COMMITTEES - Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee - Report

08 June 2021

I rise today to speak in relation to the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence and our report.


At the outset, I'd like to express my gratitude to the committee's secretariat, particularly Shennia Spillane, Kathleen Blunden and Ashley Stephens, for their dedicated work in facilitating the inquiry and the report over the past almost one year. Their work has been incredibly invaluable. They put a lot of time into the report, and I'd like to acknowledge their efforts and commend them for their excellent work. A great deal of the evidence we received throughout the inquiry I found quite confronting, to be perfectly honest. Some of it was very distressing and very sensitive, and our secretariat and the committee members have worked with the highest levels of professionalism and sincerity throughout the process.


I want to thank everyone who took the time to prepare a submission and give evidence to the committee throughout this very lengthy process. The information that was shared with us was sometimes very personal and sometimes, as I've mentioned, extremely confronting. It's been very valuable to the committee in finalising the report, and I appreciate the selflessness with which each and every one of the contributors provided our committee with their insights, their experiences and their views.


Through its inquiry the committee received almost 300 submissions, and each of these were crucial in formulating the report's 88 recommendations. Many of these submissions were from survivors, and certainly many were from people who'd experienced long-term family violence. I want to express my admiration and utmost gratitude to those who presented to us.


I also want to pay tribute to our committee members, including the chair, the member for Fisher, for his untiring efforts. It's been a pleasure to work with everyone on the committee. I want to pay special attention to our deputy chair, my good friend and colleague the member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, whose work I know has been absolutely tireless, even until very late at night and at all hours of the morning, in trying to make sure that our report was a valuable one. She worked very well with the member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace, to try and make sure our report was timely and had the most appropriate recommendations. The member for Newcastle, of course, is one of the hardest-working members not only of this committee but in this parliament, and she's truly dedicated herself to the rights of women and families during this report. Therefore we have a really important, well-researched and timely report.


With the additional comments from the other members, I also pay tribute to the member for Bass, Ms Archer; the member for Dunkley, Peta Murphy; and the member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey, all of whom made very valuable contributions to our report. I also pay tribute to the member for Jagajaga, who, in spite of juggling a new baby, put a lot of effort into the report. The other members also made their contributions, but I think the ones I've mentioned deserve recognition.


As we've said in our comments on our report, the report is a bipartisan one. It reflects our concern that there needs to be urgency about acting on our recommendations. This is not a report that should sit in a drawer to be viewed by successive parliaments as past history.


It is urgent that we do something about this. One woman every week is murdered in Australia by a partner. Children are exposed to domestic violence and are victims of domestic violence. A significant number of children are murdered every year due to domestic violence. I myself have cared for children who've been severely injured and emotionally damaged and even gone on to be murdered by perpetrators of domestic violence. I think we can no longer in Australia pretend that this is something we just have to accept. The need for urgency has been mentioned by every other committee member who has spoken and is very, very important.


The statistics paint a really harrowing picture of the state of our society when we see this as something that we can expect regularly. A woman is murdered every week and one child is murdered every month in Australia. This is just not what we should see in a developed country. The statistics don't tell the real human stories, and we certainly heard some of them in our committee. My heart goes out to the victims and families who've been exposed to these terrible crimes. It's a blight on our society, and it's incumbent upon us all to address the crisis and make sure that action happens on an urgent basis.


I don't want to talk for too long, as I know other members have mentioned all the different organisations that have provided submissions and what they've done. I'd just like to mention the Macarthur domestic violence support group, who've been really terrific in my own electorate.


I have sat on their meetings on a monthly basis, and I'm in awe of the work that they do to support victims of family violence. I pay tribute to the others involved in the healthcare system, in the law enforcement system and in the courts, but this report should now be taken as something that requires urgent action, and I implore the government to do so.