Violence impacts older women too

Violence and Older Women

Older women are not always top of mind when we consider violence against women. Violence against older women is driven by gender inequality and ageism. Older women are more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence, other forms of family violence, violence from children and intergenerational violence.

Older women face particular forms of gender inequality throughout their lifetime. Examples include unpaid caring roles, low rates of pay, lack of superannuation, limited control of finances or decision making. Additionally, we don’t see older women  in media, government and business. Violence against older women is often ignored or overlooked because of their invisibility.

Our work on older women and homelessness indicates that domestic or family violence is a causal factor for  homelessness. Lack of housing options can force women to either stay in a violent relationship or become homeless. Investing in housing that is affordable and appropriate for the needs of older women is paramount.

OurWatch offers the following actions that can help prevent violence against older women:

  • Centre the voices of older women in your work, including as experts, mentors and leaders.
  • Reflect on your own individual attitudes and unconscious biases regarding gender and ageing, including reflecting on positive or negative associations with ageing, the language you use to describe older people, and your beliefs about older people’s relationships and sexuality.
  • Ensure your organisational policies, procedures and practices promote gender equality for all women, identify barriers to older people accessing your services, ensure older women are visible and represented in your organisation’s promotional materials and campaigns, and that your marketing strategy includes specific tactics to connect with older women.
  • Develop and deliver primary prevention activities tailored to older women and their experiences of violence. For example, financial literacy for older women, campaigns engaging older men and activities that challenge internalised ageism.
  • Apply an intersectional approach to your work with older women, recognising how intersecting forms of discrimination and oppression shape older women’s lives.
  • Ensure all primary prevention activities are accessible, including translations and appropriate formats for people with dementia and other disabilities.

All of us have a role to play in addressing violence against older women.

16 days of activism against gender-based violence

As we observe 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, Mercy Global Action’s Women in Justice Leadership taskforce has prepared an advocacy handbook Gender based violence throughout the lifecourse: A handbook for the Mercy Community on Advocating Against Gender Based Violence.
Drawing on their networks and diverse areas of expertise, members of the Task Force developed the handbook to generate reflection and action throughout the Mercy community. The handbook highlights some of the work underway by Mercy organisations across the globe, offers stories from the grassroots and calls to action.
The handbook  will educate and hopefully inspire readers to collaborate with initiatives and services to act for justice.

Read the Handbook here.

Protecting the rights of residents of manufactured home villages in Victoria

Preventing and addressing the abuse of older persons living in manufactured home villages is the prime concern of the Manufactured Home Owners Association (MHOA) of Victoria. This passionate group of volunteers is committed to upholding and protecting the rights of older persons who are experiencing emotional and psychological abuse in manufactured home villages.

Most residents are 55 years or older and many are single women. Residents in land lease residential villages in Victoria have few legal protections and many are unaware of their rights and unaware of any support available.

A Social Justice Small Grant to MHOA Victoria is helping to promote, advance, maintain and safeguard the combined and individual interests of manufactured homeowners throughout Victoria, by offering support for other residents facing abuse and advocating for better protections for elderly residents of manufactured/relocatable homes and lifestyle villages elderly residents.

The first stage of the project is now complete. A website providing information, resources and membership to support owners of manufactured homes is now live.

Visit the new website

New service for older women seeking housing support in Queensland

A new service has opened in Queensland to support older women seeking support for a housing crisis or homelessness. The Housing Older Women’s Support Services (HOWSS) is a Specialised Housing and Support Hub for Older Women funded by the Department of Housing. This Footprints Community service offers a Brisbane-based Hub, and a Queensland wide online navigation and support service that is inclusive of all older women experiencing housing distress or homelessness.


Tel: 1800 366 877

HOWSS provides a place where older women can receive:

  • help to find housing and support assistance
  • information and linkages to other human service support agencies
  • engagement and education sessions for older women, and the sector
  • volunteer peer support from people with lived experience
  • outreach services
  • state-wide collaborative regional responses
  • face-to-face contact with skilled staff
  • telephone and online advice and advocacy

Report from the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce

This week, a report by the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce to the Australian Government detailed their 10 year plan to address women’s inequality, specifically economic inequality, in Australia.

The report ‘Unleashing the full capacity and contribution of women to the Australian economy’ offers seven primary recommendations to the Government, including immediate and long-term actions, focusing on the key themes of care, work, education and skills, the tax and transfer system and Government processes.

According to the report, Australia is not reaching its full social and economic potential as a result of pervasive and systemic gender inequality.

The introduction states that:

Entrenched and rigid gender norms and enduring bias maintain a social context where gender inequality is assumed, accepted and encoded in everyday life.

Current data shows that inequality is prevalent and persistent, and it impacts a woman’s public and private experiences across her entire lifetime. Many women face even greater barriers and disadvantages because of their intersecting identities and experiences.

Women’s economic inequality has become normalised and is often assumed to be ‘natural’ or the result of women’s personal choices. There is clear evidence to show this thinking is out of step with the ambitions and interests of our highly educated female population and with forging a fair society. It also clashes with the development of a modern and vibrant global economy.

Addressing women’s economic inequality is key to addressing the economic challenges our country faces in the coming decade,  including global economic uncertainty, inequality, transitioning to clean energy, climate change challenges, an ageing population and rapid technological advances.

These challenges also provide opportunities to shift Australia’s economic policy settings and unlock the value of women’s full economic participation.

