

“We’ll go beyond identifying what works, with the research assessing what works best and for whom. For example, a high security refuge may be important for many women escaping domestic and family violence, but for others it may be preferable to investigate how they can stay safely in the family home,” Ms Nancarrow said.

More information about the National Research Agenda, grant applications and ANROWS’ research priorities is available at anrows.org.au.