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Friday, 5 October 1984
Page: 1329

Senator GILES —I refer the Attorney-General to a resolution of the Australian Labor Party National Conference in July of this year which commits the Government to hold a national conference to examine all aspects of domestic violence, including child molestation and rape within marriage. This conference is designed to arrive at recommendations regarding appropriate Commonwealth and State legislation, police procedures and counselling facilities for both the victims of such crimes and offenders. Recalling that the Attorney-General responded positively to the resolution, I ask him what steps he has taken to meet this undertaking.

Senator GARETH EVANS —A number of positive steps have already been taken to deal with the question of developing a national approach to the problem of domestic violence. In April of this year the Australian Institute of Criminology conducted a workshop in Canberra on the situation of victims of crime in Australia. Delegates included people from all over the country, including the Territories. Subsequently, in May and June the Director of the Institute wrote to all State and Territory community welfare departments, crown law departments, women's advisory officers and commissioners of police seeking up to date information on victim support services and remedies coming within their jurisdictions or known to them.

The object of that exercise was twofold: To enable a comprehensive national list of such services to be compiled and published and also to facilitate preparation of Australia's position paper for the seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime, which is to be held in Milan next year, one agenda item of which relates specifically to victims of crime. Some replies to those letters are still outstanding, so it is not yet possible to publish a comprehensive list. However, it is possible to say that while the range of available services has increased and is increasing, there still remain significant areas which are underserviced, in particular country areas, which for the most part are not at all well provided for.

The Institute of Criminology has further, after discussion with me, offered to host a national conference on all aspects of domestic violence against adults and children, both sexual and non-sexual violence, in September or October of next year. It seems to me appropriate that an independent statutory authority should undertake this task. Accordingly, I have accepted that offer by the Institute. Of course, the Government will listen very closely to whatever recommendations come forth from that conference.

My own commitment and concern on the issue are attested to by the fact that I have recently referred the problem of domestic violence in the Australian Capital Territory to the Australian Law Reform Commission for investigation and recommendation. I will be shortly ensuring that invitations to attend this conference are sent out to all relevant State, Territory and Commonwealth authorities, as well as to persons involved in the practice of family law, independent experts and appropriate voluntary agencies. If it is to be successful, this exercise will require a great deal of State and Territory co- operation in the future, and I am confident that by the way things are going that will be forthcoming.