24 September 2015
Last week in Parliament, I called on the new Prime Minister to make the elimination of violence against women a priority for his government and I am glad that he has taken an important first step in tackling this scourge in our society.
Today’s announcement of a $100 million Women’s Safety Package to tackle the epidemic of violence against women in Australia is most welcome.
With 64 women killed this year alone in acts of violence and one in three women in Australia affected by this violence, we need immediate action and lasting change.
We have been reminded this week in Newcastle and the Hunter that our community is not immune to this epidemic of violence, with the shocking death at home of a 12 year old girl in Aberglasslyn. Statistics from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that reported instances of domestic assaults in the Hunter are up by 20 per cent in the last three years and our significantly under-resourced and over-stretched legal system and community-based services are struggling to deal with a heavy, complex caseload. Newcastle and the Hunter must be given serious consideration by the government when establishing specialised domestic violence units in recognised ‘hotspots’ as announced in today’s Package.
The Government should provide some immediate relief to the Newcastle community by appointing a replacement judge to the Federal Circuit Court. The lack of a replacement judge for the retired Judge Coakes has seen delays for cases to even be mentioned in the court stretch from six to eight weeks to four months. These delays have an enormous impact on families trying to make arrangements for their children at times of family separation.
I also call on the Government to implement the recommendation of the recent Inquiry into the Child Support Program to establish a dedicated family violence response unit within the Department of Human Services to be responsible for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the child during family separations where violence has been present.
As Deputy Chair of the Committee that conducted the inquiry, I heard extensive evidence from women and legal practitioners about the increased risk of violence at times of separation, and a dedicated family violence response unit to coordinate work across government agencies would help protect women and children. Importantly this unit must be supported by a strong, well-resourced community sector providing essential frontline services.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.