Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016
I speak in debate on the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016 and note the contribution of the shadow Attorney General, and member for Liverpool, and others who have spoken in this debate. This bill implements a number of recommendations from the statutory review of chapter 9 of the Coroners Act 2009 and the statutory review of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. As the shadow Attorney General said, Labor supports the bill with the exception of the proposed change to section 101J of the Coroners Act, which seeks to extend the reporting period of the New South Wales Domestic Violence Death Review Team [DVDRT] to two years instead of being an annual report.
The DVDRT was set up by Labor in 2010. Its inaugural convener retired as the State Coroner in November 2013 but remained as convener until the appointment of the New South Wales State Coroner on 24 March 2014. New members were appointed to that team in November 2014 following the expiry of the inaugural team memberships in February 2013. This led to a delay in the tabling of the 2012-13 annual report— it was not tabled until 20 March 2015. The report contains 23 recommendations aimed at New South Wales government agencies. It identifies important opportunities for intervention and prevention to address the causes of domestic violence with a view to preventing future deaths.
The next report was the 2013 to 2015 annual report, and that was tabled on 30 October. It contains evidence-based recommendations developed from an in-depth analysis of all closed cases of domestic violence homicide that had occurred within the case review period, in combination with 12 years of data. This is a very important report and as such it should be released annually to keep us up to date with issues and concerns. The other issue I have with that report is that there have been no updates as to progress on the Government's accepted recommendations—it did not accept some of those recommendations. What is the guarantee that these recommendations will be reported on in the next report, which is due in 2017? But my biggest concern, and that of my colleagues, is how many women, children and men will die in the meantime from things that may have been prevented if those recommendations had been reported on earlier.
I refer to the submissions from the Women's Legal Service NSW. I thank the service for its comprehensive submission and I will be listening with interest to the Attorney General's comments about that. It raised important considerations in that submission, particularly in relation to stopping child witnesses being crossexamined by perpetrators. I hope that other women and/or men who have been in a relationship with a perpetrator and had significant coercion, control or violence exerted upon them are not put in the position of being questioned by the perpetrator. Indeed, that could have happened in this case. A lot of the issues raised in the submission of the Women's Legal Service NSW are of concern to me, in particular where we have a crossover of different jurisdictions and courts. It is my hope that when a court makes a ruling in relation to children and parenting that it takes into consideration any apprehended domestic violence orders [ADVOs] that are in place.
The bill refers to the Commonwealth legislation about electronic stalking, text messaging and things like that. Whilst that is a really good thing, the Women's Legal Service draws attention to things like indirectly publishing or threatening to publish and share images or videos of a protected person of an intimate nature. It welcomes the inclusion of new section 35 (2) (c1), but recommends for clarity that this be expanded to "prohibiting or restricting the defendant from locating, attempting to locate, asking someone else to locate, following or keeping the protected person under surveillance." We often find in these cases that the perpetrators find collaborators to help them in their abuse of women. There is also the issue of the inclusion of property that the protected not only owns but also uses. I ask the Attorney General to takes these things into consideration when the bill gets to the Committee stage in the Legislative Council.
I turn now to some of the issues surrounding domestic violence in our community. It costs the New South Wales economy $4.5 billion per annum and is recognised as the greatest preventable cause of death, ill health and disability for women aged under 45 in Australia. Children who grow up in families with violence may suffer a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances, which can be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life. Pleasingly, the bill recognises the special and specific needs of vulnerable groups within our community such as those with disabilities and people living in rural and remote areas, including Aboriginal people, migrants and people from refugee backgrounds.
In my short time in this place I have observed the Government's focus on increasing legislative and policing responses to domestic violence, but there has not been adequate funding of domestic violence and specialist services. Since the debacle of the Going Home Staying Home policy, where only 20 of 76 refuges across New South Wales remained under existing management, most refuges have been at capacity. With the combination of general homelessness and specialist domestic violence services it is unclear how many beds exist for those escaping domestic violence. The majority of the money announced by the Government last year has gone to legislative change and policing resources. They are important, but services like the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, which has taken on a massive increase in workload in referring victims to appropriate services, was underfunded until earlier this year when the Government allocated 20 per cent of the funding required to complete its work.
I am also concerned as to where the money for that police response is going. Last year the New South Wales Government promised to recruit an additional 24 domestic violence liaison officers [DVLOs], but details of their exact locations were not advised until early this year. Of those 24 new DVLOs, 16 were to be allocated to regional areas. I cannot speak for others, but I can advise the House that at this stage there is not an extra funded place in the Central Hunter Local Area Command. I ask the Government to indicate when it will be releasing those new positions. This resourcing is important because police report that 45 per cent of their workload is related to domestic violence and it is important to resource them.
