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12 March 1991 - Current

Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Bill 2016
Page 4479
22 November 2016

Ms WARD (Eltham) — I rise to speak on the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Bill 2016. Before I get started I would like to support the member for Evelyn in not opposing this bill. I thank her for that and thank her also for her long history of supporting policies to address the issue of family violence in this place. However, I do want to comment on her notation that we are too occupied with ideology in this place and on this side of the house. We are absolutely occupied with ideology; our ideology of fairness and our ideology of not leaving people behind. This is a fundamental platform of what the Australian Labor Party stands for and what the Victorian branch of that party stands for. We do want to create a fairer Victoria, which is what this bill goes another step to address.

It is clear to all of us in this place how important it is to address family violence, the challenges that it poses for our community and the heartache that it gives our community and our community members. A few people have already mentioned Rosie Batty, and I would like to join with them. While it is horrific what occurred to her and her son, while it is horrific what occurred to her community and to the broader Victorian community, I have to thank Rosie for allowing our community to have the frank conversation that it needed to have.

It was evident in Rosie's honesty in her approach to this, her lack of shame and her unwillingness to show shame or be shamed by the actions of another and her ability and her strength to speak about what happened to her in a very matter of fact way. She was able to talk about the devastation of her family — in fact the destruction of her family — by one person who was unable to control himself and his need for control of her and control over their son. For her to open that conversation and have that very public conversation when so many people before have felt shame when they have been victims of family violence was remarkable. It has really helped us get to the place that we need to be now. We have had our Royal Commission into Family Violence and we have its 227 recommendations that this government is absolutely determined to have implemented.

We see regularly the effects of family violence. Most recently in our papers we have had the court case around the tragic and horrific death of a two-year-old in Mildura, Nikki Francis-Coslovich. We have been appalled by the violence put upon that child. We have been appalled to read about her small body being shoved into a cavity in the roof. We have been heartbroken at the devastation that has affected people within that immediate community but also, again, within the broader Victorian community. When these tragedies and horrible acts of violence occur, it is not just the immediate family that is affected, it is a whole community that has to deal with and process these horrible acts of violence against vulnerable people.

I cannot really express to the house how deeply my heart sinks when of a night-time I am sitting on the couch scrolling through my Facebook page, like countless others, and a post by Destroy the Joint comes up and again tells me the latest tally of women murdered in this country. At the moment 68 women have been murdered this year; 80 women were murdered last year. The vast majority of them were murdered by people they should have felt safe with and loved by, people whom they should have felt were with them, not against them.

When thinking about this bill my mind went back to only a few decades ago — within my lifetime — when rape was actually legal in marriage. It was legal to rape your wife in marriage: a wife did not have the right to say no, to withhold herself from her husband. We have come a long way since then, but we still have so far to go. We still have so much work to do, which is why it is very important that this family violence reform implementation monitor be appointed to monitor the recommendations of the royal commission so they are implemented and acted on, because we do not want them to sit there and do nothing. We do not want them to be ignored. We do not want there to be words; we want there to be actions. We want the royal commission not to be an empty gesture. We want to have an impact on how people live their lives and how people can feel safe. We do want people to feel safer and live in a safer way.

I commend the Premier and the Minister for Women for the proactive stance they have taken in having the conversation around power and control and for really understanding that this conversation is about equality. It is when we treat our children equally and when we treat women equally that we will be able to reduce family violence in this community.

We have released $572 million in funding to combat family violence, and that massive amount of money can only meet the first 65 most urgent recommendations. So much more investment is needed because there is so much work to do. This is such a huge problem. As has been said in this place before, it is the no. 1 crime issue confronting the state. While I appreciate that those opposite want to make political mileage out of youth crime, let us also focus on the causes of youth crime. Of those children who are behaving in ways that are not acceptable, how many of them have actually lived in families that are dysfunctional or experiencing family violence? We need to eradicate this problem, and we need to make sure that these recommendations are implemented so that the problem can be reduced and, we hope, eradicated. We have got a 10-year plan to combat family violence in this state. This is how long it will take to really see the results of our work and investment, what we are doing to show that we care about this problem.

In Victoria 45 lives were lost to family violence in 2015–16 — that is, 45 people were murdered at the hands of someone who loved them or who should have loved them. The home is a place where people should feel safe. I should be safe in my own home, my children should be safe in my home and my partner should be safe in his own home, as should everybody in this place and everybody in this state. Yet 78 000 incidents of family violence were reported in Victoria last year. That is mind-boggling. That is my electorate times two; that is an amazing amount of people.

I am glad that this government has taken such a strong step in addressing this problem. It is a determined effort to ensure that our communities are safer and that our women and children are safer. We have seen what happens when royal commissions deliver findings and they are not implemented because there is no-one to oversee them. We saw what happened with the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in the early 1990s. Recently the federal government had committee hearings and people were tearing their hair out in despair because recommendations that were made in the early 1990s were again being made. We are seeing in Canberra that people are still having the same conversations and making the same recommendations that were not implemented in the 1990s or since despite the recommendations of the royal commission, and we certainly do not want that to be the case in Victoria. We want to make sure that things do happen. We want to make sure that our children are safer, that women are safer, and that men who are experiencing family violence are safer. We do not want any of them to experience it. We absolutely want this crime to stop.

I congratulate the government for the very proactive stand that they are taking on this. Again, I go back to the comment that I made when I began this speech: the Labor Party is a party about fairness and at the heart of fairness is equality. It is when we have equality in this state that we will be able to see the end of family violence. I commend this bill to the house.