Bleats

Women Continue To Die At The Hands Of Men, So What's The Government Doing About It?

Spoiler: It's not as much funding as they're spending on a detention centre.

Normally I’m a lot more upbeat aboutInternational Women’s Day celebrations, but with the news of Preethi Reddy’s death hanging over the news cycle the day is a bit more grim this year.

Preethi was the 11th woman killed violently in Australia since 2019 began. Her body was found stuffed into a suitcase in the back of her car on Tuesday, but there’s actually already been another death ruled as murder since then – the death of 92-year-old Marjorie Welsh, who was allegedly stabbed to death by her house cleaner. We’re in the 10th week of the year, and 12 women have lost their lives to violence.

On Monday, March 4, Prime Minister Scott Morrison got up and announced the government would be putting $328 million towards programs aimed at reducing – and ultimately ending – domestic violence in Australia. He waved around a report called “Our Investment In Women’s Safety”, which has a lovely picture of a woman twirling her way through a sunlit field on the cover. Personally, I think a report about murdered women featuring a picture of any sort of field is unfortunate at best, but I’m not here to nitpick the work of some poor intern who was tasked with digging through Shutterstock for a ‘happy dancing woman’ stock image. I’m here to nitpick the announcement itself.

Back in 2017, the Coalition was forced to abandon its attempt to cut $35 million in funding for community legal centres due to a huge amount of backlash. Community legal centres are frontline stops for people fleeing domestic abuse and are already constantly under financial pressure. As if that wasn’t bad enough, that 2017 attempt at cutting funding was the second shot the government had taken. In 2015, the Abbott Government did a very similar backflip on their promise to cut $25 million from the sector.

Both of these attempted cuts were made during times when the Government was secure in their position – right in the middle of their terms, when they weren’t having to worry about any pesky upcoming elections. This cheery announcement of more funding towards domestic violence prevention comes about two months before a federal election, and after a series of unfortunate missteps for the Government. Remember the Menidee fish kills, the Banking Royal Commission, and the historic vote loss? Yeah, ScoMo needs something good to talk about.

Breaking down the funding, this package includes $82 million for frontline services, $68 million for prevention strategies and $78 million for safe places for family violence sufferers.

These numbers are a good start, but I can’t stop thinking about that $444 million that the Government gave to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation under sketchy circumstances, or the $1.4 billion spent reopening the Christmas Island Detention Centre. Priorities.

Maybe I’m skeptical. The Government has also announced plans to prevent victims of domestic violence being forced to face their attackers in person during cross examination in a courtroom, as well as offering victims early access to some of their superannuation. I actually really hope I’m wrong, and this announcement is the start of a lot of good work, and Australia can start bringing our ‘One Woman A Week’ statistic down to zero. Wouldn’t that be an International Women’s Day miracle?

Women Take On All Your Safety Measures And We Still End Up Dead, So What Next?

Don't walk alone at night. Carry your keys as a weapon. Don't wear anything revealing...

In the early hours of January 16, exchange student Aiia Maasarwe was making her way home in Melbourne, talking to her sister on FaceTime. By now you probably know how this story ended – and if you don’t, you can probably guess. She didn’t make it home. A 20-year-old man has now been charged with rape and murder.

The detail I can’t get out of my head is that Aiia was on her phone. Calling somebody while walking home is one of the most common things women do to stay safe; the idea being that it’ll be obvious we have someone who cares about us and knows where we are to any potential attacker.

How many times have I called my mum as I cross a field to make it home after dark? How many times have I been on the line with a friend, listening out for the sound of her keys to tell me that she made it home? Were none of us even a little bit safer?

Hundreds of Australians dressed in black gathered in Melbourne on the steps of Victorian State Parliament on January 18 for a silent vigil in memory of Aiia Maasarwe.

Aiia Maasarwe was FaceTiming her sister.

Eurydice Dixon was texting her partner.

Jill Meagher had just called her brother.

And yet the messages we hear from authorities over and over again are that we need to keep ourselves safe.

They tell us we should make sure you have your phone on you. But look at what’s happened.

Don’t walk home at night and stay in well lit area. But we aren’t safe walking during daylight hours either.

Make sure you take a well-used route, but also make sure you change up your routine so nobody learns it.

