Engender Equality was established in 1989 in response to the notorious murder of Maureen Thompson by her estranged husband Rory Jack Thompson, a local CSIRO scientist.
Horrified by the case, a group of concerned women recognised that there were no specialist services for women who were experiencing family and domestic violence beyond the police and women's shelters. The women established the Domestic Violence Action Group (DVAG), based on the belief that violence against women is a violation of human rights. In 1987, the Action Group acknowledged the long-term effects of violence on women’s lives, and decided to set up a women’s service based on a philosophy of equity and empowerment. The founding members of DVAG provided information and support in a voluntary capacity over a period of years.
This new service was called SHE which was an acronym of Support, Help and Empowerment, three essential elements in responding to the experience of family and domestic violence.
Initially, SHE was supported financially by community groups, businesses, and individuals in the local community. Later on, the Departments of Community Services and the Premier and Cabinet began to provide funding, as well as basic equipment and library resources. In 1991, funding had increased enough that SHE was able to employ workers and expand the service.
In 2016 SHE obtained a grant through the Safe Home, Safe Families; Family Violence Action Plan 2015 – 2020. This enabled SHE to extend service delivery to the Launceston and North West regions of Tasmania, making SHE a state wide service.
In 2018 the organisation’s name changed to Engender Equality. The name Engender Equality promotes the need to address the culture that enables family violence by working inclusively across the community.
Engender Equality continues to provide short to long-term specialised support and counselling for women in Tasmania who have experienced family violence. Over time, Engender Equality has become a leading non-government organisation in Tasmania working with people and communities impacted by family violence.
Engender Equality works to end family violence and all violence against women. Ongoing funding from the Department of Communities Tasmania has enabled us to continue our work in supporting this mission.
The Family Violence Movement
Family violence campaigner Rosie Batty winning the 2015 Australian of the Year was one event that heightened public awareness and ignited a new wave of responses to family violence in Australia. Yet, just a hundred years ago, most people thought it was reasonable for a man to beat his wife to show his authority. At that time, family violence wasn’t considered a social problem. If it was considered a problem at all, it was a ‘women’s issue’.
Here is a brief overview of Engender Equality’s 30-year history in the context of the family violence landscape in Australia.
|Early 20th century||
In the early 20th century, groups of women started to address domestic and family violence:
The basic wage for women was set at 75% of the basic wage for men.
In the 1970s, a specific movement against domestic and family violence emerged. Supporters opened refuges, worked with women affected by violence and abuse, and lobbied for stakeholders like police, courts and welfare agencies to change their policies and practices. Human rights activists pushed for domestic and family violence to be seen as a criminal act.
Women’s political activities began to jolt state governments into action. Women working with those affected by family violence helped the community realise that domestic and family violence was overwhelmingly violence by men against their female intimate partners. This was a major turning point.
In Tasmania, domestic and family violence grabbed headlines when Rory Jack Thompson murdered his wife Maureen. Maureen Thompson had sought help from the police, left the family home and sought legal advice. She was in the process of obtaining a court order against her husband. Neighbours apparently heard her screams but dismissed it as just another ‘domestic’.
Maureen Thompson’s death prompted the Tasmanian Government to respond to recommendations in a review of domestic violence laws.
In 1987, the Domestic Violence Action Group Inc. acknowledged the long term effects of violence on women’s lives and decided to set up a women’s service based on a philosophy of equity and empowerment. Support Help Empowerment (SHE) started two years later, staffed by trained volunteers.
To start with, community groups, businesses and individuals in the local community funded SHE. Later, the government began to provide funding, basic equipment and library resources. In 1991, SHE could afford to employ workers and expand the service.
Rape-within-marriage was criminalised in Tasmania.
White Ribbon Day was established. White Ribbon Australia is a part of a global movement of men and boys working to end men’s violence against women. Through programs and campaigns, it aims to create an Australian society where all women can live in safety, free from violence and abuse.
Greg Anderson murdered his eleven-year-old son, Luke Batty at cricket practice in Melbourne. Luke’s mother, Rosie Batty became an advocate for domestic and family violence survivors and victims, and sought to address systemic failures in responses to family violence in Australia.
Rosie Batty’s story helped establish the 2015 Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria. The report looked at how to prevent family violence, support victims, make perpetrators accountable, and better coordinate community and government responses and policy.
SHE became a statewide service.
To reflect a more proactive approach to ending violence against women, SHE changed its name to Engender Equality.
The 21st century movement against domestic and family violence has robust and diverse support – from policy makers to police, and from community services to academics. Underpinning this movement is a commitment to challenging violence and to empowering people affected by violence, for the benefit of the whole community.