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Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

August 14, 2022
| Womens Advocacy

Founder's Weekly 22nd Oct 2021: Can half a billion dollars solve the domestic violence crisis?

The NSW government finally steps up to protect women

Fellow remarkable community,

As most of our community will know, domestic violence reports surged during COVID-19 - lockdowns trapped women in their homes with abusive partners and led to what experts are referring to as a “shadow pandemic”. There are fears that the rise in controlling behaviour will linger despite lockdowns ending. In response, the NSW Government is finally increasing funding to tackle the issue which is incredibly encouraging.

On the flip side, having more women in parliament would also be a welcome move. The new Premier has still failed to address the lack of female representation in his cabinet, which currently stands at just...two. Perrottet says he’s too busy reopening the state to worry about gender equality right now.

Fortunately, Lego has acknowledged it has a gender problem and is ditching the pink bricks. It’s hoping to rebuild perceptions, actions and words to support the creative empowerment of all children. It’s a subject close to my heart as the mother of a baby boy. Congratulations to Lego on the move. 

Catch up on this week’s biggest news below by yours truly!

Can half a billion dollars solve the domestic violence crisis?

The NSW government is finally moving to tackle the horrifying domestic violence crisis in the state, with Premier Dominic Perrottet announcing an additional $484 million in funding for women in need.

It’s the single biggest investment in tackling domestic and family violence in the state’s history and follows NSW Police responding to more than 140,000 domestic violence incidents annually.

Tragically, on average, one woman is killed every nine days in Australia by a current or former partner.

“Everyone has the right to live a life free from violence and abuse, a right that is far too often callously eroded by those who perpetrate domestic violence,” Perrottet said.

“Today’s commitment will help to reduce the often devastating impacts of domestic abuse by providing timely access to safe, affordable and appropriate support and housing assistance so that women and children who bravely escape violence can begin to recover and thrive.”

The government funding package will deliver and operate an extra 75 refuges for victims. The self-contained accommodation will be located next to support services including counselling, legal assistance, education and employment.

$52.5 million will provide approximately 200 sustainable, social and affordable housing dwellings for women experiencing domestic violence. $5.2 million will be used for a trial in two districts to provide dedicated support for accompanied children and young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, with a focus on children and young people impacted by domestic violence.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children, illustrating the high demand for these critical services.

Chair of Domestic Violence NSW Annabelle Daniel said: “We are pleased to see this new funding announcement recognising the urgent need for refuge support in rural, regional and remote areas and across NSW. Specialist domestic and family violence services are a lifeline for women and children fleeing abuse, and do the work of many agencies combined. We know the numbers of people in need being turned away are continuously increasing due to lack of space. When we raise awareness about domestic and family violence, women raise their hands for help.”

The news comes in the same week as Attorney-General Mark Speakman introduced a bill to NSW parliament that will overhaul sexual consent laws in NSW.

"If you want to have sex with someone, then you need to do or say something to find out if they want to have sex with you too - under our reforms, it's that simple," Speakman said.

Director of Rape & Sexual Assault Research & Advocacy and sexual assault victim Saxon Mullins said that the introduction of the bill was a momentous win for victim-survivors. Mullins endured two criminal trials and appeals over four years after a 2013 incident, but the man accused walked free.

"These reforms mean so much to so many survivors who understand firsthand the difference this bill can make," Mullins said in a statement.

"It has been three years since I came forward to share my own story, and while progress can feel slow, I know this bill is a huge leap forward and will see NSW leading the way in consent law around the country."

It is progress like this that shows Australia as a nation is capable of doing better for its people. Protecting and keeping women and children safe through legislation such as this energises and invigorates society to keep pursuing change and breakthrough. I can’t commend this enough. Let’s keep going, ladies.

For confidential advice, support and referrals regarding domestic violence, contact: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), The NSW Domestic Violence Line (1800 65 64 63), NSW Rape Crisis (1800 424 017) or Men's Referral Service (1300 766 491). In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000).

Calls for workplace sex predator blacklist

It’s appalling that the mining industry is resisting calls for a blacklist of sex predators, despite sexual assault being rife and endemic in the sector.

An estimated 74% of women in the industry having experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault, with reports emerging that some offenders who’ve been terminated for their behaviour simply move to other mine sites.

West Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Paul Everingham said: “Have we failed as an industry? Absolutely.

“Some victims haven’t felt the support and protection of their employer, and they rightly choose to leave their employer. We’ve got to help change that, we’ve got to do better. Until every last mine is safe, we haven’t done our job.

“We’ve got to be better at screening before recruitment and calling out unacceptable behaviour and reporting it.”

