Men the cause and solution for the worst pandemic in Australia

Man's fist in the foreground, woman sitting on bed with head in her hands

Men must call each other out when they see disrespect, because the behaviour we walk past is the behaviour we accept, writes Keith Tracey-Patte.

It’s now four years since the death of Hannah Clarke and her children and 10 years since the murder of Luke Batty. And here we are again. In the last seven days we have seen three separate atrocities and the violent deaths of more women, children and men.

We should be outraged to the point of national action about domestic violence in all its forms, but I fear we are becoming immune.

Our shelters are bulging at the seams with abused women, and many homes are not safe spaces for our children. Women are often having to choose between ongoing abuse and homelessness.

Lives are lost or ruined, families are destroyed, and it’s costing our society billions of dollars. Queensland Police are receiving about 300 calls a day for domestic and family violence and responding is estimated to be 40-60% of the workload of frontline officers. Domestic violence is alleged in 80% of all family law matters lodged with the Court in Australia.

We cannot keep building infinite shelters. We cannot expect the police and the Courts to fix this – by the time they are involved it is often way too late.

We have to stop the violence at the source.

And let’s be really frank. Overwhelmingly, it is men who commit these murders and who are responsible for most domestic violence in this country.

When asked, over 40% of Australians believe domestic violence is equally committed by both genders. But the ABS stats show that more than 90% of the violence is committed by men.

We also know from recent research by Jesuit Social Services that Australian men between the ages of 18 and 45 who hold the most strong and rigid views about masculinity and gender roles are 17 times more likely to have hit their partner. These men are also 8 times more likely to have daily suicidal thoughts.

This is a complex social issue. And, while we don’t have all the answers, we do know these attitudes are hurting our men and boys and killing our women.

We must change attitudes if we are going to change the outcome.

Australia has been world leading in reducing lung cancer deaths and improving road safety. We did this by having a planned, funded and continuous approach to prevention. By being bold.

Let’s be a world leader in reducing domestic violence.

We will need to fund programs in every school, every club, and every workplace across Australia. We must fund early intervention programs for risky behaviours in boys and young men.

And we must support men to call each other out when we see disrespect, because we all know that the behaviour we walk past is the behaviour we accept.

We need to be positive role models to counter the misogyny in our society and online.

The time for action is now. Let’s all stand up and Challenge DV together. 

Keith Tracey-Patte is the CEO of Challenge DV. This piece was first published in the Toowoomba Chronicle, February 28 2024.