House debates

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Constituency Statements

Domestic Violence

9:36 am

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak again in this place about the stain of men's violence against women, and family violence more generally in our community. It has been just over one month since I last spoke about family violence in this place, after the community of Sunshine in my electorate was shaken by the murder of Fiona Warzywoda. While the media headlines have abated, it is important that we do not forget the ongoing scourge of family violence in our community, that we do not forget that what White Ribbon calls the 'dark secret of Australian society' still lingers silently in the homes of our family, our friends and our neighbours across the country.

Extrapolated from 2013 data, since I last spoke in this place there would have been at least 5,000 further incidents of family violence in Victoria. There would have been over 1,000 breaches of intervention orders, where we have failed to protect those in our society who most need it. Given that incidents of family violence in Victoria continue to rise, these extrapolations are likely to be conservative. Community legal centres in Victoria have reported that family violence currently accounts for over 50 per cent of the work of their lawyers. This is particularly true for Melbourne's west, where services addressing family violence have noticed a 35 per cent rise in demand for their services in recent years.

This debate is one that is too important to let slip from yesterday's headlines into obscurity, into the file of problems often acknowledged but rarely acted upon. That is why, with other members in Melbourne's west, I am organising a forum with members of our local communities and stakeholder groups to ensure that the issue is firmly kept on the agenda. We are talking to the communities of Hobsons Bay, Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Wyndham to share ideas and to coordinate a response so that we know what is needed to prevent the incidence of family violence in Melbourne's west from rising any further.

That is why I welcome the announcement by the Victorian Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Andrews, to create a royal commission into domestic violence under a future Andrews government in Victoria. This announcement was one that brought tears to the eyes of victims of domestic violence in Victoria. It is an acknowledgement that a holistic response to family violence is required, ranging across health, housing, education, employment, policing, justice and our community services. But it is also an acknowledgement that a government response must be given the highest possible priority by government, to ensure that change will be both effective and permanent. Daniel Andrews should be commended for having such bold vision on this issue, and his leadership should be supported by all of us at the federal level.

I speak today to reaffirm that family violence must stay on Australia's national political agenda. Long after the headlines have died down and the crowds of mourners from the latest tragedy have dissipated, there are still family members who are piecing their lives together after the loss of a mother, a sister, an aunt or a daughter. It is for them, and for all the women and girls in our society, that we must make sure that efforts to address domestic violence do not abate. We must do all that we can to ensure that the light of political attention remains on the dark secret of family violence in our society.