Contextualising Sexual Violence in Australia

“For every person that wants to hurt me, there are more who want to help.”

– Chanel Miller (survivor advocate)

The National Plan

The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2022–2032 was released in October 2022, aiming to connect the work of Australian governments, community organisations, educational institutions and individuals to reduce violence. The ten-year Plan will be delivered in two five-year Action Plans that build on each other. Each Action Plan will have an Implementation Plan, and later, a Progress Report.

The Plan has four pillars:

  • Prevention
  • Early intervention
  • Response
  • Recovery and healing

The Recovery Alliance is responsible for the embedding of recovery and healing in the Plan. This inclusion is powerful, as recovery rarely gets the focus or investment it deserves, and is an important way to break cyclical abuse.

Lula Dembele of the Independent Collective of Survivors (ICOS) and The Recovery Alliance opened the launch of the Plan with an independent statement written by members of the ICOS. This marked the first time victims have been given a voice in the Plan and highlighted the importance of lived expertise.

In recognition of the disproportionate rates of family, domestic and sexual violence that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience, a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan will work alongside the First Action Plan.

Report of the Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence

In April 2021, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs published the Report of the Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence, to reflect on the 2010–2022 National Plan so that the next national plan leads to a meaningful reduction in the unacceptable rates of family, domestic and sexual violence.

Jurisdictional Strategies and Initiatives Addressing Sexual Assault and Family Violence


Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) is an initiative of the National Plan, aiming to produce a growing evidence base supporting policy and practice in reducing violence against women and their children.

ANROWS has a Register of Active Research to provide a comprehensive research landscape of projects currently underway, and also produces Australia’s National Research Agenda to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (ANRA), which is updated biennially.

The 2023-2028 ANRA raised several new priority research topics for academics, researchers, research funding bodies and governments, such as:

  • Coercive control
  • The role of shame
  • The role of media
  • Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men as partners in the conversation, not as perpetrators
  • A DFSV- and trauma-informed workforce
  • Children as victims in their own right
  • Economic abuse

Our Watch

Our Watch is an independent not-for-profit organisation created under the National Plan that aims to drive nationwide change in the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia.

It works in the following areas:

  • Providing policy advice, support and input to governments, decision-makers and policy processes to influence public policy, systems and institutions to drive societal-level change.
  • Developing communications and social marketing campaigns that aim to shift attitudes and behaviours that drive violence against women.
  • Developing the primary prevention workforce and working with other organisations, networks and communities to build a movement for change.
  • Producing free research-based tools and resources to help others embed gender equality and prevent violence in settings like education, workplaces, sporting clubs and the media.
  • Leading a public conversation that keeps violence against women on the national agenda with a focus on primary prevention.
  • Monitoring and evaluating prevention efforts from a program level to the national level.

The National Women's Safety Alliance

The National Women’s Safety Alliance is one of six National Women’s Alliances advocating for the rights of women in Australia, and collaborating with policymakers to protect those rights.

Established in August 2021, it provides government with advice from services and experts in the women’s safety sector, including those with lived expertise.

The Alliance hosts four committees:

  • the Policy & Advocacy Advisory Committee
  • the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Working Group
  • the Sexual Harassment Working Group
  • the Sexual Violence Working Group

The Personal Safety Survey

The ABS Personal Safety Survey (PSS) collects information about the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women since the age of 15, including their experience of violence in the 12 months prior to the survey. It also collects detailed information about men’s and women’s experiences of current and previous partner violence, lifetime experience of stalking, physical and sexual abuse before the age of 15 and general feelings of safety.

The PSS was most recently conducted in 2021-22.

The National Community Attitudes Survey

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), tells us how people understand violence against women, their attitudes towards it, what influences their attitudes, and if there has been a change over time. It also gauges attitudes to gender equality and people’s preparedness to intervene when witnessing violence or its precursors.

The first NCAS survey gathered data in 2016 from over 17,500 Australians aged 16 and over. The 2021 NCAS surveyed a representative sample of 19,100 Australians aged 16 or over.

Results are analysed for:

  • the Australian community as a whole
  • each state and territory
  • young people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • people from non-English speaking backgrounds
  • other relevant demographic and contextual indicators.

The NCAS will continue to be conducted every four years.



Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy is a survivor-focused, evidence-based reform-oriented organisation. Led by survivor advocate Saxon Mullins, RASARA works to improve legal and community responses to sexual violence. They are behind the affirmative consent law reforms, and have produced a consent toolkit headed by researcher Katrina Marson. RASARA have written many submissions to state law reform commissions and are regularly asked for comment on issues such as sex education, the mistake of fact defence and criminal justice reform.


End Rape on Campus (EROC) was formed in response to widespread and deeply entrenched gendered and sexual violence on campuses in Australian universities. After exposing shocking statistics relating to an extensive history of hazing, sexual assault and harassment at university residential colleges around the country in their Red Zone Report of 2018, EROC ambassadors continue to fight the uphill battle of demanding transparency and accountability, rather than cover ups, from campuses.

ARC Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is an initiative of the Australian Research Council announced at the end of 2022. Opening at Monash University under the leadership of Professor Jacqui True, the Centre will receive $35 million over 7 years to dive into the problem of violence against women and address the structural drivers that cause and compound it. The Centre will bring together a wealth of expertise: 14 Chief Investigators from eight Australian universities, 17 international partner investigators, and 32 Australian and international partner organisations.

Australian Law Reform Commission

Attorney-General the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to inquire into justice responses to sexual violence.

The ALRC undertakes research and provides recommendations to reform the law, the goal being to bring the law into line with current conditions and needs, remove defects and adopt new or more effective methods for administering the law and dispensing justice.

The inquiry will synthesise and build on the plethora of federal, state and territory reports relating to sexual violence, with a focus on minimising duplication and identifying opportunities to explore new ground. The terms of reference have regard to:

  • laws and frameworks about evidence, court procedure and jury directions
  • laws about consent
  • policies, practices, decision-making and oversight and accountability mechanisms for police and prosecutors
  • training and development for justice agents to enable trauma-informed and culturally safe justice responses
  • supports offered to victims prior to reporting to after the conclusion of a trial
  • alternatives or transformative approaches to criminal prosecutions, including civil claims, restorative justice and specialist courts

The inquiry is being jointly led by the Hon Marcia Neave AO and Her Honour Judge Liesl Kudelka. An Expert Advisory Group of 20 lived-experience experts is informing the 12-month inquiry and advise the government on implementing the inquiry’s recommendations. The ALRC will also consult with relevant stakeholders across Australia. A final report will be provided to the Attorney-General by January 22 2025.

ALRC recommendations do not automatically become law, but 85% of ALRC reports have been substantially or partially implemented, making the ALRC one of the most effective and influential agents for legal reform in Australia. Less than 10% of victims report to police, and just 1.5% of cases result in a conviction. The justice system is clearly not fit for purpose, so we’re counting on that 85% success rate to make change.

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