House debates

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Bills

Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020; Second Reading

12:53 pm

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

All forms of violence against women and their children are unacceptable in any community and in any culture. All levels of government, plus business, service providers and the community, must commit to continuous action and investment to stop violence before it starts, and to support women and children where and when they need it. Ending violence against women and their children starts with promoting equality between men and women and respect for all. There is no single cause of violence against women and their children; however, gender inequality sets the stage for such violence to occur. The fourth action plan will continue to address this issue through prevention, early intervention and response, including working with those who use violence to stop.

The rates of violence against women are highly concerning. One woman is killed every nine days by a current or former partner. Rates of sexual violence increased by eight per cent across Australia between 2016 and 2017. Complex violence, such as forced marriage and abuse, continues to emerge. Such experiences can be influenced by cultural beliefs and traditions, immigration and settlement in a new country and, in some contexts, religious and cultural values. Among other factors, these crimes need to be addressed and tackled head-on.

Prevention is the most effective way to eliminate violence against women and their children and is at the core of the fourth action plan. Primary prevention means stopping violence before it occurs. It means changing attitudes, behaviours and accepted standards that excuse, justify or even encourage violence against women and their children. Primary prevention activities are for the whole community, not just for those who've been impacted by violence.

Women of all backgrounds can experience domestic and family sexual violence. No two women's experience of violence are the same. The experiences of victims and survivors can help us understand what works for them. One in three women has experienced some kind of physical violence in their lifetime—that is from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012. One in six adult women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner—that compares to one in 19 men. One in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. Australian women are most likely to experience violence in their home at the hands of a male current or ex-partner. Thirty-six per cent of women have experienced physical or sexual abuse from someone they know. Fifteen per cent have experienced violence from an ex-partner. And for 62 per cent of the women who've had experience of physical assault by a male perpetrator, the most recent incident was in their home. Once again, that was from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Domestic violence is a vastly underreported crime. Of women who've experienced violence from their current or former partner, 39 per cent have never sought advice or support and 80 per cent have never contacted the police. Of women who've experienced violence by their ex-partner, 73 per cent experienced more than one incident of violence and over half had children in their care when the violence occurred. Eighty-nine women were killed by their current or former partner between 2008 and 2010. This equates to nearly one woman every week.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, children and communities continue to experience high rates of violence. We must be clear that family violence is not a part of Australian culture or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Culture and family are central, key protective factors that support Indigenous families to be free of violence. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women must be supported to make choices that will protect and promote their own and their family's long-term safety if they break the cycle of trauma and violence.

The fourth action plan recognises that preventing and responding to family violence starts by recognising individual family and community strengths. Solutions to address violence must effectively engage and equip Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in decision-making processes. Service providers and governments must work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and with the community controlled organisations to develop solutions that are culturally appropriate, trauma informed, holistic and can lead to healing for families and communities.

In Townsville—from the DV stats from the Queensland Police Service—the number of domestic violence breaches in 2019 was 466. The number of domestic violence breaches in January 2020 was 45. These are only the incidents that are caught by police. In reality, so many more cases would go completely undetected.

I think this is so much more important than just reading from a piece of paper. As a father with a daughter—and I have another daughter on the way in April—this sickens me to my stomach that these numbers and these stats are so high. I would not know how to control my emotions if something so horrible ever happened to my family.

I want to take this time to acknowledge Terri Butler, the member for Griffith, for what she said last night at the candlelight vigil and the support that I know that she has given to the family of Hannah and the three children who were murdered by someone the kids called 'Dad', by a violent former partner, which is nothing but unacceptable, disgusting and disgraceful and needs to be condemned not just by people in this place but everywhere in Australia. But we must do more. We always can do more in putting supports in place for people who have experienced domestic violence. We just must work together. This is never a time to throw mud at each other, because as a nation we are mourning and weeping over the loss of Hannah and her three children. This isn't a political thing. This is a gross blight on our community which is called domestic violence.

In Townsville a lady was recently stabbed by her brother and she died. These aren't isolated incidents. These are things that have happened throughout the country. With the national plan and working with people on the other side, the crossbench, the other place and states and territories, we must—we have to—link arms and work together. There is no number that is acceptable for domestic violence. No number is acceptable. Being a father really hammers this home. I look around and I see such strong women leaders in this place who give my daughter role models to look up to—regardless of where you sit, on either side. I know, and I speak for my colleagues and for the other side, that we will and must work together.

We have zero tolerance for domestic, family and sexual violence, which is why there is $340 million committed into the fourth action plan. But money is only as good as the service it provides. Whilst there is record funding provided, it is only as good as the services on the ground. The fourth action plan includes practical actions: primary prevention is key intervention; supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children; respecting, listening and responding to the diverse lived experience and knowledge of women and their children who are affected by violence; responding to sexual violence and sexual harassment; and improving support and services system responses.

On 25 November last year, the National Implementation Plan was launched. The National Implementation Plan sets out how we will work to address national priorities of the fourth action plan and outlines the approach for monitoring and reporting on implementation. The implementation plan can be found at www.plan4womenssafety.dss.gov.au, and I think everyone here will and should be looking at and talking about it in their communities. Like I've said, like people opposite have said, there is no acceptable number.

But this can't be just talk. Talk with no action is just a waste of oxygen. We need to be working together, working with people who have lived experience—from rural and remote communities to people who live in the cities. I know that I'll be talking to the leaders in my community, especially in the built-up areas that have Indigenous peoples like Palm Island, to see what works for them. This isn't one size fits all; this needs to be tailored to different people's communities, but there must always be the same sentiment that there is no acceptable number for domestic violence.

Last night at the candlelight vigil—I can't even describe the emotions we all had, but I never want to do it again. I never want to stand at another candlelight vigil for people who have died, who have been killed through domestic violence. I do not want to stand at a candlelight vigil and hear that children called this—I'm not allowed to swear in here—disgusting human 'dad', hear that he could do such a despicable thing. And Hannah left him, as we heard last night. She had left to seek help, to seek refuge. She was brave, she was strong. So for this to still happen makes everyone sick to the stomach. I encourage anyone who watches this—if you're in this position, if you are suffering domestic violence—to please get help. Please speak to the police, speak to your friends, speak your family, speak to everyone, because this just is not acceptable anywhere in the world. There's not much more I can really say on it. It just really kicks you in the guts. I didn't know Hannah or her three kids, but it has affected the whole nation. We need to be doing more. Thank you.

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