National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a real pleasure to rise this afternoon and speak on the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016. You have many moments in politics that you remember vividly, and one of them for me certainly was being out at Moonee Valley Racecourse at a Labor Party conference a couple of years ago, when we were in opposition. I would admit that attending Labor Party conferences on a Saturday morning at Moonee Valley is probably not no. 1 on my list of things to do, but I have to say I was sitting there and I heard the then opposition leader deliver a very powerful speech, and then he announced that if we were elected as a Labor government, we would actually commit to — we would do in fact — undertaking a Royal Commission into Family Violence. I have to say there was a spontaneous outbreak of applause. There was a standing ovation for the leader’s announcement.

I looked around and there were women, especially, crying their eyes out to think that as members of the Labor Party they were going to have hopefully a Labor government that would address an issue that meant so much to them and their families. I remember looking over at my good friend and Labor Party stalwart Amy Duncan, who has ridden the hard times in life but always has a smile on her face and always has a helping hand out there for everybody. She had tears in her eyes, and she said, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud to be a member of the Labor Party’, and I think that was a feeling that was shared around the room.

Here we are in government — I think it is 657 days into our term in government — and not only have we had the royal commission but we are going about implementing the 227 recommendations from the royal commission. I must say everybody on this side of the house, including the whole of the cabinet, led by the Premier, and of course the minister, are right behind this project. I must say I notice that it is 153 days since the royal commission report was tabled. I also note that the opposition has not committed to implementing each of the 227 recommendations. I would have really thought that it would have been appropriate when we are talking about this matter today for the lead speaker for the opposition to get up and give us that surety and given that commitment to the people of Victoria — shown that leadership — that all of the recommendations, irrespective of who is in government, will be implemented. The people of Victoria — the women and children of Victoria especially — deserve nothing less.

I will go on to talk about the bill in a little bit of detail. As you are probably aware, I represent the Narre Warren South electorate, as part of the City of Casey, and it is a sad thing that I have had to say a number of times in this house that we have the highest levels of family violence in the state. This has been a significant issue for us — not only for the police but for the service providers, the people that live in the area and of course the victims themselves.

I am very pleased to see addressed one of the significant issues that has been raised by women coming to my office — certainly some who may have moved to Narre Warren South from interstate or who have had to move around the country, often because of family violence, or who are planning to move away from the state to protect themselves and to start their lives over again. The issue of having a transportable national domestic violence order is very, very important to them. They often turn up and think that an order they got in Queensland applies to them in Victoria, and sadly they often find that the perpetrator, the person trying to get to them, knows that it does not and turns up at their front door. And it all starts over again; that nasty cycle of family violence starts over again.

We know that, also sadly, the number of family violence incidents recorded by Victoria Police has increased by 82.7 per cent between the 2009–10 and 2013–14 financial years. This sounds like a big increase — and it is an extraordinary number of people — but when you actually say, ‘This has been an increase of almost 30 000 incidents’, it is absolutely horrifying to think that there are 30 000 more affected families out there, a lot of them with children that are witnessing family violence. Then they take those problems and issues associated with seeing violence between their parents or their siblings to school, and the implications of that for the school system and the community are boundless. We really have to make significant inroads into this issue of family violence. As I said at the outset, I am very pleased to be a member of a government that is tackling this issue head-on.

I know from when I had a quick look at the royal commission report that it talks about a number of issues around magistrates courts, where the family domestic violence orders (DVO) are actually issued. I think this is an important paragraph. It says:

This raises questions not only for the court but for the family violence system as a whole: why are we unable to break the cycle of … violence for some people? Although intervention orders are but one mechanism within the system for preventing family violence, the repeated use of these orders does raise the issue of the extent to which intervention orders are actually effective in preventing family violence.

One of the problems is the lack of transportability, so I am very pleased to see that we are developing a national scheme. I noticed that the members opposite have said, ‘Well, why haven’t you done it?’ — yesterday, actually — and I would like to just put on the record that the Victorian government supports a single commencement date for the national DVO scheme. But the government will not commence the bill until it is satisfied that the national DVO scheme will not jeopardise the safety of victims or impose an unreasonable burden on our courts and police as well. We have got to get this right. We cannot afford to muck around with it; we have got to make sure that the system is foolproof, and we have got to make sure that women especially can access this system with the authority that it needs to contain. We need to know that when women especially go to the really harsh environment of court — often on their own, but increasingly so, I see in the royal commission report, with the support of police and other support services — they are going to get a DVO that will protect them no matter where they are in Australia.

This is the reason why the bill does not contain a default commencement date and in fact will be commenced by proclamation, and I have noticed that other state and territory governments have not made any formal commitments about when the national DVO scheme will commence. As I said, it is important we get this right. We have a national working group that has been formed to oversee the implementation of the national DVO scheme, and I trust that these expert people, in consultation, will get this right. I notice that Victoria Police is leading that working group.

I would just like to finish by reiterating just how important this issue is. I am sure we all recall Rosie Batty being in this chamber not even a year ago. She has actually said, and she is on the record as saying, 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.

Indeed, she spoke about it in this house, and she asked all of us — each and every one of us — to put our politics aside and stand up for the victims of family violence, to provide the funding and services necessary to do that and to do the legal reform that is required to make sure that things like DVO schemes proceed efficiently, quickly and with national application. I am sure that today she would be very pleased to see this small but very important step taken to make sure that no matter where you live in Australia you can go home safely at night and know that your children are going to be safe — and we all deserve that.

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