Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Bill 2016

22 November 2016


Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a privilege to rise this afternoon and speak on the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Bill 2016. I am going to begin by quoting a person who has been referred to by previous speakers, and that is of course the Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty. She said when she received her award that family violence:

… is an entrenched epidemic that we’ve lived with since time began, so we’ve got a long way to go. But I do believe the tide is turned. It’s no longer a subject that only occurs behind closed doors.

I am very pleased to say that we are a government that has really taken this issue out from behind closed doors and supported those who have been on that mission for some time. I will take the opportunity to commend the hundreds of mainly women who have established and worked in family violence refuges, and the number of women and men who have worked in organisations like community housing co-ops. In my electorate WAYSS, Our Watch and places like Safe Steps have for decades been campaigning to have this issue of family violence put at the forefront of government decision-making, and we certainly have done that. As I know, people on this side of the chamber are very pleased that we were the government that established the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which has given us an incredible amount of information and a set of recommendations — 227 of them — that can empower us and inform us and make sure that our decisions are heading in the right direction and that we are on the right path in trying to tackle the issue of family violence. Hopefully we will see family violence reduce in number as we go about putting into place measures that prevent it — support mechanisms that women and families can rely on when they find themselves in danger. I am not just talking about community housing, which the government has already invested in significantly.

Indeed, in my own electorate of Narre Warren South 11 new houses will become available in coming years. We look forward to those being available for women and their families. We also have a very strong commitment to making sure that the legislation and the court system and all the infrastructure around our legal system is really focused on supporting women and their families to make sure that family violence is prevented and eradicated as much as possible.

The Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Bill is about exactly that: making sure that the government remains accountable for what it says it will do. It is about making sure that the recommendations of the royal commission do not just sit on some dusty shelf but are put to work to make lives better for people. This monitor will be a statutory office and will report independently back to Parliament. Frankly, I know that people in the field are very pleased that such a monitor will be put in place. We all know that in politics there can be flavours of the month or issues that have their day and go away because they are not as appealing to new decision-makers that may come into government or because they are another person’s agenda. The establishment of this implementation monitor means that the royal commission’s recommendations will be looked at forensically. It will make sure that the government delivers on what the royal commission has asked us to do.

I want to draw the attention of the house to some of the information that is in the royal commission’s pages. I do so because I actually believe that prevention is better than cure. Thankfully the royal commission did focus on this aspect, and it has made significant suggestions, indeed recommendations, around this element. I just want to refer the chamber to the comments of Ken Lay, a former chief commissioner of Victoria Police. He told the commission:

So despite all that investment, despite all the work, despite all the goodwill, we still have a court system that many victims and women describe as a horrendous experience. We still have women being murdered at almost a weekly rate. We still have terrible, terrible injuries. We still have much of our focus on trying to arrest our way out of this. So the violence continues. I don’t see the current model, unless we get into that primary prevention space, moving.

So it is very, very important that the royal commission’s recommendations around prevention are focused on, delivered and monitored. I make reference especially to one of the recommendations around the need for an investment in respectful relationships education. As a person who has actually taught in schools and been a student welfare coordinator — I taught what they used to call ‘human relationships education’ — I have always been a fan of trying to talk to young students about some of the very pressing human sexual equity issues that they face as they grow up. I truly believe that if you talk to kids about these issues early enough, you make a real difference to the way that they see the world and the way they see themselves partaking in the world. I believe that we can actually skill up people to have much healthier and much more trustworthy relationships.

I notice that in the commission’s report it actually talks at length about the importance for all students, whether they be straight or LGBTI, whatever postcode they live in, whether they come from rich families or poor families, of respectful relationships education. The report says that when we trialled this respectful relationships education project there were some outstanding results. That is why the royal commission has gone on to recommend that we roll it out. I am very pleased to say that the government is doing exactly that. I believe it is going to make a significant difference to people’s lives. The Royal Commission into Family Violence report states:

The draft evaluation report for the project provided to the commission said that students demonstrated increased understanding about violence, gender and gender inequality and were also less likely to trivialise and excuse gender-based violence or victim blame.

It also had the important benefit that whilst these students were learning about these very important issues around gender inequity, family violence and how to have healthy, respectful relationships — and to those opposite, why would you not want to have respect taught in a classroom? — one of the greatest impacts was the positive changes in student behaviour, with 64 per cent of 42 teachers stating that there had been a positive change in classroom behaviour. Every classroom benefits from having respectful relationships education taking place in it. It is not only great for the school community but it is a win-win for our wider social community as well if it is to take place.

As we get closer to the festive season, when we know there is a spike in family violence, it is very important that we focus our efforts on making sure that family violence is tackled by the government and that we are accountable for it. Hopefully we have bipartisan support on this issue. Indeed the greatest gift you could probably give to people in the festive season would be to call out sexism when you see it; make sure that people are aware of gender inequality issues; if you are in a situation where you see family violence happening in your neighbourhood, report it to police; and if you have to, provide safe refuge for the people in those circumstances so that as a community we take responsibility for driving down sexist and violent behaviour and we truly do have something to celebrate at Christmas. It would be a much more respectful and healthy environment. I commend the bill to the house.