Family and Domestic violence now officially a workplace issue: does your organisation do enough?

An Australian survey found that 48% of respondents who had experienced domestic violence disclosed it to a manager or supervisor, and only 10% found their response helpful.

Workplaces play a significant role when it comes to the support of women and men who are experiencing or escaping violence. They can be key to enabling women and men to remain safe, stay in work and to access specialist support services. Yet there is much work to be done to ensure that workplaces are trained to provide the support that is needed.

For decades feminists have challenged the traditional sociological notion of a public/private divide – the ideological Western demarcation of the public sphere (work and politics) from the private sphere (home and family). A recent amendment to the Fair Work Act now legislates the permeability between public and private.

As of the 12th December 2018, the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Act 2018 took effect. The Fair Work Act 2009 now includes an entitlement to unpaid family and domestic violence leave as part of the National Employment Standards. All employees (including part-time and casual employees) are now entitled to five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence. 

Given the epidemic of violence against women in Australia – one in three Australian women have experienced violence - organisations are recognising that violence against women is a workplace issue, but there is still much to be done to help organisations move from recognition to active support.

What can your organisation do to ensure that it offers more than a tick-box adherence to Australian legislation?

In order to avoid being one of the 90% of managers and supervisors who do not offer a helpful response to disclosures of domestic and/or family violence, organisations must be informed of the issues facing victims of violence and have structures in place to provide a best-practice response to female employees experiencing violence.

At Rapid Context we work with organisations to ensure they are well placed to offer their employees the best support possible. We offer workshops, training (including training to achieve the White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Program) and policy implementation for organisations seeking to create a culture that supports women to disclose their experiences of violence and be kept safe.

Domestic violence is defined as acts of violence that occur in domestic settings between two people who are, or were, in an intimate relationship. It includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse. Family violence refers to violence between family members, typically where the perpetrator exercises power and control over another person. The most common and pervasive instances occur in intimate (current or former) partner relationships and are usually referred to as domestic violence. Sexual violence refers to behaviours of a sexual nature carried out against a person’s will. It can be perpetrated by a current or former partner, other people known to the victim, or strangers.

The graphic above was developed by ANROWS and Our Watch and shows an overview of some of the key difference between the patterns of violence experience by men and women.

The 2018 AIHW report on family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia reports the following alarming statistics:

  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.

  • Almost a quarter (23%) of Australian women have experienced at least one incident of violence by an intimate partner, since the age of 15.

  • Just over 30% of Australian women have experienced physical violence (perpetrated by another person, irrespective of the type of relationship).

  • 1 in 5 Australian women have experienced sexual violence.

  • 1 in 4 Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.

The impacts of violence against women on our community are immense. Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44, and the leading cause of homelessness for women and children. It results in a police call-out on average once every two minutes across the country. The combined health, administration and social welfare costs of violence against women (and their children) have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year (KPMG, 2016).

To find out more about how we can help, reach out to us at or visit our website for more details.

Joy Townsend is a Senior Consultant at Rapid Context. Her expertise is in qualitative research design, analysis and implementation. Specialist expertise in gender and sexualities research, and qualitative research methodologies including life history interviewing and narrative analysis.

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