That this house—
(a) recognises Domestic Violence Prevention Month;
(b) condemns all forms of domestic and family violence; and
(c) calls on the government to more proactively address the prevention of domestic violence throughout South Australia.
This is a very important topic and I am sure it is one that all members of the house have concerns about, and quite rightly so. May is Domestic Violence Prevention Month which is an annual event aimed to raise community awareness of the social and personal impacts of family violence and the support available to those affected. The key aims of the month are to:
1. raise community awareness of domestic and family violence and its impacts;
2. promote a clear message of no tolerance of domestic and family violence in communities;
3. ensure that those who are experiencing domestic and family violence know how to access help and support; and
4.encourage people who use abuse and/or violence to take responsibility for their abusive behaviour and seek support to change.
All demographics are affected by domestic violence. Unfortunately, there is really no demographic that you can think of that is not affected in one way or the other: all income levels, city and country people, young and old people, all races and both men and women are affected by domestic violence. What is most striking and concerning about this is that overwhelmingly women are the victims of domestic violence—not exclusively, but overwhelmingly that is the case—and that strikes me as especially unfair. It is not fair on anybody, but when you are talking about something that is not only (but very often) physical abuse perpetrated on a person who is not always (but typically) physically disadvantaged that is just a dreadful and disgraceful thing, and I cannot understand how people would think that way.
The federal parliamentary library defines domestic violence as being acts of violence that occur between people who have or who have had an intimate relationship in domestic settings. These acts include physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. It is generally well known that a definition for violence is quite a difficult thing to come up with and a definition for domestic violence is even harder. From the research that I have done, that seems to be the most generally useful and applicable one.
I would like to share some statistics with the house which come from the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse which is easily accessible on the website. I am not going to read through all of them but I will share some of the very pertinent ones: 15 per cent of Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a previous partner and 2.1 per cent from a current partner since the age of 15. Surveys estimate that 35 per cent of men and women had experienced physical assault since the age of 15, with 10 per cent of men and 4.7 per cent of women experiencing physical violence in the previous 12 months.
However, where men were typically assaulted by a stranger, women most often experienced physical assault in the context of domestic violence. Overall, 31 per cent of women who experienced physical violence in the previous 12 months were assaulted by a current and/or a previous partner.
Over a third of women—34 per cent—who had a current or former intimate partner reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 16. With regard to children, 61 per cent of women who had experienced violence by a previous partner reported that they had children in their care at some time during the relationship. Over a third of women—36 per cent—who had experienced violence by a previous partner said that their children had witnessed the violence.
Fifty-nine per cent of women who had experienced violence by a previous partner since the age of 15 were pregnant at some time during the relationship. Of these women, 36 per cent reported that violence had occurred during pregnancy. They are very disturbing statistics to read and to know about but they are important and they cannot be ignored.
With regard to reporting, 63.2 per cent of women who experienced physical violence at the hand of a male partner—current or previous—a boyfriend or a date in the previous 12 months had not reported the most recent incident to police. Surveys found that 82 per cent of women who had experienced violence at the hand of a current partner in the previous 12 months did not report that to the police.
There are many more statistics and I am sure that many members in this house are familiar with those types of statistics but they are the ones that I chose to use today to just illustrate what a serious issue this is and how unfair it is for anybody to be the victim of domestic violence, but particularly how unfairly it is usually perpetrated by men upon women. That issue of reporting that I touched on is obviously right at the heart of this issue, because if there is no reporting, there is typically no consequence for the actions. If there is no consequence for the actions of the perpetrator, there is no incentive for the perpetrator to change their actions.
I bring this motion to the house and say quite openly that I do not consider myself to be an expert in this. I have never been a victim of domestic violence. I am a very strong advocate of trying to stop it, though. I have been very fortunate. I am a man, to start with, so that means that statistically I am advantaged. I am relatively strong and relatively healthy, so it is far less likely to happen to me too, and in my upbringing, it was a very important part. ‘Don’t hit girls’ was right up there with don’t tell lies and don’t use bad words. It was fundamentally instilled in me from a very early age.
