Anna Coutts-Trotter (left) and Federal Minister Tanya Plibersek
Tanya Plibersek attended an International Women's Day event with daughter Anna Coutts-Trotter. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS
  • professional - Women general

Women unite in grief and resilience as violence remains

March 8, 2024

With the nation observing International Women’s Day, a renewed push has emerged to end gender-based violence and female homelessness.

In the lead-up to the global event, shocking statistics revealed dozens of Australian women killed in suspected acts of domestic violence last year alone.

Marking the occasion, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosted a morning tea at the Lodge in Canberra on Friday, to celebrate the contribution of women from the bush capital’s community service organisations.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong acknowledged there was still a way to go for the representation of women in politics at a breakfast in Adelaide, while Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek attended an event in Sydney with daughter Anna Coutts-Trotter, a survivor of sexual and domestic violence..

Ms Coutts-Trotter began experiencing violence in her relationship at age 15 and in 2019, Ms Plibersek chose not to run for leader of the Labor Party because her daughter was appearing as a witness in court during a legal action relating to the abuse.

The senior cabinet minister, who held back tears at points, said it was really important to let people tell their story “in their own way, in their own time”.

“And to support the choices they make,” she said.

Ms Coutts-Trotter said she was “really good at covering it up” and urged people to just “stick around” and be there for the person experiencing domestic violence.

Activist Grace Tame wiped away a tear when Ms Coutts-Trotter told her story.

Sexual consent activist Chanel Contos also attended the event.

The deaths of women in suspected acts of domestic violence have cast a shadow over the months leading up to International Women’s Day.

Georgie Abay, Anna Coutts-Trotter and Tanya Plibersek
 Anna Coutts-Trotter (centre) spoke at a Sydney event about her own experience of domestic violence. Image by Belad Al-Karkhey/AAP PHOTOS 

In October, 21-year-old water polo coach Lilie James was found dead in a Sydney school, believed to have been murdered by a 24-year-old man she had been in a brief relationship with.

In February a 44-year-old man was charged with murder after his wife was found dead at a property south of Brisbane.

One month earlier, a 42-year-old man was charged with murder after his 65-year-old mother died following an alleged arson attack.

According to research group Counting Dead Women Australia, 64 women were killed in violent incidents in 2023 and on Friday, people across Australia would remember those lost and those who survived.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the government was committed to early intervention.

“One of the big areas we’re very focused on is holding perpetrators to account; that’s something that victim-survivors have said they want us to hear,” she said.

Ms Rishworth warned that without the attitude shift by men, any progress made in reducing violence against women would “go backwards in the next generation”.

Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women, with nearly half of those seeking homelessness assistance citing it as a reason, according to a report from Homelessness Australia.

Tara Moss and Grace Tame
 Tara Moss (left) and Grace Tame were among those at Friday’s International Women’s Day lunch. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

And the number forced to sleep rough in cars or couch surf after receiving support has at least doubled over the previous decade.

Part of this could be attributed to the property market’s male skew.

According to CoreLogic, women are more likely to own a residence with someone else while men have a higher rate of sole ownership. 

This tends to even out as populations age but the property site’s expert Eliza Owen said this could cause issues.

“Presumably the gender-based home ownership gap closes in part due to the formation of couples and family households,” she said.

“So while the pay gap between men and women becomes less important for mixed-gender couples, it may pose potential risks during relationship breakdowns.”

As a result, the government has focused on the safety and success of women ahead of International Women’s Day.

On Thursday it announced women would be paid super on government-funded paid parental leave, as part of a gender equality strategy.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

Lifeline 13 11 14