Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I rise to speak on the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016, and as the previous speaker has outlined and indeed the contributions in the other house have outlined, it is to provide a national recognition scheme for family violence intervention orders, family violence safety notices and other domestic violence orders. It also makes consequential amendments to the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 and other acts.
I will not go over the structure of the bill in any intensive way, and I will not go into too much of the structural detail, but what I would like to do is take the opportunity to talk about the issue of family violence and the reasons this bill is before us today and how it will enable victims of family violence to spend less time in court as well as have national coverage to the order that applies, which is important of course for those who are needing to shift from state to state to get away, essentially, from perpetrators or indeed to just try to start a new life. What I will touch on is the profound and devastating impact that family violence has.
Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — Just prior to question time I began my contribution on the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016, and I was talking about the profound and devastating impact family violence has on everyone and why a bill such as this, while it may seem minor in the grand scheme for the prevention of family violence, is also quite critical — because across Australia many of us know now that a woman is killed every week by a male partner or ex-partner and that thousands are injured every year.
It is estimated that one in three women has been a victim of partner crime and that one in four children has witnessed partner violence. Without even touching on the impact on the mental health of victims, these are horrifying statistics. While they are damning statistics, what needs to be driven home is that victims are more than statistics. They are mostly women — women with family, women with friends and children and careers and aspirations for the future. They are indeed our neighbours, colleagues, friends and family. To do nothing to stop family violence would be to fail those who have experienced this horror in the past.
While this bill is not a magic key that will end family violence once and for all, it is an important part of the government’s plan. It is something more than what is currently available, and step by step, with more and more protection for victims made available, we can reduce the number of women killed and physically or mentally damaged by family violence. The bill creates a new act to provide for a national recognition scheme for Victorian family violence safety notices, family violence intervention orders and domestic violence orders made in other states and territories and New Zealand.
The benefits of a national scheme cannot be underestimated. Currently each state and territory, as well as New Zealand, has its own form of domestic violence orders, or DVOs. They are civil restraining orders that forbid a person from committing family violence against a victim. They are known as family violence safety notices, or FVSNs, in Victoria. Currently if a victim was to move interstate or to New Zealand, they would have to reregister their DVO in their new jurisdiction. That means extra time spent away from family. It means going into an uncomfortable place and possibly reliving the horrific experience that they went through just to ensure that they receive the same protection in a new state or country, and it means that if they are unable to reregister, their protection by way of a DVO is unenforceable in the new jurisdiction. We simply should not have to make victims of family violence relive their experiences just to maintain protection under the law, and this is why this bill will help Victorians.
In December 2015 the Council of Australian Governments agreed to introduce a national domestic violence scheme, with this legislation fulfilling that agreement. Under this legislation, once victims receive protection in the form of a DVO, they will be covered across the country. This of course means less time before the courts. Furthermore, all current safety notices and intervention orders will be incorporated into the new scheme, so Victorians with current family violence safety notices will be automatically included in the new national scheme, ensuring that they will be protected nationwide.
The Victorian government conducted extensive consultation with Victoria Police, the Magistrates Court and the Children’s Court. Broader family violence stakeholders were also consulted extensively, and I echo the statements of my colleague in the lower house the member for Geelong, Christine Couzens. Those comments were in regard to the work done by community services in the Geelong region that tackle family violence. They are a fundamental part of Geelong society, and they deserve all the support they can get from the Victorian government.
One of the more insidious aspects of family violence is the role that isolation plays in exacerbating it. Women in rural and remote areas are more likely to experience higher rates of male violence, so community services and organisations in my electorate of Western Victoria Region that are dedicated to helping victims of family violence are very important — organisations such as Emma House Domestic Violence Services in Warrnambool, in the south-west, that provide outreach, court support, accommodation and supporting counselling, amongst other important services, for a wide area.
At a local government level we have the Great South Coast Strategy to Prevent Violence against Women and Children. It is a joint development by five councils of the Great South Coast and includes over 50 organisations in the South West Coast region to prevent family violence and address the impact of violence against women and children. Their contributions towards keeping families safe are vital to the community, and this bill will complement their work.
Family violence is Australia’s no. 1 law and order issue. Family violence is the no. 1 health issue for Victorian women aged between 15 and 44. Blood pressure, obesity, smoking — we all agree that these three issues are serious health risks, and they need addressing, but the reality is that those three risk factors are overall less damaging to the health of women aged 15 to 44 than family violence. We need to do everything we can to reduce the risk, and this bill is one way of doing so. While stopping family violence should not need to be argued from an economic point of view, the reality is that violence against women and children cost the Victorian economy $3.4 billion in 2009, with most of this cost concentrated in local and regional services, as well as law and order.
Family violence is not something that is going to be fixed overnight. We knew this when we established Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence. We accepted all 227 recommendations and committed $572 million as a first step towards implementing those recommendations. We have made a commitment to tackle family violence head on. This bill cannot guarantee 100 per cent protection to everyone, but as I stated earlier, at the very least it is something more than victims currently have, and it is a step in the right direction. It is with these steps that we will make our state a safer place to live for everyone. It is a small step in a very long road towards ending family violence, but it is an important step and one that I am proud to lend my support to. I definitely commend this bill to the house.