Today Abigail urged the Government to take direct action to work toward domestic violence rates of zero.
In 2020 there were 29 domestic violence [DV] murder victims in New South Wales, and 32,078 DV assault incidents were recorded. Those figures are not unusual for any given year in New South Wales, despite everything being done by those determined to work to reduce the rates of domestic violence. If anything, those numbers are getting worse. Across Australia the lives of so many continue to be impacted by domestic violence. They are forced to bear overwhelming emotional and physical pain, their lives are upturned and their homes wrecked. As the devastating numbers counted by Destroy The Joint attest, we still live in a country where one woman a week dies at the hands of a current or former partner. Clearly, whatever we are doing to tackle domestic violence, to bring down the numbers of deaths, to reduce the number of DV assaults and to reduce the number of people reoffending, is not working. Community initiatives, media focus and government campaigns come and go, but the high numbers stay the same. A statement from a New South Wales Government campaign page reads:
[It] isn't simply a number. It is people. Sadly, it's closer to home than you think. It's people like you. Grandparents, mothers, fathers, children. And it's a number that's unacceptable, no matter how small it gets, until it gets to zero.
That should be the aim for all of us - government, law enforcement, business, communities, families and individuals - we should work together to do everything in our power to push the number of deaths on NSW roads towards zero.
That should be our focus: to reduce the number of deaths and the number of lives ruined by domestic violence. The Government's focus on reducing the above numbers to zero is admirable. But the quote I just read is not from a government campaign page targeted at domestic violence. It is from the worthy campaign to reduce deaths on our roads, aptly named "Towards Zero". If the Government is not working towards reducing the numbers of deaths and injuries from domestic violence, what has the Government been focusing on? Let us look at the Premier's Priorities in relation to domestic violence.
Since 2015 the focus has been on reducing the rate of reoffending by perpetrators. Not only is that a goal that the Government has not been able to make meaningful progress towards, with the number of reoffenders increasing since 2015, but the focus on perpetrators should never have been the priority in the first place. Why? That is because without focusing on the harm being done to victims, we will never be able to do what is required to reduce the numbers of those victims. The focus of the Towards Zero campaign has been reducing the number of people dying on our roads.
As the campaign page states, it is a goal that will require all of us—"government, law enforcement, business, communities, families and individuals"—to "work together to do everything in our power" to achieve the goal of zero deaths. That goal necessitates a holistic and coordinated approach that includes providing transport alternatives to reduce drink‑driving, ensuring our roads are maintained properly, advancing safety technology in cars, educating people on how they can drive more carefully, mandating seatbelts—the list goes on. That is what we need to do to tackle domestic violence in our State. A goal of zero deaths from domestic violence would necessitate a holistic and coordinated approach, where all facets of society "work together to do everything in our power", from education and prevention, to safe and appropriate emergency accommodation, to perpetrator intervention programs and to a more appropriate criminal justice system.
By instead making our big goal the reduction in reoffending rates, we have set ourselves up to fail. Would the Towards Zero campaign have been so successful if it had instead had a goal of reducing the numbers of people caught speeding more than once in a year? No, I do not believe it would have. In the lead-up to the last State election in 2019, the NSW Women's Alliance of peak organisations put together a comprehensive list of the reforms necessary to reduce the unacceptable rates of domestic violence in New South Wales, 49 individual measures that together will give us the best chance of reducing the numbers of people in this State impacted by domestic violence. I remember the then CEO of DVNSW, Moo Baulch, telling me quite clearly that none of those measures are more important than the others; they are all vital, each working with the other reforms to make a real difference to finally holistically address the domestic violence epidemic in our State.
I understand that the new Premier will be reviewing and updating the list of Premier's priorities. I ask him and his Government to consider very carefully how they can actually make meaningful change in this space. I ask the Government to reflect on past failures and past successes in other areas and to commit to a new goal that focuses on reducing the numbers of people impacted by domestic violence in our State. It is well past time that we commit to a goal that inspires a holistic and coordinated approach to tackling the rates of domestic abuse, one in which we are all working towards zero.
The full transcript can be found in Hansard here.