Media Statement: Kneejerk law and order responses will continue to make women at risk of being harmed and murdered

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties joins our community in mourning the intolerable rates of women being murdered in Australia. Eleven women have been murdered in the month of April alone. In 2024, the rate of murdered women has doubled compared to this time last year. 

The Council supports the rallies occurring across the country over the weekend demanding an end to gendered violence.

We are also aware of the most recent alleged murder of a young mother in Forbes and support the recently announced inquiry into the alleged murder. 

The rising rate of domestic violence has not abated in NSW, even after new laws and tougher penalties were introduced over the past six years. This scourge will not be solved by kneejerk legislative responses (including expanding police powers and restricting bail) under the guise of making women safer. 

We have written to the NSW Attorney General with respect to the structural and cultural changes that need to be made as a matter of urgency. Importantly, we echo the sentiments expressed by the former NSW Magistrate, David Heilpern. 

A copy of the letter, which includes our detailed recommendations, can be found here.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

In the face of particular violent crimes, it is tempting to believe that making changes to bail laws or increasing the penalties for particular crimes such as domestic violence related offences will solve the problem. It won’t. All it will do is provide a false sense of reform and security and arguably, continue to expose women to harm and violence. 

If we are to reduce the occurrence of these types of horrendous crimes, we must ensure that structural failures within our criminal justice system and our communities are appropriately understood, addressed and funded. Without appropriate resourcing and funding, laws are rendered impotent. Legislative changes, without making any structural or cultural change will always leave women unsafe and at risk of violence. 

A Royal Commission into Family Violence is violently overdue - women should not be expected to sit back and wait for decades to stop being murdered. It is horrific that the Australian Government’s dismissive response to the rate of murdered women is just that - wait. 

As a woman, I am furious that no matter where women live, work, run, shop or even walk, we are at risk of violence and harm. From a young age, women are taught to moderate our behaviour and shrink ourselves in order to “be safe”. The risk of violence impacts our participation in public spaces and in public life. The onus should not be on women to stop being murdered.