International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women

The Hon. R. SANDERSON (Adelaide—Minister for Child Protection) (11:17): I thank the member for Reynell for her motion on what is a serious blight on society and one that significantly impacts my portfolio as Minister for Child Protection. On 25 November 1960, three sisters—Patria, Minerva and Maria-Teresa Mirabal—of the Dominican Republic were murdered. The sisters were engaged in political activism and opposed the regime of the then president. On the day that they were killed, they were travelling in a vehicle to see two of their husbands, who were incarcerated. The vehicle was stopped by henchmen, linked to the president, who strangled and clubbed the sisters to death before driving their vehicle off the road in order to make their murders appear an accident.

As a tribute and honour to the Mirabal sisters, in December 1999 the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Violence against women is despicable, indefensible and repugnant. Sadly, it is a truth to which society often turns a blind eye. It does not discriminate based on age, race or culture. Violence against women occurs against the poorest and richest, the famous, the unemployed, the professionals. The statistics are shocking.

In Australia, violence against women is recognised as being widespread, with enormous individual, community and social costs. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, 37 per cent of women have experienced physical abuse since the age of 15, while close to one in five has experienced sexual violence. One in six Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner.

Emotional abuse cannot be underestimated. One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. Women are more than twice as likely as men to have experienced fear or anxiety due to violence and are four times more likely to be hospitalised following violence. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women report experiencing violence at three times the rate of non-Indigenous women and are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence.

The impact of violence against women ripples wider than the immediate victim. Even if the violence is not seen or heard, the stress of the violence can lead to problems with children's emotions, behaviour, brain development and learning. Violence can result in an unpredictable home life for children, causing anxiety, developmental and behavioural difficulties and increased aggression. Children can carry guilt, stress and worry for people they love being hurt or upset. Parents who are stressed and worried have less energy for warm, loving relationships with children. Children suffer and can experience mistrust, shame, anger, low self-esteem, self-blame and fear, and physical symptoms of stress, including stomach-aches, sleeping problems and toileting issues, such as bedwetting.

Children grow up believing that the violence they are witnessing is a normal part of family life. They consider force and violence as mechanisms to achieve a desired outcome. They miss school to care for the person experiencing violence or do not perform well when in attendance. Both impact their educational development. They run away, turn to drugs and alcohol, become aggressive or themselves become a bully.

Frequently, where there is violence in the home, children are also abused and neglected. This can be due to a number of reasons, including women choosing to remain with violent partners, as they consider it too dangerous to leave. The effects of violence on the parenting capacity of their caregiver, as a result of mental or physical injury or substance misuse problems, emerge as a consequence. Domestic violence can result in mothers being emotionally distant, unavailable or unable to meet their children's needs, prioritising their partner's needs over the children in an attempt to minimise or prevent a violent outburst.

In August this year, I visited the Multi-Agency Protection Service (MAPS). There, I was shown examples of the work done by the participating agencies, including the Department for Child Protection, which reviews approximately 2,000 high-risk domestic violence reports in this state per year. It was alarming to learn that approximately 70 per cent of their case load had the Department for Child Protection involved. The very important work being undertaken by MAPS can be used by the Department for Child Protection to make applications in the Adelaide Youth Court for removal of a child where the environment presents a risk of harm.

The impact of violence on an unborn child also cannot be underestimated. The benefits of intervening early in vulnerable families identified in pregnancy are considerable. By extrapolating the sample data results across the entire cohort of children subject to an unborn child concern in 2014, it was determined that intervening before or during pregnancy had the potential to prevent 2,220 reports to child protection and 180 children entering out-of-home care before the age of two.

I am proud to be a member of a Liberal government that has a strong plan to address violence against women. Election commitments will be met through an $11.9 million injection over four years, delivered through the 2018-19 state budget to address family and domestic violence in South Australia. Initiatives, such as funding the Coalition of Women's Domestic Violence Services so it can be established as a peak body, access by NGOs to no-interest loans to fund capital projects to provide facilities for women escaping domestic violence and improving the personal protection app, are all underway.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, launched last month, allows a person at risk to seek information about a current or former partner's violent offending history and provides support to plan for their safety. As recently as last fortnight, the Ask for Angela program, working to combat violence and antisocial behaviour at venues across the state, was being rolled out. Statewide round tables with domestic violence providers have been held, resulting in real action, including funding for the Women's Safety Services crisis hotline to operate 24 hours a day, increasing the availability and quality of crisis accommodation and co-locating services in safety hubs across the state.

The Statutes Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2018 creates an additional offence for strangulation, a presumption against bail in certain circumstances and expands the definition of abuse under the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act. I am proud to be part of a government that will work collaboratively and cooperatively to ensure that there is a community conversation in relation to violence against women, that there is no stigma attached, that women feel empowered to reach out and that the message is clear that violence against women is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

As former United Nations secretary Ban Ki-moon said:

…there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.

I thank the member and commend the motion to the house.