Interestingly enough, going back now some 45 years, I did get the odd smack if I did give my sister the odd smack, so it was a different world at the time. It was made really clear to me that you just do not hit girls. That was the message to me as a small boy and, of course, that message seemed pretty straightforward and pretty clear. I did not need to get too many lessons; it just made common sense. I am very fortunate in that regard but I am also very serious about doing whatever I can do to contribute to improving the situation, not because it has affected me but because I believe that is the right thing to do.
People who are victims of domestic violence obviously deserve encouragement, education and support and I think that a degree of peer pressure against perpetrators does not go astray either. I am a very proud ambassador for the White Ribbon Foundation, as is the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Stephen Wade and the Hon. John Dawkins, and it may well be that members on the other side, whom I am not aware of, are as well, so I do not deliberately exclude anybody else. I am just not aware of that.
I mention that in terms of peer pressure not because peer pressure is the foundation of the White Ribbon Foundation or that I think it is the single most important tool to be using, but it cannot be ignored. Men need to put pressure on men to stop perpetration of domestic violence, and as the White Ribbon Foundation has focused, typically against women. I was very pleased to hear the member for Torrens talk about the White Ribbon Foundation in her maiden speech. I thought that was fantastic.
In my electorate of Stuart, there are many organisations that work to support people, both with regard to supporting victims and working towards trying to stamp out and reduce domestic and family violence. Specifically in Port Augusta, UnitingCare Wesley has a regional domestic and family violence program. Victim Support Service are prevalent there and they certainly have the Family Safety Framework, Family Violence Action Group and a Social Justice Interagency Group.
Family Violence Legal Service Aboriginal Corporation, which is right around the corner from my office in Port Augusta, does tremendous work, as does the Salvation Army and Centacare Catholic Family Services. That is not an exclusive list, and I apologise to people that I have not mentioned but I do have limited time. I acknowledge that there are many agencies and many people doing tremendously good and important work all across our state, but I did want to particularly mention and thank those in my electorate.
We have had some terrible and publicly known incidents in our state recently, particularly affecting children (but not only), and I do know that the police are doing everything that they possibly can do. It is one of those areas where it is never enough. When there is an incident, whatever you have been doing is clearly not enough to prevent those incidents from happening.
I know that the police take domestic and family violence extremely seriously. I know that Commissioner Burns is a White Ribbon Foundation ambassador, as is Deputy Commissioner Grant Stevens and many other very senior serving police officers in our state, and I commend them for that. I just draw attention to some of the challenges that police face with regard to their work around domestic violence. I quote from a radio interview from 19 May where Deputy Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said:
It’s a very difficult situation…we still have this level of acceptance within the community that treating women in a violent or demeaning way is somehow acceptable…if a person has breached an order that has been issued, we will take action. What happens as a result of us taking action often depends on the attitude of the victim in terms of how they feel about the person at that point in time…it’s a very challenging situation, it’s one that needs to be dealt with with a degree of sensitivity. There’s only so much the police can do if a person wants to continue a relationship with a person that they’re in a violent relationship with.
That is, as I am sure we all understand, a very difficult situation, and again, not one that I can personally relate to from either side of the coin, but the police are in a dreadfully difficult situation. The police are limited, as Deputy Commissioner Stevens said, with regard to the efforts that they can do, and it really does depend on what a person wants to do with regard to reporting.
As I mentioned in those statistics before, most women who have been unfairly or inappropriately dealt with by a partner within the last 12 months do not report that, and so they need that support to report it. They need encouragement and they need perhaps education. They need perhaps a few more men to exert just a little bit of peer pressure in the community more broadly. I know those are not solutions in their own right, but the people who are victims deserve support, and the people who are perpetrators deserve pressure—there is no doubt about that.
Leading up to the last election, the state Liberals took a very clear plan with regard to dealing with domestic violence. We pledged a plan which involved ongoing support for domestic violence advocacy and education services, an additional $200,000 of funding for Yarrow Place to provide additional counselling services and to cut waiting times, and legislative reforms, including reforming provocation as a ground to have murder charges downgraded to manslaughter, and greater court involvement in domestic violence orders.
In a very proactive, collaborative and generally bipartisan way, I call on the government to do everything it possibly can to stamp out domestic violence. I call on the government to do more, because, as I said about police, as much as they are trying to do, there is still more that needs to be done. I call on the government to give very serious consideration to implementing the pledges that the state Liberals made in the lead up to the last election.