About Primary Prevention

International and national research concludes that to prevent violence against women before it occurs we must take action to address gender inequality (Our Watch, VicHealth and ANROWS, 2015; UN Women, 2015). Gender inequality is defined as ‘a social condition characterised by unequal value afforded to men and women and an unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunity between them’.

Change the Story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia presents the evidence base and a conceptual framework for primary prevention work in Australia. It identifies four particular expressions of gender inequality that cause violence against women, known as the ‘gendered drivers’:

A graphic illustrating the gendered drivers of violence against women: Condoning of violence against women; Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life; Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity; Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

Change the Story also identifies the key actions we must undertake to prevent violence against women. These are referred to as the ‘essential actions’:

A graphic illustrating the essential actions that will prevent violence against women: Challenge condoning of violence against women; Promote women’s independence and decision-making in public life and relationships; Foster positive personal identities and challenge gender stereotypes and roles; Strengthen positive, equal and respectful relations between and among women and men, girls and boys; Promote and normalise gender equality in public and private life.

All objectives and strategies in the Building a Respectful Community Strategy 2017–2021 seek to address these essential actions across different settings and populations.

For an overview of why and how we need to prevent violence against women in Australia, see the ‘Let’s Change the Story’ infographic clip.

What is primary prevention?

Primary prevention is a health promotion term that refers to preventing a health issue before it occurs. This work is distinct from, but connected to, early intervention and response work (also referred to as secondary and tertiary prevention).

A graphic illustrating the prevention spectrum. Primary prevention: Whole-of-population approaches that address the primary (underlying) drivers of violence, i.e. gender inequality. Early intervention: Taking action on early signs of violence to reduce risk of violence occurring or escalating. Aims to ‘change the trajectory’ for individuals at higher-then-average risk of perpetrating or experiencing violence. Response: Supports survivors and holds perpetrators to account. Aims to prevent the recurrence of violence. Post-crisis response: Longer term action to keep survivors safe and reduce risk of perpetrators re-offending.

Policy Context

In the past few years, substantial advances have been made in policy and planning for preventing violence against women across the international, national and state levels.

Significant laws, policies and strategies include:




Evidence Base

There are a number of significant frameworks and reports that guide the primary prevention of violence against women. These include:

There are also currently two national government-funded agencies that support preventing violence against women work and continue to build the evidence base:

  • Our Watch: a foundation to provide leadership on preventing violence against women
  • ANROWS: Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety.