International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women


I rise to support the motion and thank the member for presenting the same. Other speakers have outlined significant demand for us to be alert and active in remedying this scourge on our community, particularly women and children.

I want to acknowledge today and thank Lauren Novak, a journalist with The Advertiser, for her work not only in understanding this shameful behaviour in our community but in committing to provide real and impressive pieces of journalism in the publication of this important social issue. That is not say that other journalists are not interested in this topic, but I have to say that she has been a leading light in this regard, and I want to personally place on record our appreciation here in parliament for that.

I want to also say that, as we speak, a coronial investigation is being undertaken in relation to the murder of Graziella Daillér and the suicide of her then partner, Dion Muir. I can comfortably say that because I do not think there is any question about how they died. What is important about this coronial inquiry relating to this murder-suicide in May 2014 is that, when we receive the recommendations of the Coroner or a representative from his office in relation to the report that is expected, I want there to be a comprehensive list of recommendations that will be, again, a reminder to government—in this case a new government—as to what must occur.

It was not acceptable to me that I read, when I came into this parliament, the coronial inquest report of Mrs Heyward, murdered in similar circumstances by a partner where there had been repeated occasions of alert and alarm about the circumstances that she was living in. This was a murder that occurred in the Riverland. The coronial inquest set out a number of recommendations.

I do not want to have to read again the plight of the circumstances of Zahra Abrahimzadeh in the last evening before her death—murdered by her husband—and, again, the lengthy coronial inquiry about the failings in this case of authorities who had not acted. The former attorney-general (the former member for Croydon) and I were at the occasion that Mrs Abrahimzadeh was celebrating with the Persian community—their national day. Really, within minutes of the former attorney and I leaving that function, she was murdered. I commend her son particularly, but all her children, for the work that they have done in trying to bring this issue to the forefront of the attention of political leaders and the public generally.

These are repeated; these keep going on and on. We hear the responses: 'Yes, we have implemented this policy, we are going to do this and we are going to be more alert to these issues.' They are not addressing the problem, and that is that as a community, members of the police force, members of welfare agencies, health people, people who come across these circumstances—all of us—have a responsibility to deal with this issue. Mrs Daillér's murder is a long list.

She was 48 years of age. I recall when her daughters Natasha and Adelaide came to see me, with the support of their father, the former husband of the victim in this case, all keen to say, 'We need to have this properly investigated and we don't want our mother's life to be lost in vain.' I look forward to that report. I undertake to the people here in this parliament that, as a member of the new government, I will be doing everything possible to be alert to the deficiencies that will inevitably be disclosed in that matter and which need to be remedied.

I am confident that the domestic violence developments, including legislation which the new government has put in place and which I have appreciated other speakers' recognition of, will be very helpful and, frankly, would have been very helpful in the deaths I have just referred to if they had been implemented a long time ago. The strangulation offence is a pretty new concept in Australia and I think it will be important. Broadening the definition of 'abuse' can always be helpful, but we need to make sure that we act on all these other new areas, including dowry abuse and the like.

The police body-worn camera evidence of victims is a very important initiative in relation to evidence and protecting, where possible, the need for victims to have to give evidence, because I think we will see a significant level of guilty pleas entered in circumstances where this evidence has been recorded and is available for the prosecution. Tougher laws on the breaching of intervention orders are just common sense. With the support of other members of the parliament, we have seen those pass this parliament recently.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is now in its second month of operation and things are going well. I want to thank all those who are working hard on it, including members of SAPOL. As spoken about by the member for Elder, the Women's Safety Services now has a 24/7 crisis hotline, which is a really important initiative. I do not know why it has taken 30 years, but we have put it in place and extra money has been allocated for it to occur. It is just like saying to the Coroner, 'We know you need extra money to finish off these awful cases and to properly investigate them and give us the guidance that will come from your reports,' but we also need to make sure that the services for our current victims are available.

What else do we need to do? There are lots of things, but can I mention one today in the four minutes I have left. I was privileged not to grow up in a household where domestic violence was in existence. I had a marriage in which it was not present, and I do not wish it on anyone. Other members on all sides of our own parliament have not had that same happy experience.

That is not to say I have not gone through life without either representing people in this circumstance or, as a child, having people come to stay with us—usually a wife and children; many in those days when we used to have lots of kids—and looking after them in our home while things were sorted out, usually by the men, to deal with the perpetrator. All too often, these families would then reunite without support, and it was an ongoing concern and a tragedy for those who either lost their life or, in fact, suicided in a circumstance like that.

What do we do? I can tell you what we do. We make sure that we not only support women who are in this situation and make sure they have protection but say to our own sons, brothers and male friends that this is a responsibility for them.

I am usually pretty tough with my kids; I have only had sons, and I am lucky enough to have granddaughters. I have made it very clear that it is not just being cut out of the will if I find out about any misconduct. They also have a very clear understanding that if there is a circumstance where a member of their family was a victim of abuse at their hand, then do not come home to me: I will be supporting them. I think it is important. Sure, I have said to my kids, 'I will pay for one uni degree and I will pay for one marriage; the rest is up to you.' But I will say this: I will not tolerate that in my own family. I am confident that they have listened to me so far in life—that does not mean they always will.

I make this point: we have a responsibility as parents to make sure that we teach our women and young children to be resilient, to be able to demand that they have respectful relationships and have protection when they do not. We need to have a responsibility to educate our own families, particularly the males, in the benefits of having a respectful relationship with their partners in due course and, when they are in them, to give them support.

Everyone needs some help from time to time, and we know the responsibility we have in that regard. But we cannot allow this to happen in our own homes and in our own families. If we do that, in addition to continuing to support those who do not have someone to help them, then we will make a difference. I commend the motion to the house.

