Domestic and Family Violence - Hansard

I draw to the attention of the House that at this moment a rally is being held at the front of Parliament House that is calling for deaths from domestic violence to be stopped now. Outside Parliament there is a coffin and 39 cardboard cut-out coffins being carried by women, all of whom have been affected in some way by domestic violence or family violence. So far this year 39 women have been killed across the country, the vast majority of whom died as a result of domestic violence. The rally at the front of Parliament House clearly is stating that this is both a crisis and a national disgrace, and I agree. It is time for true leadership to be demonstrated and immediate steps to be taken to address the appalling situation.

In January 2014 Parliament was recalled to enact legislation around the coward-punch laws and related licensing restrictions in response to a crisis. That was done after two men had been killed over a two-year period by alcohol-fuelled violence. So far no bill has been put before this Parliament to address to the number of women who have been killed in their homes at a rate that is 40 times higher than the one-punch death rate. Nothing concrete has been done to address the deaths of 39 women and an epidemic of domestic violence. That is the situation at a time when an average of two women a week across the country is dying as a result of domestic violence.

This morning at the rally I heard of the recent death of a woman who will never show up in domestic violence statistics. She committed suicide after going through the domestic violence system so many times without feeling safe that she felt the only way she could be assured her life would be safe from then on would be to end it. Late last year the New South Wales Government's Going Home Staying Home reforms resulted in specialist women's domestic violence services, most of which had been in operation for 30 or 40 years, being forced to enter into a competitive tendering process against other large charitable organisations. The rally to stop death caused by domestic violence is telling members of Parliament that whereas there previously were more than 100 women's services that specialised in providing support and a safe refuge for women and children who are escaping domestic violence, now there are fewer than 20 across the State.

Although it has been stated that there has been no loss of services, the vast majority of services are required to accommodate people experiencing all types of homeless crisis, but many do not have experience in providing services to victims of domestic violence. New funding arrangements have resulted in services scaling back positions, casework loads increasing with no additional staff or funding, and many services that formerly operated on a 24/7 basis operating during business hours only. The rally, which is being attended by women who have suffered domestic violence and their family members, is telling the Government that they need a phone number they can call so that they can find a safe place, just for them, when they are experiencing domestic violence.

According to the third annual report of the New South Wales Domestic Violence Review team, in two-thirds of all intimate partner homicides that resulted in a woman being killed, the victim and the perpetrator either had recently separated or were in the process of separating. The recent death of a Sydney woman, Leila Alavi, highlights the crisis. Ms Alavi made up to a dozen attempts to get into a refuge in the months prior to her death, but was turned away because there were no vacancies.

The group out the front of Parliament House is calling on the Government to look upon the number of women dying as a State emergency that requires an emergency response. They are calling for adequate services for women and children that are easily accessible in times of danger, for police to act on breaches of apprehended domestic violence orders and to make arrests, that the judiciary will impose adequate sentences if and when the matter reaches court, that there be an immediate inquiry into the impact of the Going Home, Staying Home reforms on women's safety and that funds be reinstated that have been cut or spread across a wider client-type group as a result of the Going Home, Staying Home reforms to ensure that these funds are quarantined specifically for domestic violence support and safe accommodation. I support the rally out the front of Parliament House as it is bringing to the attention of this place the crisis of domestic violence deaths in this State.