AIHW news

Stopping history repeating

Browse the news headlines any day of the week and it’s likely you will encounter a story that involves the subject of domestic violence.

‘This is an extremely important social issue that is, rightfully so, in the spotlight more these days. The Institute is committed to doing what we can to provide stronger evidence to support better decisions and policy outcomes for victims,’ said Barry Sandison, Director (CEO) of the AIHW.

Service provider Nadia Pessarossi, from the Tara Costigan Foundation, said even to the trained eye, the victims and perpetrators of family, domestic and sexual violence can go unnoticed.

‘The casualties of this “national crisis” are extremely diverse, as are the perpetrators.

‘They could be your neighbour, or your best friend. They may hold respectable jobs and may even have the reputation of someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly—it’s what goes on behind closed doors where the true horror unfolds,’ said Ms Pessarossi.

In May 2016, KPMG released a report based on the 2012 Personal Safety Survey (PSS). It estimated violence against women and their children cost the Australian economy $22 billion a year in 2015–16. It was noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, pregnant women, women with disability and women experiencing homelessness are under-represented in the PSS. It was predicted that when taking these groups fully into account, it may add another $4 billion to the figure.

‘When it comes to these figures and other statistics about how widespread this issue is and the damage it’s causing, I believe they just skim the surface. There are so many flow-on effects to society that we haven’t even begun measuring or reporting,’ Ms Pessarossi stressed.

But they are figures journalists are hungry to find and report. In April 2017, the Institute released the injury fact sheet, Hospitalised assault injuries among women and girls. It identified that domestic violence was the leading cause of hospitalised assaults among this group in 2013–14. Of the 6,500 assaults, over half were perpetrated by spouses or domestic partners.

Over 100 news items were generated from the fact sheet. The infographic on the Institute’s Twitter account (@aihw) had over 6,500 impressions, compared with a ‘do it yourself’ injury infographic, released the same day, which received fewer than 2,000 impressions.

While the true cost to our community, economy and our children is currently unknown, the AIHW is working with various departments and stakeholders to bridge the gap. Staff in the new Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Unit have been tasked with exposing current data collected across the different government agencies, and investigating the types of data sharing that might be available from frontline service providers like women’s shelters, and professionals such as general practitioners.

‘The lack of a national data collection and sharing has previously given us only a snapshot of the issue. By collating current health and welfare services data sets and data from roughly 20 external agencies— including justice and safety statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and information from family, domestic and sexual services—we hope to identify the longer term personal and social harms,’ said Mr Sandison.

Later this year, the AIHW will release its first national report on family, domestic and sexual violence (FDSV). It will look at available data on risks and drivers of family, domestic and sexual violence (for example, mental health, drug and alcohol use); characteristics of victims and perpetrators; and the use of specialised services and interventions by victims. The report will also look at male victims, an area that has been neglected in the past. Ann Hunt, Head of the new FDSV Unit, said the report also aims to identify where the data gaps are, which will help set priorities for data development.

‘Through our strong partnerships with the Department of Social Services, the ABS, and several jurisdictions, we aim to develop a national family, domestic and sexual violence data clearinghouse. We will, in the first instance, coordinate reporting of family, domestic and sexual violence data and provide a platform for improving quality and consistency of existing data collections,’ said Ms Hunt.

These objectives also support the recommendations of the Data Availability and Use Inquiry Report by the Productivity Commission, released in early May 2017. The report recommends a broad culture shift to improve data access and to treat data as an asset and not a threat.

‘This is exciting for us because it supports our work and improves access to data, which then enables new products and services that transform everyday life, drive efficiency and safety, and allow better decision making,’ said Marissa Veld, the Senior Project Officer who was instrumental in the Institute’s work in the area.

‘These findings, coupled with the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 means we’re in a strong position to getting better access and improving the quality of data on FDSV,’ Mrs Veld added.

For frontline workers like Ms Pessarossi’s team, Tara’s Angels (which provides holistic post-crisis long-term support), this level of data could prove vital for informing evidence-based practices to break the cycle of violence as well as arm policy makers with the right information.

‘Preventing violence in this generation and the next is imperative. Prevention is better than a cure and we need to stop the “history repeats” issue that is prominent in our country," Ms Pessarossi said.

‘We know domestic violence is a national epidemic …The data, research and reports you (the AIHW) are doing, help inform us.’

Australian domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Battie, speaking with the Institute’s staff about the importance of FDSV data.

Hospitalised assault injuries among women and girls

Quick facts

  1. Nearly 6,500 women and girls were hospitalised due to assault in Australia in 2013–14.
  2. Among those aged 15 and older, 8% of victims were pregnant at the time of the assault.
  3. When place of occurrence was specified, 69% of assaults against women and girls took place in the home.
  4. Nearly 60% of hospitalised assaults against women and girls were perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner.


  1. 1800 Respect national helpline: 1800 737 732
  2. Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
  3. Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
  4. Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114
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