Ms HILDYARD (Reynell) (11:46): In rising to speak in support of this motion, can I start by thanking all those who have spoken so far. There have been wonderful speeches that clearly speak to the passion and determination that exist on both sides of this house to finally prevent and also end domestic violence. Can I also echo the member for Bragg's comments in relation to Lauren Novak. I agree that she should be commended for her passion and for her relentless commitment to continuing to raise the issue of domestic violence however she can through the media.

Many members have spoken today to outline the facts that we know about violence against women, facts that are deeply unacceptable and deeply shocking. But they are facts that I think are also deeply motivating for each of us to think about how we can do more, how we can act more and how we can act wherever and however we can to prevent and end violence against women. They are a persistent and an urgent call to action, and they are also a call for all of us to keep speaking up however and wherever we can about this scourge that is violence against women.

Like many others in this place, I have a relentless and lifelong commitment to preventing and ending violence against women and children. As I have spoken about in this place before, when I first had the deep privilege of being elected to represent my community here in parliament and I was preparing for my inaugural speech, I was deeply hesitant to speak about my own childhood and my personal experiences of repeatedly witnessing domestic violence and all the emotions, the shame and the embarrassment, that the experience brings.

Despite this, I know that, even when it is uncomfortable, to end the cycle of violence we must speak up and out and, in doing so, encourage women who are experiencing violence to speak out, men who do not know what are appropriate behaviours in relationships to seek help and to show our daughters and our sons a different way of interacting. I absolutely echo the member for Bragg's sentiments in that regard in terms of our responsibility to engender conversation not just in our community but also in our own family. It is certainly something that I do with my own sons and that I know that many people in this place also take the responsibility to do.

As are a number of us in this place, I am a long-term advocate for survivors and, sadly, victims of domestic violence in our community. I have worked with some extraordinary domestic violence service workers. I have represented them in their workplaces and worked alongside them in a number of ways for many years. We all absolutely wish that their work did not have to continue, but we all know that currently it does, and I know that we are all committed to ensuring that work continues in the right way until we see an end to domestic violence. It is work that I will absolutely continue as shadow minister for the status of women and, of course, as the member for Reynell. It is work that we all have to commit to continuing.

The prevalence of domestic violence is absolutely devastating and unacceptable. Already this year, 58 women have been killed by men, and sadly we continue to hear about repeated instances of abuse causing psychological, mental and physical injury. We have to keep speaking up about that prevalence and acting on it. I fear that as a community, despite these shocking statistics that we all know too well, because there is such a prevalence of domestic violence, somehow the shock wears off or, as the member for King spoke about in the media the other day, somehow there is a mood amongst some people that perhaps it is something that we should stop talking about.

Well done to the member for King for standing up against those comments. Can I say that we must never, ever become immune to that prevalence; we cannot let that immunity happen. We have to keep speaking up and acting for as long as it takes to end violence against women. I know that, with the incredible people who work in this space in our community in so many different ways, and the incredible community members who lead work at a local level, we will keep speaking up and acting until domestic violence ends.

As has been spoken about, domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, psychological, financial and verbal abuse. A significant component in the cause of any kind of abuse is a lack of awareness and education about what constitutes a respectful relationship and the abiding gender inequality that sadly persists in our community. Unfortunately, there is something that our community teaches our young men and women that leads them to believe that it is okay to control a person who they are with, or have been in a relationship with, through violence.

It was positive to see the government's promises in the domestic violence space during the election campaign, a number of which mirrored ours or added to work that we had already progressed as the former Labor government. I truly hope that those promises are effectively delivered in a timely manner, and I look forward to considering the various proposals that will come forward. My only concern is that, when reading through the government's policy, I really could not find any mention of the word 'prevention' nor any funds specifically committed to prevention.

Of course, it is crucial to continue to provide services to support and protect people currently experiencing domestic violence, but we have to keep working to address the root cause of the problem. We need to educate our peers and our children if we are ever to end domestic violence. We must teach our young men that violence is never an option, and we must teach them a more respectful and hopeful future. We must do whatever we can to end the terrible gender inequality which plagues our community and which lies at the heart of domestic violence and indeed at the heart of all violence against women.

We have to work together to shift the way men's and women's roles are perceived, and we have to address the other issues that prevent the advancement of the status of women. When I speak with survivors of domestic violence, I always encourage them to seek the support of professional services and professional workers. Of course, I always encourage their sense of self-worth and seek to empower them to live an independent life free from violence. There are services available, and we will all fight to keep them available until the day they are no longer needed, but it is a day that cannot come soon enough.

On that note, I want to echo in this house the comments of the member for Mount Gambier in relation to the need for strengthened services in regional areas. I will certainly fight alongside him to make sure that there are adequate resources for the Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service. I will always fight alongside my dear friend Susie Smith—whom the member for Mount Gambier spoke about—who said that we should always fight for the right services loudly and proudly.

On this side of the house, we will also fight to ensure that resources are expended on prevention, shifting that terrible gender inequality and creating a more respectful future. This shift, this smashing of gender inequality, will also go to address the awful instances of violence against women beyond the home. As I spoke about in the house a couple of weeks ago, I attended and spoke at a community vigil three weeks ago at the Colonnades Shopping Centre, in my electorate of Reynell, to honour a woman who was killed there a few weeks before.

The vigil was organised by Melanie, and I take this opportunity to again thank her for her enormous passion to end violence and gender inequality and her willingness to work at such a difficult time to bring our community together following that horrific killing. She is passionate about a community free of all violence against women. Her preparedness to use her voice however she can to speak out against domestic violence and all violence against women is indeed inspiring. Melanie's voice and her stepping forward has already made a difference in our community and it will continue to make a difference.