Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Domestic and Family Violence
I stood in this House a year ago yesterday and spoke on White Ribbon Day, our annual acknowledgement for those who have suffered domestic violence and our recommitment to do more. I stood in this place and I paid tribute to all of those who have suffered at the hands of a loved one around Australia. Indeed, some of those are within this House. I said in this place at that time that it shouldn't take an annual day of acknowledgement to recognise that violence against women is wrong, it shouldn't take yet another tragedy to prompt action on domestic violence.
Unfortunately, the federal government's budget this year—masterminded, of course, by the now Prime Minister—does next to nothing to support victims of domestic violence or those who might be at risk. Domestic violence and women's groups have described the budget this year as 'bitterly disappointing'. The Women's Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services of Western Australia and the WA Council of Social Service wrote to me recently outlining their concerns about the decision of the Commonwealth to cease funding of $2.4 million for eight domestic and family violence specialist programs across Western Australia. Some of those programs were run by a local service in my electorate, Starick Services, which provides services and refuges to those in Perth's south-eastern suburbs. These were cuts that had already been brought to my direct attention by Starick Services. It's funding for programs that are about keeping women safe in their homes.
These community organisations and the services that are funded through this funding are deeply concerned about the ongoing impact of not being able to continue to offer these services within our community. I am also deeply concerned about the government's decision to cut $2.4 million in funding for these programs. Prior to my entering parliament, I began my legal career in a small, suburban legal practice that specialised in family law. I spent time on the board of Starick Services, one of those domestic violence services whose future in providing Safe At Home support is now uncertain. Starick has lost nearly $600,000 in funding for programs intended to keep women safe in their homes. This directly affects real people in my electorate, as well as those in the electorates of Swan and Hasluck. Fortunately the McGowan Labor government in WA has announced that it will pick up the federal government's slack to allow for these programs to continue in Western Australia, programs and services that have the capacity to intervene in domestic and family violence in a timely manner and keep women and children safe.
Earlier this month WA's first Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Simone McGurk, led a delegation of Western Australians at the Reducing Violence Against Women summit. Ahead of the summit WA Premier Mark McGowan wrote to the Prime Minister seeking ongoing funding for initiatives including Safe At Home programs, like those run by Starick, to help reduce the unacceptable levels of family and domestic violence in our state. There have been 23 women, children and men killed in suspected domestic violence related murders in Western Australia so far this year. That compares to only 11 in the whole of last year. This clearly isn't a problem that is going away, and it is not one that can be swept under the carpet.
WA has the second-highest incidence of family and domestic violence in our nation, and this year's statistics are utterly shameful. Indeed, my electorate has the highest propensity for domestic violence in metropolitan Perth. Our state has done a lot to work with Western Australians impacted by family and domestic violence, but it is not enough. We already know that, nationally, one woman every week is killed by a current or former partner. The government has not reversed its $44 million a year cut of capital funding either, used for safe housing options for women and children fleeing family and domestic violence. These short-sighted cuts have only resulted in a growing unmet need for short-term and emergency accommodation.
Further to this, recently we debated legislation in this House to ensure that women will not be cross-examined by a family and domestic violence former partner in the Family Court. That commitment and that legislation are very welcome. However, it is unfortunate that, joining these cuts to Safe at Home services, the government has failed to fund legal aid in this regard.