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Monday, 23 October 2017
Page: 11473

Ms HUSAR (Lindsay) (11:14): This is too familiar a subject area for me to stand in this place and speak from the data, the statistics or the need to do more. Sure, all of those things are true, and I thank sincerely the member for Fowler for his advocacy and all of the speakers who have contributed to the debate on this motion. I thank them for their awareness and their commitment to the thousands and thousands of victims of domestic and family violence, of whom there are too many, whose stories are too common and whose lifetimes are too deeply affected.

Last year I stood in this place and delivered my own personal account of my experience of family violence. I shared that in here because too often we rattle off statistics and speak as policymakers about the nation's greatest shame but rarely speak as experienced survivors. It had a profound effect not just here but around the world, and I want to place on record my thanks to the thousands of people who watched it, who shared it, who opened up, who disclosed and who shared their own personal stories and to those who reached out.

I think the reason this had such an impact was that it gave people, childhood survivors, women who are victims and those who work in that space the permission to speak honestly and freely about their experiences. It was a reminder of how powerful this place can really be. The stories and disclosures of so many people flooded my office—some of true horror. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with this subject area or who question our nation's need to do more to address this, I want to read into the Hansard the comments from brave survivors who shared with me their own stories following that speech last year.

A woman says:

I too grew up in a house filled with chaos, alcohol and violence. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes at that very admission—it is a secret I hold close, shared only with my 3 siblings.

so thank you for sharing your story as a professional woman, a Mum, a victim, a survivor. I do not have your courage, yet.

But absolutely take strength from yours.

Another woman reflects on her own childhood. She says that, as a woman:

… I am, at age 62, still astonished at the ongoing effect … on me. 'Surely I can put it behind me now' … are words often echoing in my head, and mostly,

I do.

Another survivor said:

Bravo … I spent my childhood in perpetual fear, I was abused institutionally and in the family abode. I watched for years—


my mother was almost daily bashed … she was in a wheelchair with only use of one arm. She relied on us kids—

to do everything for her. The account continued:

My siblings and I never said anything about our abuse … because no one wanted to know.

A child trapped in the cycle shared her story:

I also grew up in a similar situation. My mother stayed as she had no choice. Along with my sisters, there were five of us, we were subjected to watching the physical and emotional violence my mother endured at the hands of our father; the times as a small child we had to do the shopping for my mother, who didn't want to—

go out—

with a blackened eye.

Another woman said:

On one occasion I hid in the property next-door. The neighbours came home and I had to hurtle past them and retreat back to my own house.

I was so embarrassed—nothing was ever said about it. I know they saw me … perhaps they just knew.

Another person said:

My mum would put us to bed—

one night—

and then suddenly decide to go on a holiday for 10 days without telling us, we thought it was odd until we realised she was spending her holidays in hospital. That was many years ago, for me, I have never spoken of this not even to my own wife.

Perhaps the email from a legal professional best sums it up:

It is only by sharing stories and making the owners of these stories visible that we can ever hope to change the attitudes of many in the community and improve the lives of children.

In the work that I do within the Court I confront these attitudes daily and am especially dismayed at the ignorance of so many … lawyers and other professionals.

These are a handful of stories shared with me. They are all unique. They all happened. They all have a theme.

The shame and the degree to which this is hidden in plain sight continue today. We have an obligation to change the story for so many children growing up in the cycle of violence, and we should. There isn't a single person in this country who should not feel empowered to do something about this. We need to ensure that victims can access paid domestic violence leave. We need to get our Family Court system right so that it does not continue to traumatise already traumatised people. It's time to end the ability of perpetrators of domestic violence to cross-examine their victims. We need to acknowledge that one in three victims is a woman, and one woman is dying each week.

This White Ribbon Day, I again urge people to take action. I've now become an accredited White Ribbon advocate. I've applied for my own electorate office to become a White Ribbon accredited workplace. I will be challenging my community of Lindsay, which has the second highest rate of domestic violence in metropolitan New South Wales, to do the same thing. I commend the member for Fowler for this motion, and I thank every person who works in this place every day to end the scourge of domestic violence.