When will governments finally listen?

Today in Parliament, Abigail contributed to Labor's debate on domestic family and sexual violence, slamming current and previous governments for consistently ignoring decades of advice and recommendations from countless expert organisations and victim-survivors. Will they finally heed the call?

Abigail said:

On behalf of The Greens, as our gendered abuse and violence spokesperson, I contribute to debate on this motion and thank the Hon. Emily Suvaal for moving it. The more attention we have on this issue in this place, the better. Particularly, I focus on the statement in paragraph (2) of the motion, namely that "we must listen to the lived experience of victim-survivors and the expertise of the sector to inform urgent action to address this scourge". Finally listening to victim‑survivors, frontline workers and other experts is key to changing the status quo and turning this issue around. The fact is that neither the previous Coalition Government nor NSW Labor—either when in opposition or since being in government—have been listening to those with the expertise in these matters.

In 2019 the NSW Women's Alliance put forward a comprehensive package of reforms for all parties to consider. The Women's Alliance is a coalition of peak organisations and statewide specialist service providers with expertise in preventing and responding to sexual, domestic and family violence. Chaired by Domestic Violence NSW, it comprises the Aboriginal Women's Advisory Network, ACON Health, Financial Abuse Service NSW – Redfern Legal Centre, Full Stop Australia, Immigrant Women's SpeakOut Association New South Wales, Mudgin-Gal Aboriginal Corporation, Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association Australia, Muslim Women Australia, No to Violence, the NSW Council of Social Service, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre, Women's Legal Service NSW, Women's Health NSW, and Youth Action.

These expert organisations have spent decades on the front line directly with victim‑survivors and perpetrators. They have worked for decades gathering information, linking to organisations in other jurisdictions, working with academics and researchers, and trialling approaches and evaluating outcomes. They have worked together to develop policy and spent thousands of hours advising government and other bodies on what needs to be done if we are to prevent and adequately respond to domestic and family violence in our State. The package the NSW Women's Alliance put forward in 2019 was groundbreaking. Comprising 49 recommendations across six key areas, the detailed and costed Safe State package was put forward with a clear message: None of these reforms are more important than others. We must implement all 49 recommendations if we are to turn things around. In response, the then Labor Opposition accepted a mere handful.

The fact is that Labor members were not listening to victim‑survivors and the sector in 2019. They were not listening in 2022, when 220 domestic and family violence organisations and advocates wrote an open letter begging them not to pass the Coalition's deeply flawed, perpetrator‑friendly version of a coercive control bill. They have not been listening in the past 12 months as the sector has continued to press them to delay implementation of that offence to ensure that it does not make matters worse. They were not listening in 2023 when the alliance again put forward a plan entitled Action to End Gendered Violence. Again, the sector spent thousands of hours pouring its expertise into a comprehensive strategy to address domestic and family violence in our State. Again, Labor members did not listen.

They were not listening throughout 2023 and into 2024 when the sector told them about women being turned away from refuges and when so many of us contacted them about women sleeping in cars and tents in car parks. They were not listening when we told them that they need to be providing long-term secure funding for frontline services so that services can plan for the future and workers can enter roles without needing to worry about losing their jobs every year, and so precious time and resources are not wasted writing grant applications.

They were not listening when the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission [LECC] told them that the policing system in New South Wales is not safe for victim-survivors. They were not listening when the Auditor‑General joined with the LECC to call for police accused of domestic violence offences to be investigated by someone other than a colleague from within their local area command. They were not listening to disability advocates who told them that domestic violence services are inaccessible, increasing the risk for women with disability. They were not listening to First Nations people calling for fully funded First Nations controlled community organisations to provide culturally and systemically safe responses to domestic and family violence in First Nations communities.

They were not listening when the sector told them we cannot wait for new refuges and that we need to be expanding existing refuges to meet urgent demand. They were not listening as the entire community sector was loudly calling for the Government to take a far more serious approach to the housing crisis, including a massive reinvestment in public housing and more dedicated women's refuges. Listening means more than just hearing the words; it means acting on those words. Will Labor members be listening now? I really want them to.

 

Read the full debate in Hansard here.

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