Safe World for Women Logo


Access to Justice & Understanding VAW

By Professor Patricia Easteal AM ~
ACT Australian of the Year 2010
Member, Order of Australia...

"For service to the community, education and the law through promoting awareness and understanding of violence against women, discrimination and access to justice for minority groups."

March 2010

Over the past 20 years Professor Patricia Easteal has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights and justice in Australia, highlighting equity issues in the law, courts, tribunals, prisons and policing.

Through her research, writing, teaching and advocacy she identifies injustices, combats discrimination and counters human rights violations. Her work has had a powerful impact on law reform, policy, and the community especially in the area of violence against women.

Professor Easteal has courageously discussed her own history of violence as part of her passionate and inspiring message to victims about the importance of disclosing, healing and reporting and has served as a volunteer on numerous government committees and women’s services.

Professor Patricia Easteal is a prominent Australian violence against women activist.

She was a community representative on the ACT Domestic Violence Prevention Council and has sat on a number of government and community Boards and Committees such as those of several women's refuges and the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.

She is on the Editorial Board of Women Studies International Forum and the Alternative Law Journal. Also Convenor, ALTA ( Australia Law Teachers Association) Law & Social Justice and Discrimination & Equal Opportunity Interest Group.

"I do not do research as an end in itself.

I am an activist and an advocate for access to justice issues, women and the law, particularly women who have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual assault. It is my view that without major social and legal changes, the victim kaleidoscope and the traditional ones will continue to collide…. The victims’ voices stay unheard or muted, while analyses and efforts to change laws will remain a treadmill giving the illusion that we are getting somewhere when in fact we are standing in one place.

I have conducted a number of research projects in the area of violence against women in Australia, particularly looking at the legal response finding that the victims’ experiences—the dynamics, the effects, how they often react at the time, how they experience harm—all of these are often not recognized. My raison d’etre in life – or at least in my ‘work’ part of my life – comes from my passion about these issues and a commitment to increase awareness of the victims’ experiences thus broadening community and legal understanding of sexual assault and domestic violence to diminish the number who fall through the criminal justice cracks. I am committed also to increasing self-identification since one of my messages is that healing needs to be prefaced by awareness.

How do I do fulfill these aims?

I write a lot of book and articles and have the books launched by very high profile people. So for instance, my edited book, Balancing the Scales: Rape, Law Reform and Australian Culture was launched in 1998 by Justice Gaudron.

The venue had one entire row of judges and magistrates – three from the High Court! My message to them in my launch speech was the message of the book: Sexual assault law reform is limited in effectiveness. Limited in part as I said to that audience “by the gate-keepers in the system and their archaic attitudes about female and male relations, female sexuality and male sexuality and how these myths about rape are interwoven in the implementation of the reforms.”

Aside from chastising judges at book launches, I do lots of other public speaking, media, teach future lawyers, make submissions to Law Reform Commissions and other government bodies, act as an expert witness in trials for battered women who kill, social security, immigration and family law matters explaining to the Court the different ways aside from physical, that violence may be manifested (sexual, emotional economic) and why for some women the danger feels immediate and they cannot leave. Killing the Beloved and Less Than Equal

As much as possible I use the words of those sexually assaulted by a partner and those who have been spiritually/mentally abused. Like Kuriah in 2006. Real Rape Real Pain (written with Louise McOrmand-Plummer)...

"For the year before our marriage and the first two years we were together, it was heaven. He treated me like porcelain and I was as happy as I could possibly be. Then just six weeks after our child was born, the bomb dropped. What started as a routine conversation evolved into our first argument. All goes into slow motion as I watch what is about to happen. I remember seeing his arm pulled back, its slow approach, the smack of fist against bone, and then I feel the hard white pain of that fist, his right hand, the hand that has held mine, that has made love to me, that has reached for me, all knotted up now with rage behind it, and he hits me high on the face, on my cheekbone, just beneath my eye.

It has taken ten seconds to turn my world upside down."

See my books: Voices of the Survivors and Shattered Dreams

The aim of both is to facilitate women's identification as survivors and the legal system's appreciation of the nature, dynamics and effects of violence in the home."

Professor Patricia Easteal AM ~ Biography & complete list of publications