However, Everyingham admitted that while there’s “some support” in the industry for a blacklist, it’s “not unanimous”.

It’s beyond belief that support for a blacklist aimed at protecting female workers isn’t unanimous.

“It’s disappointing that this is what is needed but at the same time, it’s imperative we have it,” says The Remarkable Women CEO Shivani Gopal. “However, it does beg the question as to why it’s taken so long? Other industries have registers for professionals who have been banned or breached policies and rules - yet we don’t have this for sexual violence. Why?”

Everingham said improving gender diversity would help change the culture, as females currently only represent 20% of the sector. But he felt it would be hard to attract women in the current landscape.

“Until we get our ship in order, we’re going to struggle with diversity,” he said.

If getting their ship in order requires a blacklist, why are companies shying away? Personal safety in the workplace – whether it’s a mining site or an accounting office - should be a moral imperative for every company.

Japan has a problem with women in politics

Japan, 2021 called and it’s demanding a recount.

The country will hold a general election on October 31, but women only account for 17.7% of candidates.

The abysmal statistic means Japan ranks 165th in the world for female representation in politics. Despite government efforts to boost gender balance in politics, only 186 women – out of the 1051 candidates – are contesting the 465 seats in the House of Representatives. That’s down 23 from the previous election in 2017.

The Japanese government has set a goal of raising the proportion of women running in national elections to 35% by 2025.

How? Lawmakers are considering new legislation to help increase women in office, such as requiring each party to target a certain number of female candidates in national elections.

So how’s the rest of the world doing in this regard? The Top 10 countries for female representation in parliament may surprise you. They are:

  1. Rwanda      
  2. Cuba
  3. Nicaragua  
  4. Mexico       
  5. United Arab Emirates
  6. New Zealand
  7. Sweden     
  8. Grenada    
  9. South Africa  
  10. Andorra

Where does Australia sit on the list? Disappointingly, it lags in 56th place. While our country was the first in the world to give women the right to stand for election in 1902, it’s fallen far behind in the years that follow.  

According to Ferran Martinez i Coma, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Griffith University, and Duncan McDonnell, Professor, School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University, Australian voters used to prefer men over women at the polls, but they don’t any more. Parties, on the other hand, still do.

“There are several ways in which parties can impede women getting elected,” they note at The Conversation. “One is simply not to put them forward as candidates. Another slightly more subtle way is by preselecting them to stand for unsafe or marginal seats.

“With this approach, you get to tick a box and maybe meet a quota, but you’re not making a genuine attempt to create real change.”

The solution?

“Fielding more women in seats they can genuinely win is in the interests not only of political parties, but of democracy in Australia.”

And in Japan, and every other country falling down on equality in female representation in parliament - democracy demands it. Tick tock.

Lego’s return to gender-neutral toys is a win for all kids

Remember playing with Lego as a kid? It was a beloved gender-neutral toy that encouraged creativity for both sexes.

However, a divide started creeping into toy stores in the 1990s, with a cornucopia of pink bricks targeting girls.

Lego Group has vowed to make its products more inclusive and free of harmful stereotypes. It follows research that showed girls feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society’s ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older.

The research, which surveyed nearly 7000 parents and children aged 6-14 years old in China, Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, UK and US highlights the need for society to rebuild perceptions, actions and words to support the creative empowerment of all children.

For example, 82% of girls surveyed believe it’s OK for girls to play football and boys to practice ballet, compared to only 71% of boys.

Parents are also holding their daughters back. Those who answered the survey were almost six times as likely to think of scientists and athletes as men than women (85% vs 15%) and over eight times as likely to think of engineers as men than women (89% vs 11%).

Insights also indicated that girls are typically encouraged into activities that are more cognitive, artistic and related to performance compared to boys who are more likely to be pushed into physical and STEM-like activities (digital, science, building, tools). Parents from this study are almost five times as likely to encourage girls over boys to engage in dance (81% vs 19%) and dress-up (83% vs 17%) activities, and over three times as likely to do the same for cooking/baking (80% vs 20%). Adversely, they are almost four times as likely to encourage boys over girls to engage in program games (80% vs 20%) and sports (76% vs 24%) and over twice as likely to do the same when it comes to coding toys (71% vs 29%).

“Gender bias and social and cultural conditioning begin at such a young age - toys is one place to start addressing this,” notes The Remarkable Woman CEO Shivani Gopal.

“The other place we need to start is a gendered language. It’s up to us all to step up and refrain from saying things like ‘hit/cry like a girl’, ‘man up’ - the list goes on.”

Our children deserve better. They need us to believe in them and know that we will support them to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be. So, well done Lego for acknowledging the issue and vowing to rectify it.

Until next week,


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