​New research: Improvement needed in reporting on violence against women in Australia

Tuesday, 7th June 2016

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Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and Our Watch, the national organisation established to stop violence against women and their children before it starts, have today released new research about the nature of reporting of violence against women in Australia in 2015.

The report, Media Representations of Violence Against Women, suggests that while there has been much positive change, best practice reporting of violence against women in Australia is not always the norm, with victim blaming still present in 1 in 6 articles on the issue. Read the report here

ANROWS Chief Executive Officer Heather Nancarrow said that the report was the first national study of its kind and stands out internationally for its size and scope. 

“It shows the volume of reporting on violence against women in Australia is high. During a four month collection period, the research found that 4516 print, online or radio stories on violence against women were published or broadcast more than 15,000 times. Sensationalist headlines, graphic language and trivialising photographs were present, but in the minority.”

“That said, the research also highlights a few issues that remain a concern, including victim blaming, minimal use of expert sources and lack of help seeking information such as 1800RESPECT,” Ms Nancarrow said.

Lead researcher Dr Georgina Sutherland at the University of Melbourne said “Only 4.3 per cent of news reports included help seeking information, and 15 per cent of reporting implied the victim was in some way responsible for the violence inflicted upon her, such as ‘she was drinking/flirting/went home with the perpetrator/was out alone/they were arguing/she didn’t report previous incidents/did not leave.”

The release of this research comes on the same day the second annual Our Watch Awards - which recognise excellence in journalism that contributes to a deeper understanding of violence against women, its drivers and prevention – open for entries. The Our Watch Awards are administered by the Walkley Foundation

“Time and time again, national and international research – including this report – tells us that the public is heavily influenced by the way violence against women is portrayed in the media,” Our Watch Chief Executive Officer Mary Barry said.

“The Our Watch Awards, administered by the Walkley Foundation, acknowledge this level of influence. They are a chance to celebrate those journalists and outlets doing an exemplary job in reporting on violence against women and their children in Australia, and highlight best practice to others in the field.”

“In recent years, as violence against women has dominated the headlines as never before, many in the media industry are contributing to a new era in the reporting of the issue,” Ms Barry said.

“This was demonstrated by the 177 high quality entries Our Watch and the Walkley Foundation received for the inaugural 2015 Our Watch Awards. 

“We encourage media around the country to enter the Our Watch Awards and members of the community to prompt journalists to enter for outstanding work they’ve noticed.”

Entries in seven categories in the Our Watch Awards are open until 7 July and can be submitted here.

The researchers behind the report, Media Representations of Violence Against Women,  Professor Jane Pirkis and her team at the University of Melbourne, including Dr Georgina Sutherland, led the ground breaking research that informed Mindframe, which resulted in world leading responsible reporting of suicide and mental health.

Researchers from the University of Canberra were also involved, including Dr Kate Holland, a Senior Research Fellow in Communications and Media Studies and Law Professor Patricia Easteal AM, who was recognised in 2010 with an Order of Australia and ACT Australian of the Year “for service to the community, education and the law through promoting awareness and understanding of violence against women, discrimination and access to justice for minority groups”.

About the Our Watch Awards:

Our Watch has developed the Our Watch Awards administered by the Walkley Foundation, to recognise and reward exemplary reporting to end violence against women, in particular reporting that highlights the causes of violence and what we as a society can do to ‘stop it before it starts’. 

The Our Watch Awards is an initiative under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 and are funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services. 

Find out about the Awards, as administered by The Walkley FoundationClick here for more information on Our Watch and resources for journalists. 

Media contact

Hannah Grant, Our Watch, 0448 844 930, email Hannah.Grant@ourwatch.org.au
Jess Gregory, ANROWS, 0408 800 699, jessica.gregory@anrows.org.au 

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:
“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”