Why aren't we listening to the demands of the domestic violence sector?

Today Abigail called out the Labor Government's approach to domestic violence, which is just more of the former Coalition Government's agenda to ignore the demands of the DFV sector.

Abigail said:

I make a contribution to debate on the High Risk Offenders Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 on behalf of The Greens as the gendered violence and abuse spokesperson. I understand my colleague Ms Sue Higginson, who is our justice spokesperson, will also make a contribution. We share concerns relating to the bill. The Greens do not support the bill. I am getting tired and increasingly frustrated by the Government's approach to domestic violence matters. We saw this approach under the former government and I am disappointed to see it again.

Experts have been telling us for decades what they want. Instead of listening to them, we hear about thought bubbles that come from the Attorney General that then make their way into bills like this one under the fiction that such a bill is somehow going to make more women safe from domestic violence perpetrators. The Government has considered a valid concern relating to the strangulation offence, which the domestic and family violence sector has been talking about for a long time. We know full well that strangulation is a warning sign and is often a precursor to domestic homicide. That is why the sector was so concerned about it for so long. It was already part of the law. This legislation adds strangulation as a serious offence for the purpose of detaining someone after their sentence.

When I asked the Attorney General about this in today's briefing, I was told it was based on a single statement made by one judge in one case that they happened to be a bit surprised that strangulation was not considered under the definition of serious offence, not because there was any particular risk caused by it. It was a throwaway line. Instead of focusing on all of the things that are needed to stop women and children being killed, we have this ridiculous scenario where suddenly we are being told this Labor Government is being more serious about domestic and family violence. It is so offensive. I expressed this to an extent in this morning's briefing and I feel that I am not being heard.

As I have mentioned already, I was fortunate to spend a good part of January in the United Kingdom. I primarily went there to talk to domestic and family violence stakeholders, to advocates and frontline workers about how the domestic violence policy was working in their particular jurisdictions, not just in the United Kingdom, England and Wales, but also in Scotland as a separate jurisdiction. The focus was on the implementation of coercive control laws. I could talk about that at great length because we know that the domestic and family violence sector is yelling loudly about how the New South Wales offence that was passed by the Coalition Government that is to come into effect in July is so defective as to be dangerous. The domestic and family violence sector is yelling for it to be deferred and for there to be a review. Despite the experts telling the Government to delay the legislation, it is refusing to do anything about it. I will talk about that at length over the next few months.

When the Government is willing to do anything except the things that are being asked for, such as funding and significantly change the way we do things, it is easy to drop something like this into what is really about anti‑terrorism. This one thing was dropped in based on one line said once by one judge in one court case and now the Government is pretending like it is doing something on domestic and family violence. It does zero to help the thousands of women and children who do not have a refuge to go to, because there are not enough refuges. They cannot get legal advice because there are not enough legal advisers. They cannot get into courts because there are no safe rooms for them to be in where they will not be attacked by their perpetrator. There are not enough resources and significant reforms are required.

One of my most thumbed-through copies of any platform I have is the stay safe platform. In 2019 the Women's Alliance put together every recommendation that would actually save women and children from dying at the hands of perpetrators. It was ignored because we do not want to stop people dying by giving them extra funding. It is so insulting that this bill that nobody actually asked for is to be considered as some big action that the Labor Government is taking on domestic and family violence. It is the same everywhere, even in the United Kingdom. Other countries do it better because they treat it as a serious issue. In this country far more women and children die from domestic and family violence than they do from terrorism—far more. The statistic is still one person a week. Nothing has changed. Nothing has got better. Yet, this is what we get from this Government. It is beyond belief. We do not support this "thing" that has come out of one case. We do not support these ridiculous punitive measures that do not keep anybody safe. On behalf of the community and the domestic and family violence sector, we put on record that we are deeply offended that the Labor Government is continuing with this attitude.

Read the full debate in Hansard here.

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