The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: South Australia was shocked and mortified by the tragic death of baby Kobi Shepherdson at the Whispering Wall. That same week, the burned body of young mother, Kelly Wilkinson, was found in her Gold Coast backyard. These crimes scandalised the country and once again forced Australians to think about respect for women and the importance we place on women's safety in the community. As legislators and public leaders more broadly, we can say: not one more.
I rise today to inform the house not only about what this government has already done but, most importantly, what this government continues to do and will do to address domestic and family violence. Let me start with the legislative reform. We have already introduced several legislative reforms aimed to prevent DV and strengthen penalties against perpetrators. The Statutes Amendment (Domestic Violence) Act 2018 came into effect in 2019 and made a number of amendments to prevent and punish domestic and family violence and abuse. This included an expanded definition of 'abuse' and increased penalties for repeated or violent breaches of intervention orders.
The impact of these reforms was immediate. The number of charges for intervention order breaches reduced by 13 per cent in the first 12 months of operation of the new laws. Between 31 January 2019 and 30 January 2020, 44 per cent of defendants whose most serious charge was a second or subsequent breach of an intervention order received a custodial penalty.
This act also made two other important changes to the law. Firstly, it allowed police-recorded interviews with victims to be admissible evidence in court and introduced a standalone criminal offence of non-fatal strangulation. There is an increased recognition of non-fatal strangulation as a precursor to homicide and an increased awareness of this behaviour, with recorded strangulation charges, whether proven or not, disclosable under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.
The government introduced amendments to the Sentencing Act 2017 to lower the available discount for various serious offences against a person, including those who are often experienced in a domestic violence situation. These amendments ensure the penalty given to perpetrators of domestic and family violence reflects the seriousness of their crime. We also amended the Victims of Crime Act 2001 to remove the requirement for all victims, including victims of domestic and family violence, to have any contact with the perpetrator when accessing compensation.
Finally, the government's legislation abolishing the defence of provocation contained family violence-specific provisions to ensure that evidence of family violence and the circumstances surrounding it can be taken into account both at trial, particularly in the context of self-defence and duress defences, and in sentencing.
In terms of administrative measures and programs, we have briefly outlined just this week a $200,000 commitment that was made to the Women's and Children's Health Network to deliver an early intervention program, providing one-to-one intensive engagement and support to young people aged between 12 and 25 years who are pregnant or parenting and who perpetrate or have experienced domestic and family violence. The program aims to reduce the risk of children being exposed to domestic and family violence and, crucially, to lessen the risk of intergenerational transmission of violence.
In October 2018, the Marshall government also commenced a long overdue statewide trial of a domestic violence disclosure scheme. The scheme allows a person at risk of domestic and family violence to seek information from South Australia Police about a current or former partner's violent offending history, enabling them to make informed decisions about their relationship.
The scheme provides for a specialist domestic violence support worker to be present at all disclosures, regardless of whether the information is disclosed or not. All disclosures are conducted face to face to ensure that the person is provided with appropriate levels of support and safety planning. Disclosures are fast-tracked where the applicant is assessed to be at a high risk.
As at March 2021, 774 applications have been received, with more than 538 meeting the criteria for disclosure. Of the applications made, 492 related to a person with children in their care. As the member for Elder has said, this vital measure is not only protecting and supporting women, it is also protecting their children from potential harm and abuse.
The government has also implemented our election promise to keep victims of domestic violence informed about their perpetrator's custody status and parole conditions. We have funded the Department for Correctional Services to proactively provide this information to high-risk victims of domestic and family violence. This vitally important measure, which will be fully operational by 1 July this year, will also ensure that victims are supported to undertake safety planning for themselves and their children.
Along with the development and implementation of the new measures, we have improved some others: 802 victims of crime have received counselling through the Relationships Australia South Australia's Rebuild program since the program's inception in July last year. Of the 802 clients, 20 per cent have received counselling in relation to domestic and family violence.
We have also allocated an additional $250,000 to the Office of the Commissioner for Victims' Rights. This funding has allowed the commissioner to take on additional responsibilities, including providing measures to support victims throughout the court process and to ensure that victims have adequate support to prepare victim impact statements.
We have continued to provide funds to the Department of Human Services and the Office for Women to deliver the Family Safety Framework, which basically is information sharing and safety planning for high-risk victims of DV. We have also extended the Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway Service, which now operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because we all know that DV does not happen just between nine and five.