Last month the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR] results showed that Maitland had experienced one of the largest statistically significant increases in domestic violence across the State. This again makes our DVLO position much more urgent. I have written to various Ministers about it. Where do people have to live to get extra resources for domestic violence? Last week during question time Minister Goward announced that the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is now being trialled in four New South Wales local area commands—Oxley, Shoalhaven, Sutherland and St George.
Why have they not been rolled out in areas such as Blacktown where nearly 2,000 domestic violence assaults occurred in the 12 months to December 2015, in Penrith where domestic violence assaults topped 1,000, or in Maitland where there were 466 domestic assaults—up 33 percent on the figures for the previous year? I would be concerned if we are seeing pork-barrelling of domestic violence programs. I will inform the House about a woman from my electorate, who is known as Zahra. She came to Australia and suffers domestic violence. Her story, like so many of the stories of domestic violence and community stories of survival, demonstrates the real issues in our community from which we need to learn. [Extension of time]
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the House for that indulgence. This woman came to Australia, she got her visa, and the second day after she arrived in Australia her husband started to scream at her for cooking dinner slowly. She was shocked and worried, and it went on from there. Two months later she had an argument with her husband about him leaving dirty clothes in the lounge room and her husband became really angry. She said:
[He] started hitting me on the head, probably about ten times, he hit my nose and made it bleed. I left and went to a relative's house for two months and it was really difficult. I had been expecting him to hit me because I could see the signs, and he had started pushing me around, it had been building up. I felt like I couldn't trust him anymore because he had tricked me into signing all my savings over to him because I couldn't read English very well, it was a terrible lie. I had been planning to buy a few things like a car but he took control of all my money. This all happened in the first two months of living here.
When I went to my relative's house he acted like he really regretted what he'd done but I couldn't see any future because of everything he'd done in such a short time. I reported it to the police and got an AVO against him. After the police called he got really worried and kept calling me promising me to change. I was in a really difficult situation because it was terrible with the relatives I was staying with, in return for staying with them they made me work like a slave and didn't talk to me nicely, they even took my money from me. I ended up going back to my husband because I thought if I'm going to be abused by people and not treated well I may as well go back to my own house.
More happened and she ended up in hospital. She continued:
We were only together for six months in total so it all happened really quickly. I was so afraid of him and felt like there was no way out because he was threatening me and saying he wouldn't let me work or go anywhere or see my family again, it was very controlling, he wouldn't even let me call them.
Imagine moving to a new country and having no friends and the only person that you have in your whole life is a man who stops you speaking to your relatives. She said:
I had a real fear of what the future meant. I was really really depressed and couldn't eat or sleep, and ended up in hospital after trying to overdose on sleeping pills. I reached a point where I couldn't cope anymore and took the whole pack, I wanted to kill myself.
He took me to hospital and lied to the staff that I was upset because my mother was sick and I took too much Panadol. The nurses obviously didn't trust him and started asking questions … They said all the refuges in Sydney were full and wouldn't send me to a motel on my own, and could only get me into a refuge in Newcastle. I went to Carrie's Place in Maitland for three months and they really helped me. They helped me through everything and enrolled me at TAFE so I could improve my English, they were great caseworkers.
Stories like Zahra's show exactly the impact of good public policy, the need for funding refuges and the need to have good TAFE facilities for women escaping domestic violence so that they can get their lives back. This woman was an accountant in her former country and she is now working as a bookkeeper. She has that desire to give back to her community. But we must ensure that in all cases these women are able to contribute to our community. It is not only about the cost in services; it is about the cost in the loss of productivity from the women, from the men and from everyone in the community who is affected by domestic violence.
Last week's Federal budget fell far short of the amount of funding that is needed to seriously improve the situation for those escaping violence. Up to two women are dying each week in Australia, but the Federal Government has allocated only $100 million over three years to domestic violence. This is despite a letter to the Prime Minister from 80 family violence and community groups saying that at least $127 million was needed each year as a minimum. There is $30 billion in the budget for national security, but up to two women are being killed each week and the Prime Minister has allocated just over 0.1 per cent to the problem. That is despite 74 per cent of Australians believing that domestic violence is a greater threat than terrorism.
The Victorian Government has raised the bar for all governments in Australia with its announcements of more than half a billion dollars for domestic violence to implement the recommendations of its royal commission. The Victorian commitment is a game changer, and the New South Wales Government needs to step up. I was going to end my contribution there, but I have to say that right now in this State a woman is escaping domestic violence and her husband has appeared in court today and has been released. He is facing further charges against her and she is in fear of her life. I would like all members of this place to reflect on what it would feel like to have to find somewhere to hide with her two children after school because the police released her whereabouts in court and her husband now knows where she is.