Carry your keys as a weapon. Don’t walk too close to a row of parked cars. Always be alert. Don’t wear clothes that are too revealing. Make eye contact with people as they pass by. Don’t get too drunk. Tell the Uber driver you’re going to your boyfriend’s house. Wear a fake engagement ring if you work in a bar. Never sleep with the window open if you live on the ground floor. Put men’s shoes outside your front door if you live alone.

We do. And we still end up dead.

There is no silver bullet solution that women can use to guarantee they make it home. The only way for this to end is for the people behind these attacks to stop murdering women, regardless of the safety precautions they may or may not have taken. It’s with the heaviest heart that I say I don’t hold out much hope for that.

Seventy-nine women and twenty-two children were murdered in Australia in 2018 – far more than the generally accepted statistic of one a week. It took just over two weeks for Aiia’s death to begin the tally for 2019. There are more to come.

Aiia’s name isn’t the last one we’ll hear. Soon enough, we’ll have another name of another woman who met a brutal end etched into our consciousness. I wonder what she’s doing right now? I wonder if I know her? It’s only a matter of time.

Should We Let Your Sixteen-Year-Old Cousin Have A Say In Our Cooked Political System And Be Given The Option To Vote?

They can already drive, pay taxes and consent to sex. So why shouldn't they be allowed to vote?

Turning eighteen is a big deal in Australia. It means you can now do exciting things like stop relying on your mate’s older brother to buy you goon, throw out your fake ID, and be tried as an adult if you find yourself in a The End Of The F***ing World type of situation. Ah, adulthood.

You also get to sign up to vote.

Bat-What??

Let’s be real, the last few weeks in Australian politics have been cooked. The Government essentially imploded to the point of becoming a living, breathing re-enactment of that meme where a guy jams a stick in his bike wheel and resulted in a lot of angry people threatening to vote the Coalition out at the next election. But what about the people who don’t get to have their say when the election rolls around?

The push to lower the Australian voting age to sixteen has been re-ignited because young people are being directly impacted by this mess, without any way to have a say in who is running the country. Earlier this year, Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John introduced a bill to Parliament that would make voting optional for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, before becoming compulsory at eighteen. But before you scoff about how bad of an idea it would be to let high schoolers anywhere near a voting booth, hear me out.

There are already nine countries in the world where a sixteen-year-old can vote: Nicaragua, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Cuba, Brazil, Austria, and Scotland. Scotland was the most recent to join the party, making it legal for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds to vote back in 2014. Their first vote was in the same year, in a referendum asking whether Scotland should become independent. Voting was optional, and yet 75% of people in the sixteen to seventeen age bracket showed up to vote – a higher turnout than the eighteen to twenty-four age bracket. Better yet, 97% of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds said they’d vote in upcoming elections.

Back in Australia, we’ve lowered the voting age before. You had to be twenty-one to vote in federal elections until 1973 when Gough Whitlam’s government lowered the voting age to eighteen, so what’s stopping us from doing it again? The employment rates for people in the fifteen to nineteen age range fluctuate but they’re currently sitting at just under 60%. That means there are a hell of a lot of teenagers paying taxes without getting a say in how they’re spent.

If you’re between sixteen and eighteen, the government may as well be doing this with your tax dollars.

The arguments against lowering the voting age seem to boil down to two major points.

  1. Lots of people under eighteen aren’t politically aware and don’t have any life experience.

    Sure. But there are a lot of people over eighteen who have no political awareness or life experience either, and they have to vote so ¯_(
    )_/¯
  2. Young people will overwhelmingly vote Greens and skew the vote towards left-wing parties.

This is a pretty common assumption. Youth Action ran a poll of seventeen to twenty-five-year-olds and found that support for the Greens sat at about 44%. Those numbers would lead to a lot more electoral seats for the Greens if we were only counting the votes of that age bracket, but that’s not what we’re doing. Overall, lowering the voting age would likely only lift votes for the Greens, independents, and minor parties combined by 0.2%. It wouldn’t impact Labor at all.

At sixteen a person can take on a lot. You can get Youth Allowance, you can consent to sex, and you learn to drive. Sure, voting is a big responsibility. So is whacking an L plate on a car and taking your family for a drive, whilst your parents white-knuckle it in the passenger seat and your little brother laughs at you for hitting the windscreen wipers instead of the indicator. Again.

As far as I see it, the country really doesn’t have anything to lose by giving sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds the option of voting.

Besides, we’ll probably be another two Prime Ministers along by their eighteenth birthday anyway.

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