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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2874


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (10:14): This morning I attended the launch of the Re-focus smartphone app. This very clever use of technology was developed by the Brisbane Women's Legal Service—a service that is physically situated in my electorate but provides a vital, often lifesaving, service not only to women in Brisbane, through their advice clinic, where people physically turn up, but also throughout Queensland through their telephone advice line and rural, regional and remote legal advice line. So this app now is a national service for women.

This service is at the front line of the battle against domestic violence, with 62,000 women having been assisted over the 30-year history of the Brisbane Women's Legal Service. These lawyers truly understand the ugly truth of the depth of this horrible problem. Three thousand-two hundred women are assisted through this service each year. Forty per cent of those women are from rural and regional communities. Thirty per cent of their clients are from non-English speaking backgrounds, with 47 different language groups.

It is often difficult for women to seek help in such situations. They are frightened, they are often ashamed and they do not have a clue what services are out there to help them. The Re-focus app is free. It is very easy to use; in fact, I downloaded it myself this morning—that is how easy it is. As Angela Lynch, the community education lawyer from the Brisbane Women's Legal Centre said this morning, women fleeing from domestic violence often only have their phone with them when they leave. The app provides women with legal information about domestic violence, arrangements for children, financial and property matters, options for reaching a legal agreement and safe accommodation, and it provides referrals to other services and some resilience and coping tips about separation. And that is the case whether they are in New South Wales, Victoria or Western Australia. It does not matter where they are, this app will provide them with local services.

This app will help many women through the most frightening and difficult time of their lives. It will assist them in finding the help that they desperately need. It is a credit to the Brisbane Women's Legal Service that they have taken the initiative to develop this app. I thank them, the former Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, for signing off on the process, and the current government for supporting it.

It is a wonderful use of technology to help a very difficult and, unfortunately, growing problem in our country. This year we have the horrible reality of two women being murdered each week through domestic violence. It is hoped that this app will save lives in the future. When 2,000 calls cannot be answered by the Women's Legal Service advice line each month due to the high demand on the service—and when many women have to be turned away from the legal clinic—any help for these women is welcome. Most of the lawyers at the service are volunteers. In fact, my partner, Lea, and my staffer, Michelle, who is a family law barrister, do pro bono work for the Queensland Women's Legal Service.

Of course, the legal clinic and advice line are also crucial; the app is no replacement for these services. More funding is needed for these services so that they can reach more vulnerable women who need the personal legal service of the clinic or the advice line.