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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13347

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (18:30): Over the weekend many of us came together to celebrate annual White Ribbon Day. 25 November each year is set aside to remembering and committing to do something about violence perpetrated against women and girls in the community. White Ribbon Day is dedicated to raising awareness of tackling the issues of domestic violence against women, which is the most prevalent form of violence that we have in our community today. Domestic violence is the single most widespread human rights abuse throughout the world. Australia is no exception. Although this country is doing much to protect victims and address the attitudes underlying the continuation of violence against women, the statistics on domestic violence are simply terrifying. The fact is that in their lifetime one in three women in our country will experience physical violence and one in five will experience violence of a sexual nature. It is also a fact that one woman is killed each week by her current or former partner. If that is not a wake-up call to society, I am not sure what is.

These statistics should be quite chilling for every responsible citizen in our country, but they become even more confronting when you personalise them and acknowledge the fact that every woman that we know is vulnerable to violence. When I look to personalise this I think of my wife, Bernadette, my daughter, Elizabeth, and my three fabulous granddaughters, Charlie, Maisie and Kiarni. For me that is the one in five; the statistic sits there. So for me it becomes very personal. With the females in my life I love the most, that one in five statistic really resonates with me. I would like to encourage all men to personalise this statistic. If they did, it might strengthen our resolve when it comes to changing the attitude which allows domestic violence to flourish.

Domestic violence and violence against women in general is one of the most significant issues facing our community today. Left unchecked, domestic violence will continue to flourish on an intergenerational basis. What we know is that 60 per cent of young boys growing up in abusive households are more than likely to become abusers themselves. What is even more chilling and disturbing to me, and I just cannot fathom this, is that 50 per cent of young women or girls growing up in an abusive household are more than likely to take an abuser as a husband or a life partner. Then the cycle continues. When you consider that one in four young people have witnessed violence against their mother or stepmother in their lifetime, it clearly demonstrates how widespread this is as an issue in our community.

In fact, domestic violence is even more prevalent in south-west Sydney, in the area of my electorate, than in the rest of the country because of a couple of things. There is an issue about it being a low socioeconomic area, an area of great disadvantage, which probably comes into the equation. It is also a very multicultural community. Many people who migrate are fleeing from violence and oppression themselves, and perhaps some of that is manifested in the way women and girls are treated.

Cultural barriers make it significantly harder to get the message through to victims about seeking help but also to get the message through to perpetrators and potential perpetrators that domestic violence in our community is a crime—that, if you commit this crime, you will be dealt with and more than likely you will go to jail. That is the message we really have to get through. We have to protect the victims and look after them, but also, to abusers and potential abusers, we really need to articulate our stand on domestic violence in our community.

Only last Friday I had the opportunity to speak at a couple of functions. Before I went there I decided to check the level of reported cases of domestic violence in my local areas. I discovered that from January through to now there have been 2,079 incidents of domestic violence reported in Liverpool. In Fairfield there have been 2,024 over the same period. In Cabramatta there have been 797. In Green Valley there have been 1,500. That does not cover a full year, but the stats are very high. When I sit down and talk to the local police they tell me that, of all the assaults that occurred in each of those four police commands, 50 per cent of them relate to domestic violence. In terms of police resources and doing something about domestic violence—looking after victims—we have to take into account that 50 per cent of all assaults in those area commands relate to domestic violence. They also advised me that there are still many incidents of domestic violence going unreported. That may be a cultural reflection. We have seen progressively an increasing number of women having the courage to report their abusive partners. That is a good thing.

Similarly, there is underreporting. Domestic violence not only causes a lifetime of pain for victims and their communities but also has a significant economic ramification. I have just described the amount of work by the local police. Almost up to $15 billion, they estimate, by the year 2021 would be the cost of domestic violence. At the moment it is about $13 billion, they estimate. Bear in mind that the cost of organised crime to our community is $15 billion, so it is not far behind it in terms of the overall cost. We literally cannot afford to turn a blind eye to domestic violence.

On Friday last week, I attended two functions in my electorate designed to draw attention to domestic violence. I attended the Liverpool and Green Valley White Ribbon event at Miller Square, where residents, the local police and local service providers came together to raise awareness of this important community issue. Attendees enjoyed a BBQ and live performances and were able to gather useful information from stalls held by various local service providers. The event organiser, who is a fellow White Ribbon ambassador and a good friend of mine, Jimmy Masher, of the Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre, once again put together a wonderful event. The local area commander, Superintendent James Johnson, was also on hand and put a police perspective to the difficulties of domestic violence in our community.

The Cabramatta White Ribbon Day event at the Cabramatta PCYC was just as big an event. In fact, I think they had around 300 people attending, with many cultural performances, stalls and guest speakers, including Police Inspector Guy Newman. I would like to acknowledge all the hard work the Fairfield Migrant Resource Centre put into making that event very significant. I would also like to thank Julio Gruttulini, President of the Cabramatta Community Centre, and Dr Simon Emsley, Community Development and Advocacy Coordinator at the Fairfield Migrant Resource Centre, for all their hard work. Another group I would like to refer to is the Aboriginal women's group Sisters for Sisters, which is part of the Liverpool Women's Resource Centre. The group started in 2010 as a result of the Aboriginal Women Against Violence program, which was run in partnership between the LWRC and Joan Harrison Support Services for Women. The group is about Aboriginal women coming together and telling their stories through artwork. I recently attended their art exhibition. These are women who are trying to make a difference and support one another. In that respect, I thank Shirley Kent, the coordinator of the Liverpool Women's Resource Centre, and all the ladies from the Aboriginal art group, who allowed me to view their incredible contribution. I seek leave to tender to the House the document they gave to me, entitled 'Sisters for Sisters: a publication by the Aboriginal women's group on domestic violence'.

Leave granted.