Book Review of Natasha Stott Despoja’s On Violence

Reviewed by Angela Wauchop

“While chairing this organisation has been one of the great privileges of my life, it means that every day I am conscious of one of the most heinous manifestations of gender inequality: violence against women and children.”

On Violence is one of the latest books in Melbourne University Press’s On series of ‘little books on big ideas’. And little it is! I barrelled through this pocket-sized work in one short afternoon. This important book is written by Natasha Stott Despoja, former senator and current chair of Our Watch, the national organisation to Prevent Violence against women and children.

Stott Despoja has worked on the ‘front line’ with women in desperate need, from Syrian refugee camps to crisis-ravaged Kosovo back in 1999. But today, there is a desperate need for attention to be shed upon the crisis befalling so many households right here in Australia. Violence against women is a reality in our culture, and we must not only  prevent it but eradicate it.

On Violence is revealing in the statistics and other facts it presents. And those facts and statistics are appalling. Did you know that in October 2018 in Australia, eleven women were murdered in twenty-seven days? Did you know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are eleven times more likely to die as a result of violence than non-indigenous women? And it saddened me to learn that women with a disability are more likely to experience abuse than women without disability. This is why this book’s message is important and that message is prevention—to prevent violence against women in all its forms, and to stop it before it even has the chance to start.

The reader of On Violence is urged to bring the topic of violence against women away from merely token ad campaigns and sobering billboards and into our everyday lives. Teenagers, mums and dads, nonnas and grandpas, teachers, bosses, workmates and school kids need to have ongoing conversations about the message this book delivers. Even Natasha Stott Despoja’s own experiences are a good starting point for discussion if you don’t know where to begin. The author mentions her own sometimes frightening dealings with sexism and threats she has received throughout her career, from derogatory remarks to bricks through her office window.

The author asks why there is a such a lack of understanding of the prevalence of violence against women in Australia. She questions why there seems to be ‘no sense of urgency’ and little attention surrounding incidences of violence that occur every week. In fact, On Violence also poses the question, why has a national crisis not been proclaimed and why is it that the numbers show that women are more at risk in their own homes than out in public at night? Here’s a thought: visit

 “But the values we are talking about are positive and equitable attitudes and behaviours that give children the skills and ability to challenge the violence-supportive and gender-stereotyping norms they are likely to encounter […]”