Report – Royal Commission into Family Violence

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — Who will ever forget Kristy McKellar speaking in this house on 26 November 2015? She said:

The family violence I suffered destroyed my life. I had never known violence could exist in a man before this experience. I was confident, secure and successful, but still I was not immune to this encounter. I became a victim of unspeakable cruelty, suffering extreme and unrelenting forms of violence, intimidation, control and abuse, spanning from physical, verbal, psychological and financial to sexual. Being tormented behind closed doors and having it disguised as love was inhumane. To hold a secret of this kind was soul destroying. I could see no way out, and I thought that this would be my life.

Over a week ago Kristy joined me and members of my community, the Casey-Cardinia community, at a legends footy match for the South East Football Netball League season launch that finished — I coached the winning team — with a vigil for the victims and survivors of family violence. Liz Triffitt, the manager of the league, asked us all — footy players, supporters, men and women, girls and boys, people from all sorts of backgrounds and disparate life experiences — to hold our hands aloft and chant, ‘Our community says no to family violence’. It was a stirring moment.
It was also the same week when the Royal Commission into Family Violence handed down its report. I am grateful, like other speakers are, that the royal commission heard the voices of the victims of family violence, the tender and courageous voices of people like Kristy. Sadly some still speak under the title ‘Anonymous’, and I think that is a very sad indictment of our society.

I join with others in this house in congratulating the Premier, who acknowledged that more of the same policies will only mean more of the same tragedies and who said that we have to do things differently. The Premier has not only committed to and established the royal commission but has now committed to the 227 recommendations in the report. It is a massive task. The recommendations reflect the scale of the problems that we as a community face.

Today the Premier said that this is a gendered crime. There is no doubt about that. In its report the royal commission says:

There is no doubt that violence against women and children is deeply rooted in power imbalances that are reinforced by gender norms and stereotypes.

But it was a victim who said it best again. At the royal commission she said:
I wish someone had recognised the power divide between him and myself. I wish they’d recognised my depression and anxiety as a deep sense of worthlessness, and fear that had been instilled in me, by him, over years. I wish they’d said, the problem isn’t you. It is his behaviour. I wish that I’d been able to protect my children from seeing what he did to me.
That is the task ahead of us. It will require successive governments to commit to the plan that we have and that the royal commission has so well informed. I was very pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers on the other side of the house pledge their support for this large task. The Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence has shown her diligence and her dedication to her task, and today she has said, ‘We will do all we can’.

I would like to draw attention particularly to a number of the key recommendations of the royal commission. The findings include, as I have already mentioned, that:
The scale of family violence is significant.

They go on, including referring to intervention order (IVO) breaches:

Over the last five years there has been an 83 per cent increase in police call-outs, 110 per cent increase in police safety notices and 140 per cent increase in IVO breach offences.
I represent the electorate with the highest family violence statistics in the state. I want that to change. To do this, the royal commission has given us a road map. It says:
The family violence system needs to move beyond a crisis response.

We need agencies to work together in a coordinated way. As the royal commission report says:

Getting help should not depend on the particular entry point chosen by the victim.

The government needs to prevent and intervene early in family violence. I was particularly disturbed when I heard Kristy’s story about how she suffered when she was pregnant and a young mother. It is so distressing to hear that we have homes in our state where pregnant women, often mothering for the first time, are being harassed, bullied, kicked and punched by their partners. What should be the happiest moment of their lives can be the worst moment. That has to stop. I represent an electorate where there are lots of young mums in their new homes making a family life and, I imagine, looking to the future with a great deal of hope. Certainly a great deal of commitment has gone into establishing that home and that relationship. It is up to the government to make sure that in those very, very early stages the support services are close by so that women can go to them and know that they will be treated with respect and be given the support they need.
We have to break down the silos in government. The report on family violence is very clear about that, about the need for departments and service agencies to collaborate, to trust each other and to understand what family violence in all its forms looks like. We have to look outward, we have to embrace others and we have to take them into our confidence. But to do that, we have to trust each other and we have to have government departments trusting each other as well.

It is very pleasing to hear today that the government has committed some very substantial amounts of money, with record and historically significant investment. There will be a $572 million meaningful contribution, as the Premier said earlier, to tackle some of these issues. That includes $23.9 million to hold family violence perpetrators to account and to support victims as we overhaul our justice system. From hearing the stories of victims about their experience in the courts, that system certainly needs overhauling. There will be $61 million for family violence prevention, aimed at where Victorians live, work and learn. I am very pleased to be able to say that the Minister for Education, who spoke earlier, talked about how committed he is to making sure that the respectful relationships agenda is extended and empowered so that we protect the next generation. He spoke also about introducing Victoria’s first gender equality strategy to help local communities like mine to play their part in confronting the statistics of the crimes that happen just next door, in our neighbour’s house.

I am certainly up for this and I certainly think that my community is, but I would like to finish by saying that it is everyone’s responsibility. I have heard the refrain before, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave him and get out of that situation?’. I am very pleased to see that we have made a significant commitment to transition housing and a housing blitz for abuse victims. I truly believe that women should not be the ones leaving their homes but should be able to stay in them with their families, with their kids being able to go to school and play with their friends. The royal commission is very keen to make sure that the focus is placed on trying to keep women in their homes and protecting them there. The Safe at Home and other measures need to be fully supported to ensure that kids and their mums are safe and can stay in their own homes.

The scale of this issue, the problem and the challenges we face are enormous, but as Rosie Batty said:

We now have leadership from the political parties that we have been looking for for so long. We cannot afford to let the momentum that we are now starting to gain to fall off.
I know that in my community we have put up our hands to say no to family violence. Indeed, I have heard the voices of people in this Parliament today say, ‘We want to join hands to say no to family violence’. So I certainly hope that with this record investment we can take some huge steps in that direction.