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Churches powerhouses against men’s violence, but funds needed: Advocates

Women march for justice against men’s violence. Picture: supplied.

Jenan Taylor

3 May 2024

Gender violence prevention advocates say women will be safer if grassroots organisations, including churches, are better funded to tackle men’s violence.

At least one Australian woman has been killed every four days this year according to a report in The Guardian.

The killings sparked protests calling for cultural change to end men’s violence in cities and towns across Australia in April.

Anglican advocates said finding solutions would take time, and the nation needed to consider investing in and resourcing a range of approaches.

It comes as the federal government announced more than $900 million to stamp out gender-based violence on National Domestic Violence Day.  

Anglican Families and Culture Commission national program manager the Reverend Tracy Lauersen said the government’s legislative approach took aim at dismantling structures that underpinned men’s violence, including online misogyny.

Ms Lauersen said churches’ capacity for gender violence solutions needed to be strengthened through better funding because they could spark significant cultural shifts at community level.

Read more: ‘Churches are uniquely positioned to prevent, respond and heal’

She said churches would make a difference in the struggle because they focussed on relational actions, including encouraging better connections, attitudes and behaviour towards others.

Ms Lauersen said faith organisations were also important because of their wide reach.

She said despite census data showing decline in worshippers, about 900,000 people still attended Australian churches every weekend.

“They’re diverse, they’re geographically widespread, and they’re intergenerational,” Ms Lauersen said. “There are very few places [outside churches] where you might see grandpa, dad and son represented. This makes churches, and other faith settings, powerhouses for cultural change and healing.”

Melbourne diocese Prevention of Violence Against Women program manager Kerryn Lewis said cultural change had always been the program’s focus.

She said alongside equipping church members to confront violence, it was building an evidence base of what worked to share with other actors.

Ms Lewis said despite this it and other faith sector interventions had yet to receive the same funding and resource levels as some secular programs.

A 2020 Australian National University report found that faith-based organisations received limited funding in the domestic violence solutions space because secular stakeholders questioned their credibility.

The paper said some of this stemmed from stakeholders’ reservations about the rigour of faith organisations’ methods because their work was undocumented and therefore unevaluated.

Read more: Call for churches to keep stepping up to prevent violence against women

Abuse survivor and retired cleric the Reverend Willy Maddock said she wanted to see the Church support women’s safety through a range of actions including ministering to children.

Ms Maddock said more attention and care needed to be paid to children who were involved in domestic violence situations to prevent them becoming victims or perpetrators too.

She said the Church also needed to avoid preaching theology that made it hard for women to leave abusive relationships or reinforced perpetrators’ convictions of rights over their partners.

Ms Lauersen said Anglican leaders were committed to preventing and responding to violence but there was much work to be done by everyone.

“We really need each member of our clergy who has access to a pulpit to actually be opening up these conversations, so that people in churches know that they are a place where they can go and where they’ll be heard and believed and helped,” she said.

If you or anyone you know needs help, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

In an emergency please phone triple zero (000) to reach ambulance services or police.

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