In 2015, the Australian federal government proclaimed that violence against women had become a national crisis. Despite widespread social and economic advances in the status of women since the 1970s, including growing awareness and action around gender violence, its prevalence remains alarming. A third of all women in Australia have been assaulted physically; a fifth of all women have been assaulted sexually. Intimate partner violence is significantly more prevalent in Australia than in Western Europe or North America. One woman each week is murdered by an intimate partner, and recent research suggests that nearly forty per cent of all women who suicide have a history of domestic or family violence. Domestic violence is a precipitating factor in a third of all homelessness. The resulting strain on government services and lost productivity means that family violence has been estimated as costing the Australian economy around $13.6 billion a year. The histories presented in this collection indicate exactly where these violent behaviours come from and how they have been rationalised over time, offering an important resource for addressing what amounts to a widespread, persistent, and urgent social problem.
Dr Alana Piper is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney. She has published widely on gender, crime and legal history. Alana’s work also draws on digital humanities approaches, both in her previous role as a Research Fellow on the ARC Laureate Fellowship “The Prosecution Project” (2014–2018), and her current Chancellor’s Fellowship project “Criminal Characters” (2018–2022).
Dr Ana Stevenson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State. Her research about women’s movements in Australia and the United States appears in journals such as the Women’s History Review, Cultural & Social History, and Pacific Historical Review.