: Rougher than usual handling: Senator ‘mansplains’ family violence

Rougher than usual handling: Senator ‘mansplains’ family violence

Kate Galloway

The Finance and Public Administration References Committee has investigated the ‘prevalence and impact of domestic violence in Australia as it affects all Australians and in particular, as it affects women living with a disability and women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.’ Family violence is gaining an increasing profile in the community, notably following a number of high profile cases resulting in the tragic death of women and children. Underlining the importance of airing the issues associated with family violence, committee member Senator Cory Bernardi disputed the expertise of experienced support worker Barbara Crossing. In response to her evidence about a man who was holding his partner in a headlock, the Senator said that police considered headlocks ‘appropriate means of deferring an aggressor’. Ms Crossing, he said, was second-guessing the police who were ‘experts’. Without understanding the irony of his statement, the Senator apparently failed to appreciate that, without the expertise of long-term activists and support workers such as Ms Crossing, family violence would remain largely unacknowledged by the law. It was only as recently as 1994 that Zoe Rathus published Rougher than Usual Handling: Women and the Criminal Justice System in response to Queensland criminal law and its effect on women.

KATE GALLOWAY teaches law at James Cook University.
(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 273
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