ADJOURNMENT - Domestic and Family Violence

I note the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee report into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of law enforcement and justice services. The current emphasis on family violence can appear to be focused on the Indigenous community. We know that family violence is a scourge across all sectors of Australian society. Physical violence perpetrated against women and children has to stop. Acts of violence by men on women and children in the Indigenous community have to stop. Such violence has no place in any society. Protecting the safety of women and children is paramount. Too many women have been subjected to brutal physical abuse which has led to death or serious injury at the hands of their partners or families. We know also that emotional abuse and sexual assaults are far too frequent.

Statistics from the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services tell us that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence than other women; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 10 times more likely to die from violent assault than other women; approximately 90 per cent of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is not reported; and the cost of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has been projected to blow out to $2.2 billion by 2021-22. The violence is    costing too much for our families, communities and our nation.

The outcomes from violence are compounded by not just the physical cruelty and devastation but also the wider ramifications harming the immediate circle of the victim and their families and communities. Programs need to address the factors that precipitate violence and also those factors that perpetuate the perpetrator and victim cycles. Giving consideration to men's roles in the cycle of violence does not diminish the real, urgent and profound needs of women and children affected by family violence.

The highest proportion of perpetrators is men in the 20-to-34 age group, and the second-highest proportion is men in the 35-to-54 age group. Including the roles of men puts a focus on the intersecting circles of violence that are destroying individuals, families and communities. Legal services set up to assist victims and perpetrators lack the capacity to address complex and layered legal problems—such as family violence, criminal injuries compensation, credit and debt, housing and tenancy matters—because they tend to operate in silos. This is not to criticise the sterling efforts or deny the demanding workloads of such legal services. They also have limited capacity to provide collaborative responses. This is but an observation of the burdens they carry in discharging their duties.

It is painfully difficult to access services in rural, regional and remote areas. It is also hard for service providers to deliver culturally appropriate services amid the huge demand for services and legal education. Whilst dealing with the consequences of violence in the legal arena, there is also a need to focus on and have resources provided for early intervention programs that go to causation and halting domestic violence.

Today the Senate report Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience of law enforcement and justice services was presented, and it explicitly states:

Evidence to the committee reiterates what has been found in previous inquiries: the funding for legal assistance services is inadequate.

In some instances, those with the national access to influence the funding and policy imperatives seem to be removed from engaging with those at the actual coalface. If there is to be a breaking of the cycle of violence and the delivery of quality services to those affected, increased funding and early intervention and prevention have to be part of the discussion and action plans to begin to effectively address family violence. As stated by Senator McCarthy in this chamber earlier in the week:

This should not be about who cares the most in family violence. This should be about how we can harness the hearts of all Australians and, indeed, the leaders at the highest levels to acknowledge the scourge of something that impacts on many families across Australia, not just Indigenous families.

I note that a workshop is taking place in the Kimberley with the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mr Wyatt. It would have been nice to have some early notification about that, because Broome is my home town and the Kimberley is where I live. I feel a bit disadvantaged by the fact that we have a long way to travel to come to this place and Senate estimates are next week so it is a bit difficult for me to go home. But that should not detract from the fact that family violence is a scourge of this nation, suicide is a huge problem and has to be addressed and we need every person on both sides of this House and on the crossbenches to pull their weight to try to address it.

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