Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (National Domestic Violence Orders Recognition) Bi
I speak on the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (National Domestic Violence Orders Recognition) Bill 2016. I thank the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for her comments. I endorse the contribution of my colleague the shadow Attorney General and member for Liverpool to this debate. I add my support to the bill. It is good that members are talking about apprehended domestic violence orders [ADVOs]. This bill, to some extent, streamlines the paperwork in a system that is failing women in this State. It has no timeframe for its full implementation and there are still a lot of issues to do with information sharing that will have an impact on that. There is a substantial body of evidence regarding the difficulty that women in our community have in accessing Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders [ADVOs], enforcing them and getting appropriate domestic violence services due to the shortage of spaces in refuges and a lack of 24/7 response services from refuges because of funding cuts. It is important to note that even if a 24/7 response were available in these refuges there would be no capacity for extra women to be housed in them because they do not have enough spaces as it is. The Government cannot guarantee the safety of women who choose to stay home if we cannot adequately monitor their homes or the perpetrators. Women have such difficulty in obtaining and enforcing ADVOs or seeking shelter that they think it is better for them to leave the State. It is a real shame for our community. It is not enough to increase the portability of ADVOs if the recommendations to approve their operation are being ignored. This brings me to the New South Wales Domestic Violence Death Review Team, which was set up by Labor in 2010. It did not sit for a long period in 2014. There has been very little action by that team in terms of monitoring, given the recommendations of the reports. There were eight recommendations from reports over the years from 2011-12 to 2013-15 that go straight to the heart of the operation of ADVOs and would be integral to improving outcomes for women who are escaping domestic violence. The Government must show a real commitment to reducing deaths from domestic violence. I note that an annual report that is being released every two years shows a half-hearted attempt to address the issue. The Attorney General's second reading speech refers to the impending New South Wales pilot implantation of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme [DVDS] or "Clare's law" as it is known in the United Kingdom. There is a lot of ambivalence in the sector about the efficacy of this scheme, and that is because the evaluations were done on the process of that scheme rather than the outcomes for women. High profile campaigners such as Rosie Batty and other experts in the field of domestic violence have highlighted the fact that the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme does not address the fundamental issue that Clare Wood had in the United Kingdom—which was that, even though she knew about the violence from her partner and even though she knew that he was an abuser, the police failed to act on it; and that was the problem. If we go back to look at the Domestic Violence Death Review Team reports in New South Wales we see that recommendations have been made. For example, a review of the implementation of legislation that requires police officers to apply for ADVOs wherever they have fears for the safety of victims and that the review ascertain the extent to which the provision is actually used. The whole-of-government approach from this Government has been to not support that recommendation. Yet if we are talking about what we will do to make ADVOs more effective and actually reduce deaths from domestic violence then we should certainly review how they are activated. We should not rely simply on anecdotal evidence or think that they are probably being used appropriately. Another issue with domestic violence disclosure law is the cost. In the United Kingdom is estimated that the cost is £750 per application, which is quite a lot of money. When we do not have any additional resources for women who may need to seek services from a refuge or a domestic violence court advocacy service we must think about where to prioritise the spend. The other aspect, which I think is quite offensive, of the Attorney General's language is that she said in her second reading speech that she is "empowering victims to make informed decisions about their relationships". Women who enter relationships do not see themselves as victims. Early on in a relationship women are not necessarily finding out if their partner is abusive. It would seem logical that an application would only be made after abusive behaviour had occurred, when the woman already knows that her partner is an abuser. The effectiveness of that in helping women in abusive relationships is questionable. The bottom line is that the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme [DVDS] would not actually be necessary if the ADVOs were easier to obtain and more effective. The Attorney General also raised the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services, which spent the first six months of this financial year struggling with a massive increase in the number of clients as a result of Government changes requiring every domestic violence report from the police to be followed up by the non-government organisation with no additional funding in the first instance. There was a funding increase, after much lobbying by the sector, of 20 per cent from 1 January 2016. However in a single three-month period in 2014-15 there was a 75 per cent increase in usage, and some reports have put that increase at up to 200 per cent. That is a real problem in this area. Still on the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, 28 services are servicing 114 local courts in New South Wales. In regional areas like mine, for instance, that gets quite difficult. Advocacy services may have to travel two to three hours to represent women at court. If cases are delayed then that is an issue. Again it comes back to having a specialist domestic violence court, something that Labor has supported. It really is a big problem. There is also the stress on workers who must contact women within one working day of an incident occurring to offer them appropriate referrals and support. Again it comes back to what to do if there no supports are available for them. If the funding is not there—if it has been taken away and put into other housing rather specialist domestic violence services—then that puts those workers in an incredibly difficult situation. I note the recommendations of the 2013-2015 Domestic Violence Death Review Team two-year annual report. Recommendation No. 9 says:
There were a number of compliance issues identified in cases reviewed by the Team for this report, including several instances where police did not record breaches of enforceable ADVOs. This reflects concerns that have been raised in a number of reports previously …
It also recommended:
That the NSW Police Force investigate additional strategies and processes that will promote increased compliance with policies concerning ADVOs and breaches of ADVOs and report to the Team in relation to these initiatives. Strategies and processes should include the use of the Team's case reviews to inform existing training in relation to ADVO compliance.
I note that the Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Medical Research, Assistant Minister for Health, Minister for Women, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault spoke about the extra 24 domestic violence liaison officers who have been funded. But I again ask her the question that I asked of her in the briefing the other day: How many have been recruited and how many are working in our community? The reports I hear from the sector are that they are simply overrun with cases and they need assistance now. They need people on the ground helping in this space. The Opposition supports the bill, but we would like to see the structure around it and the supports for women who are escaping violence to begin not at the macro level of the Australian Government and the portability of ADVOs, but rather with women on the ground. How will they get those ADVOs? How can we improve that process for women and their experience of it? How can we ensure that we keep them safe when indeed they are subject to abuse in the home?