Seeing the child: the COAG Summit and beyond

The COAG National Summit on Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children was held in Brisbane on 28 October 2016. It was the first time that such a Summit had been convened involving all Commonwealth, State and Territory and local government leaders, as well as 160 of the nation’s leaders from the not-for-profit sector and the community. This demonstrated a major commitment by all to tackle the scourge of domestic and family violence in Australia.

The nation’s political leaders announced the Third Action Plan under the National Plan of Action to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The new Action Plan places far greater emphasis than previous plans on the effects of domestic violence on children. This is a significant and welcome step. See the plan here.

“important ongoing challenges are to recognise and assist children in all activities to reduce domestic violence and expand collaboration between child and adult-related services”―Dr Brian Babington

Research demonstrates that around three in four women who cared for children during a previous violent relationship reported that those children saw or heard violence (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2016). Children who witness violence suffer from trauma and this has outcomes that are similar to those experienced by children who suffer physical abuse. Over 400,000 women in Australia have experienced violence by a partner during pregnancy (Cox, 2015). Yet, children are not always treated as victims in their own right.

The Third Action Plan focuses attention on this problem. It will link with work underway through the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children First 1000 Days Strategy. Key national actions will be to:

  • enhance the capacity of the family law system to identify and respond to domestic, family and sexual violence;
  • improve interactions between the family law and child protection systems;
  • build the capacity of specialist and mainstream service providers to recognise and respond to the impacts of violence on children; and
  • improve children’s safety through emerging technology by developing information for children who are exposed to, or at risk of, violence.

Families Australia was proud to be represented at the Summit. We have long joined forces with others in efforts to eliminate family and domestic violence, including through support for the White Ribbon campaign and our leadership on the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.

The National Plan of Action to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children are closely interlinked national policies. At heart, both seek to achieve major step-changes in the way that our society respects and cares for all its members.

As I commented at the Summit, one of the most important ongoing challenges is now to expand collaboration, meaning that greater effort is needed to join-up the efforts of all sectors. We need to better support, recognise and integrate the work being done by players in sectors such as education, health, justice, business, child protection, and family support services.

It is important that services that focus on the needs of children and those that focus on addressing adult issues interact more and take a holistic, family-inclusive view. Recognising and supporting children in efforts to reduce family violence remains a challenge. The new Third Action Plan under the National Plan of Action is a significant step in that direction.

Dr Brian Babington

29 October 2016



Commonwealth of Australia 2016, Third Action Plan 2016–2019 of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022, retrieved from <>.

Cox P 2015, Violence against women in Australia: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012. ANROWS Horizons 01/2015, retrieved from <>.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 2016, COAG Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children – Final Report, retrieved from <>.