We have also continued to fund the services and given certainty in funding to Yarrow Place, the sexual assault and rape victim support service. Instead of it being 12-monthly funding, it now enjoys provision of specialist counselling and health funding to deal with rape and sexual assault.
In 2019, after an open tender process, the Legal Services Commission was selected to deliver the Women's Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service. Accordingly, this service continues. It provides support to women victims of domestic family violence by assisting women in navigating the court system, including helping women to apply for intervention orders and ending lease agreements. The service operates on a statewide basis at no cost to clients, and will receive over $2 million in funding between July 2019 and 30 July 2023.
Since its inception, this service has supported 1,376 women, successfully obtained 51 final intervention orders for the benefit of the service's clients and is currently working on a further 40 matters in which interim intervention orders have been granted.
It is also important to understand that all these measures are funded via the Victims of Crime Fund. Despite statements to the contrary, payments from the Victims of Crime Fund have increased significantly under this government. Compensation payments for victims have increased from $13.3 million in 2016-17 to $19.9 million in 2019-20, and total payments have increased from $25.7 million in 2016-17 to $35 million in 2019-20. This is what the fund is for, and I advise the house that 4 per cent of total payments went to victims of domestic violence.
This government has also worked with the commonwealth to fund legal aid assistance, and in 2020 we negotiated a new National Legal Assistance Partnership, which now provides South Australia with $149 million in funding over five years, and of that amount community legal centres are allocated $7.2 million to provide legal assistance services directly to family law and family violence matters.
Under that partnership agreement, we have also secured commonwealth funding to maintain domestic violence units in the northern and southern suburbs, which are specialist legal and social support services run by the Legal Services Commission and Women's Legal Service (SA).
The Legal Services Commission Domestic Violence Unit is combined with a Health Justice Partnership at the Lyell McEwin Hospital which provides education and training for medical professionals to identify and assist victims of domestic violence who present at healthcare facilities. Last year, we worked with the commonwealth to deliver additional COVID-19 legal assistance funding to the Legal Services Commission, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and the community legal centres.
Why? We needed to ensure that we addressed and anticipated an increase in demand for advice and representation regarding family violence as a consequence of the pandemic. We were right and it has been applied. What next? I have instructed my department to commence exploratory work on a number of potential reforms, including an expansion of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme to mandate proactive disclosures to those deemed to be at risk of domestic and family violence. I commend the police. I am aware that SAPOL in an informal way has already acted on some of these occasions.
Consideration is also being given to further amendments to the South Australian intervention order scheme. Why? Because we want to investigate the possibility of the current act—that is, the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009—allowing for intervention orders to include supervision and reporting requirements. We are also exploring the development of a domestic violence offenders register with a requirement for perpetrators to disclose this in certain circumstances. These reforms would be the first of their kind in Australia.
Furthermore, I have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police seeking their views formally on the policy in the Australian Capital Territory to proceed with a prosecution, even when a victim has asked to withdraw the victim's statement to police, and the Safe at Home Tasmanian scheme, which includes a pro-arrest pro-prosecution policy to address domestic and family violence.
Again, I think it is appropriate that I confirm I think South Australia Police should be commended. I think they have already established a pro-arrest action in this regard but we have to deal with that nuggetty issue of pro-prosecution. We are also working with the commonwealth to ensure that their family law act amendments to enable for federal family violence orders both prevail and are introduced. Finally, we are awaiting the outcome of the New South Wales Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control which will deliver its report on 30 June this year.
We are committed as a government to considering and investigating every possible initiative which will reduce the prevalence of domestic and family violence in this state. Tomorrow morning until 11.30am there is a women's safety meeting comprising all attorneys-general across the country, ministers for women and the police ministers regarding intervention order reform and the next step. I flag publicly that I have sought a pair from the opposition and I certainly hope to receive favourable consideration of that to ensure that we are at the table.
I wish to thank the newly minted federal Minister for Women's Safety, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, for convening this important meeting. I look forward to updating the house in due course about what action is taken to reduce domestic violence to realise not one more. All these initiatives are on the table. Every initiative that comes forward to us that we think is meritorious of presenting, we will present. If we are the first in the country, great. If there are other jurisdictions that have other proposals, we will listen carefully to them and I will report to the parliament in due course.