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‘Downright disrespectful’: Activists slam government’s tight deadline on plan to end violence against women

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“The draft national plan is the culmination of 18 months of extensive, detailed and thorough consultation with victim-survivors, advocates, sector representatives, academics, business leaders and the broader community.”

“As we have said throughout this 18-month process we are open to considering all feedback and following this issue being raised.”

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On Friday the federal government released the draft plan that aims to set the foundation for a decade-long commitment to eliminate domestic and gender-based violence in the country. 

But only two weeks had been provided for Australians to provide feedback on the 75-page report, with the consultation period initially ending on 31 January. 

The tight deadline had caused anger from activists, domestic violence groups and victim-survivors.

Women’s rights activist and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins described the tight deadline as “breathtakingly disrespectful”. 

“The [government] have given community organisations and experts just TWO weeks to contribute to the upcoming 10-year Violence Against Women National Plan,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Two weeks to map out the next 10 years of the fight against gendered violence in Australia.” 

The extension to four weeks still falls short of what activists have been actively calling for online. 

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Almost 8,000 people signed an open letter calling on the government to extend the deadline to at least six weeks to ensure affected women have sufficient time to read and provide their insights into the plan. 

The letter stated it takes four weeks for consultation towards a home renovation. 

“The tiny window of consultation diminishes this issue to our society and is shallow and disrespectful to our country,” the letter read. 

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Founder and director of community organisation Women for Australia Jess Hill said the original two-week timeline provided by the government was an “insult to victims and survivors everywhere”. 

“That this government … has limited public consultation to a paltry two weeks is ludicrous and downright offensive,” Ms Hill said. 

One of the many problems cited by Ms Hill is the timing, as many stakeholders who are parents will be busy with back-to-school preparations while battling the COVID-19 Omicron outbreak. 

“One thing is abundantly clear; our members see this plan as a cynical and reactionary attempt by the Morrison Government to recraft the narrative around this government’s appalling record on gendered violence in the lead-up to a critical federal election.”

Research fellow at the Global Women’s Institute for Leadership Blair Williams said leaving little time for feedback shows disrespect to the experts who have contributed to the draft. 

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“It lacks transparency. This isn’t exactly out of the ordinary for this government, but at the same time, they do need to do better, and we can’t just accept that as a pattern,” she told SBS News. 

More time, she said, would allow for victim-survivors to ensure the plan carries more substance than simply “generalised policies”. 

“It essentially seems like [the government’s] not thinking very hard about this, or they’re being strategic about [the two-week deadline].” 

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