Read the full report here.

Poverty and Australian housing

A research report released this week by AHURI investigated the key links between housing and poverty. The research looks at policy settings, tax and transfer systems, housing assistance and place-based dimensions and individual capabilities.

The cost of housing is a barrier to exiting homelessness for people living in poverty, whilst the exorbitant cost of housing can push people currently in housing into deep poverty, making it difficult to address its causes.

A number of issues are highlighted such as:

  • The concentration of policies focused on subsidising home ownership is  driving the role housing plays in Australian experiences of homelessness
  • The ‘light regulation’ of the private rental sector in Australia is increasing costs and in turn perpetuating poverty
  • The lack of transport and essential services for housing that is affordable to people on low incomes increases costs of transport for working, training and accessing services, adding to the cost of living.

Read the Executive Summary here.

Access the full report here.





Grants to End Homelessness now open

We are currently accepting Expressions of Interest for the Grants to End Homelessness program. This program supports projects that will end or prevent homelessness using evidence-based solutions, especially concerning women or people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Priority is given to projects that provide lasting solutions to homelessness, projects requiring seed funding, that have capacity to continue after the funding period and have the potential to be replicated.

You are welcome to call Sue Mowbray on 02 9911 7390 to discuss your project or email

EOIs are due in by 27 November 2023.

Read more about the program here.

Congratulations to the winners of the Mercy Youth Awards!

Congratulations to the winners of the Mercy Youth Awards for 2023:

1st Place: Caitlin, Year 12, Cathedral College Rockhampton

Caitlin wins $1,000 cash and the school receives $1,000 to spend on social justice resources or to donate to a charity addressing social justice in Australia.

2nd Place: Sofia, Year 9, Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta

Sofia wins $500 cash and the school receives $500 to spend on social justice resources or to donate to a charity addressing social justice in Australia.

3rd Place: Shenaya, Year 8, Catherine McAuley Westmead

Shenaya wins $250 cash and the school receives $250 to spend on social justice resources or to donate to a charity addressing social justice in Australia.

Highly Commended: $100 Vouchers

  • 9 students from Year 10, Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College
  • Year 7 student, Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta
  • Year 11 student, Wesley College
  • Year 9 student, Catherine McAuley Westmead

School submitting the most entries:

The school that submitted the most entries was Monte Sant Angelo Mercy College.

A total of 226 entries were received from 15 schools across Australia.


  • Ms Kylie Dunlop, Kylie Dunlop Photography
  • Sr Bernadette Mansour Board Member, Mercy Foundation
  • Ms Sue Mowbray CEO, Mercy Foundation
  • Ms Leesa Feilen, Projects Coordinator, Mercy Foundation

Thank you to all students who entered the Mercy Youth Awards Competition. The standard of the entries was excellent and all judges were impressed with the efforts made.

A place to live in dignity for all: make housing affordable

The UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing released a report this month focusing on the global crisis of housing affordability. The report concludes that:

The world is grappling with a mounting crisis of housing unaffordability, affecting both vulnerable and middle-income populations. Amid a complex interplay of factors, it is crucial for States, intergovernmental organizations and institutions to dedicate more concerted efforts toward addressing the fundamental causes of housing unaffordability. The present report serves as a pivotal push for future dialogue on achieving affordable housing for all. The first step in that direction involves acknowledging housing affordability as a central tenet of the right to adequate housing and recognizing that right as fundamental to every individual.

The report offers a number of prevention strategies that countries should take:

  • enshrine the affordability of housing as an element of the right to adequate housing,
  • invest resources in developing alternative models of affordable housing,
  • enact legislation to shield tenants from evictions due to non-payment of rent,
  • implement legal and other interventions to ensure third parties uphold the right to affordable and adequate housing,
  • enhance the capabilities of various bodies responsible for housing delivery to consistently incorporate a housing affordability perspective into their work,
  •  counter the reduction of public and social housing stocks designed for vulnerable individuals and households,
  • routinely monitor housing affordability and collect disaggregated data that account for gender, race, Indigenous identity, ability and other factors. Collaboration with communities, decision makers and professionals is vital in devising indicators for measuring housing affordability.

A number of other recommendations are made including protection strategies and strategies to address the consequences of housing unaffordability.

The full report can be accessed here.

Vacancy rates reach record lows, housing affordability crisis to continue

A report from CoreLogic shows that the national vacancy rate is at a new record low of 1.1%, as the number of rental listings fell to its lowest levels since November 2012.  National rents have risen for 38 consecutive months, taking rental values to 30.4% higher since July 2020. This equates to an additional $137 to the median weekly rent.

These figures are alarming, especially for households on low to medium incomes, already facing the financial pressures of escalating costs for fuel, energy, food, insurance and many other essentials. Homelessness is a real concern for families and individuals facing growing financial stress and hardship.

The latest Domain Rent Report showed that Sydney rents have reached record highs, with the asking rent for a typical unit now $130 per week higher than 12 months ago. The median asking rent for Sydney units is now $680, increasing by 23.6% over the past 12 months.

The increase in rentals is slowing in pace, however, with tight availability of rentals, higher rents will persist for the foreseeable future.

Dr Nicola Powell, Domain Chief of Research and Economics, noted that the rental market was tight because of strong demand from locals priced out of buying, an increase in single-person households, surging migration and an inelastic and ongoing shortfall of rental properties.