Australia launches scheme to tackle domestic violence
Australia plans to set up a national scheme to address family violence and violence against women.
The aim is to establish uniform guidelines for prosecuting domestic violence cases across all states.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged the Council of Australian Governments, the peak inter-governmental forum, to reach agreement on a plan this year.
One Australian woman dies every week as a result of domestic violence, according to government statistics.
Mr Abbott's announcement comes three days after a campaigner against domestic violence, Rosie Batty, was named Australian of the Year.
Ms Batty's son Luke was killed in public by his father last February while playing cricket.
After her son's death, Ms Batty emerged as an articulate and powerful advocate for the rights of women and children living in violent relationships, giving new force to efforts to prevent family violence across Australia.
Activists say Ms Batty's ability to explain why so many women struggle to protect their children from violent partners helped make family violence a key campaign issue for all political parties in last November's Victoria state election.
Mr Abbott said at a press conference on Wednesday that Ms Batty's advocacy had played a role in his decision to establish the national scheme. He said she was advising the government on how to make it easier for women to get help from the authorities.
He added that he did not want Ms Batty's Australian of the Year award to be just symbolic. Rather, he said, she wanted "us to act as a nation to make a difference to reduce the scourge of domestic violence".
He said a national scheme would mean a domestic violence court order against an alleged perpetrator in one jurisdiction would hold in another. The violence should not be allowed to follow women from state to state, he said.
"I am a father of three daughters, and the brother of three sisters," he said. "The last thing I want to see is violence against women and children."
Mr Abbott said one of the issues that would be addressed was greater co-ordination between police, social services and mental health bodies.
The government would also consider launching a public awareness campaign similar to those launched to address illegal drink driving.
"If you are a repeat drink driver, you really have the book thrown at you," said Mr Abbott. "But if you breach a domestic violence order, often there are hardly any consequences."
"I tell you just because terrible things are happening behind closed doors doesn't mean they are not terrible things."