Ending Violence Against Animals and Children

Last night Abigail voted in support of a successful motion to ensure that offenses of animal cruelty prevent offenders from gaining a Working With Children Check.

In supporting the motion, Abigail said (22:07): 

I make a contribution to the debate on behalf of The Greens in support of this motion. The links between animal abuse and domestic violence are well documented and violence against animals is one of the strongest risk factors for domestic homicide. Animal abuse in the context of domestic and family violence includes threats of harm, neglect, killing the animal, mental and emotional abuse, degrading treatment and sexual abuse of the animal. Perpetrators also use pets to manipulate and control victims, for example, by threatening to harm or kill the animal if their demands are not met or to prove their power. They take advantage of the bond between victims of domestic violence and their companion animal, which is especially effective and devastating in the case of children.

The Humane Society of the United States reported that 88 per cent of families that had incidents of child abuse also had incidents of animal abuse. Despite the clear connection, current systems are not suitable for information sharing and coordination enforcement by relevant agencies. The result is that we are failing to protect victim‑survivors, their children and their animals. In 2020 the Domestic Violence NSW [DVNSW] called for the screening tool Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool [DVSAT] to be updated to replace "family pet" with "animal" to reflect that perpetrators use domestic and family violence against farmed and assistance animals. I would also add wildlife to that list.

Domestic Violence NSW also recommended that the NSW Police Force notify animal welfare agencies when it has identified when an animal has been harmed or killed, including through the use of the DVSAT, and animal welfare agencies notify the NSW Police Force when an animal has been harmed or killed when there is known or suspected domestic family violence against people. It is also suggested that animal welfare organisations and vets be trained to assist in screening for domestic and family violence. Inclusion of animal cruelty offences in the schedule to the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act would acknowledge the relationship between animal abuse and child abuse, providing clear and ongoing legal consequences for those who have committed animal cruelty offences.

There are overseas examples of cross-agency reporting to facilitate the safety of children. In 2009 New Zealand established a reporting protocol between the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Ministry for Children, or Oranga Tamariki, to encourage cross-reporting of child and animal abuse between agencies to improve collaborative responses to domestic and family violence. The London child protection procedures also currently encourage such collaboration. Professor Shurlee Swain in her 2014 report for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse described the provision of child welfare in Australia as a patchwork rather than a coordinated model. The Greens support the Hon. Emma Hurst's motion in seeking to highlight and begin to close one of the gaps created by this patchwork, which is the link between animal abuse and child abuse.


For the full transcript, visit Hansard here.

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