Addressing Domestic Violence

Violence against women and girls is described by UN Women as a pervasive human rights violation of pandemic proportions. Here are some sad Australian figures: On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner; one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; one in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence; and one in six Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner. Keeping this in mind, allow me to note some of the concerns, themes and threads raised with me as I have travelled the State and held discussions, forums and roundtables as the shadow Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence.

 

First, primary prevention. We must support communities who are supporting young people to develop respectful relationships by being able to identify the signs of abusive and controlling behaviour in partners. Instilling positive attitudes in younger people to prevent abuse in adulthood is paramount for primary prevention. If we are serious about prevention and early intervention we must fund programs such as Social and Safe, Kinks and Bends and Preventing Abuse in Relationships. As a society we need to change attitudes about power, relationships and violence. Prevention is where it must start.

Secondly, access to more funding for resources to support women and children escaping domestic violence is desperately needed. For example, Jenny's Place in Newcastle, whose Domestic Violence Resource Centre is at risk of imminent closure, needs a few hundred thousand dollars. There has been no funding forthcoming to this important frontline service. And the fantastic proposal put forward by Sally Stevenson, manager of the Illawarra Women's Health Centre, for a Trauma Recovery Centre in partnership with a number of others is exactly what the Government needs to fund—a one-stop service providing cross-sectoral and coordinated wraparound support that allows for an individualised response to women experiencing trauma from domestic and family violence, including medical and health care, therapeutic strategies and non-clinical support, and the legal support that goes along with those issues. That is what communities are crying out for.

Thirdly, we must fix a broken court system, from Family Court decisions to the stress placed on women when testifying and perpetrator conviction rates. The court system and the disconnect between State and Federal jurisdictions re-traumatises women and children over and over again. I am aware of the problems for women and children in the Family Court, and the provisions around child protection and family violence. Family law orders can be inconsistent with apprehended violence orders [AVOs] and child protection orders, placing women and children at risk. Recently I met with advocates from Voices for Change from Domestic Violence NSW and this was one of the issues highlighted by them, and my local community legal centre, the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre, and the NSW Women's Legal Service. There is also an extreme shortage of housing availability and women are the growing group—the largest percentage of those at risk of homelessness.

Fourthly, there is a desperate need for case management funding to be provided for Aboriginal women and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. They need wraparound support and options. Fifthly, we have a service sector under a great amount of pressure. Reform fatigue and job insecurity are taking their toll on this sector. We all stood in this place in silence yesterday to honour Hannah Clarke and her three young children, who were violently murdered in Brisbane last week by her former partner and the father of those children. He was a known domestic violence perpetrator. There existed known coercive control behaviours in him. Hannah had sought help previously. She and her children needed protection. They are now dead. Rosie Batty has said:

"This horrific violence is beyond our imagination, comprehension and understanding. How could this happen? And yet it does. And it keeps on happening.

This is the most pressing issue of terrorism our society faces—where at least one woman each week is murdered.

It is too painful and confronting for us to even face and acknowledge how many children are murdered by an abusive parent, but we do know that at least one in four children is affected by violence in their home and the trauma they experience will impact their lives forever."

I am one of those children, a survivor who now finds herself in this place as the shadow Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, and I say: Domestic violence no more. We need to change this world. I note, for the benefit of the House, this fantastic bookBreaking Silent Codes by Dixie Link Gordon and Belinda Mason:

"Without stories, there is silence. Without our stories told, we are voiceless. Without our stories heard, we are invisible …"

Let us change.