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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 115


Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (19:35): In recent weeks we have seen, again, the tragedy of domestic and family violence in the headlines. The murder of Gold Coast mother Teresa Bradford by her estranged husband, while he was out on bail on domestic violence charges, beggars belief. It has renewed calls for victims of domestic violence to be told if the perpetrator is being released from jail and pushes to make sure that bail is not available for these perpetrators. The focus needs to be put back on the victims. They are the ones whose rights are really important here.

In Leichhardt, the local headlines over the past seven days have been just as sobering. On 31 January I read of a man jailed for eight years for the manslaughter of a woman he described as the love of his life. On Christmas Day 2014 in Pormpuraaw, after a party where they had been drinking, high school sweethearts Frederick Bramwell and Clareen Edwards fought. He dragged her outside, punched her, hit her in the face and kicked her in the back. She was taken away by ambulance, but they got back together later in the night and had another fight. The next morning, she was found unconscious in a pool of blood—cause of death: blunt force trauma.

On 1 February there was an article about a jail term for a man found guilty of raping his cousin after a wedding in a Far North Queensland Indigenous community a year ago. As a result of his alcohol-fuelled actions, a woman's life has been torn apart, with people in the community judging her, and her relationship with her partner ruined. Even today a court case is continuing for a Yarrabah man accused of the manslaughter of his partner in December 2014 after a party where they had been drinking. The Cairns Post reports that witnesses saw Isaace Barlow kicking and punching his partner, Christine Fourmile, in the head. The 20-year-old was knocked down onto the road, unconscious. She never woke up.

These cases are a sickening wake-up call to the violence in Indigenous communities and the ongoing issues that need our urgent attention. In the broader community, there is certainly a much greater level of understanding about the support services that are available to women seeking to escape domestic or family violence. In Indigenous communities, unfortunately, it is much more difficult. These communities are often small and geographically isolated. Refuges are available, but it is often the woman and her child who must go out into hiding, rather than removing the perpetrator from the situation. Add to this the chronic problem of alcohol and drug abuse, disadvantage and the normalisation of violence, and you have a recipe for absolute disaster.

During the 2016 election, I welcomed the coalition's commitment of $25 million to address domestic violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. We know that Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised and 10 times more likely to be killed as a result of domestic violence than women in the broader community. Targeted investment is critical to saving lives and to disrupting intergenerational cycles of violence, dysfunction and disadvantage. The $25 million is for initiatives that could include: improving the quality and accessibility of services available to those experiencing or at risk of domestic and family violence; training a skilled Indigenous workforce to deliver family violence support services within their local communities; providing culturally appropriate and community-led perpetrator programs; providing enhanced Family Violence Prevention Legal Services; supporting Indigenous children through technology to access age-appropriate information; engaging with perpetrators using men's referral services; and building on the national Stop it at the Start campaign.

The government is certainly making a significant investment in a range of activities to address the drivers of violence, including alcohol and drug treatment services, support to improve remote policing and activities to prevent offending and re-offending and to reduce violence. Experience has also shown that additional approaches that go beyond the justice system are required in order to break ongoing cycles of family violence. The rollout of the $25 million package of measures is underway, including allowing time for consultation with Indigenous communities and stakeholders. Any solutions, if they are to work, must have ownership within those communities. We have to be unwavering in our commitment to ensuring that women and children are safe in their homes, safe on the streets and, certainly, safe online.