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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12291

Ms KEARNEY (Batman) (19:26): I rise to speak to the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2018. Labor supports this bill in principle, but we note that it falls far short of Labor's commitment to introduce 10 days of paid domestic and family violence leave. I thank Senators Marshall, O'Neill and Waters for their dissenting report, following the Senate inquiry into this bill, which lays out the reasons for the need for paid leave.

Way back in 2008 or 2009, when I was still federal secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, as it was called then, I was contacted by a woman called Ludo McFerran, who ran a small outfit called the Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse, an organisation dedicated to working for the eradication of domestic violence and to helping survivors. I met with Ludo, who I quickly realised had a life's passion to help people experiencing this violence, to raise awareness about the issue, to bring it into the realm of consciousness of our legislators and to find best-practice initiatives to stop it. She was driven, but in a gentle, determined and somewhat strident way. She told me she had had a revelation of sorts. All the while she had been trying to work with governments, with police, with employers and with other organisations and policymakers, and still the issue of family and domestic violence was not raised in prominence, was not being properly addressed, was not getting the traction that it deserved with legislators or policymakers, and was not being taken seriously enough by the justice system. Women were dying. In fact, right now, one woman a week dies at the hands of a domestic partner or someone she knows intimately. It is a national shame. The issue of a young boy who was tragically king-hit in Kings Cross rightly got immediate media attention and a legislative outcome, yet the issue of hundreds and hundreds of women being violently killed receives barely any attention.

Returning to Ludo, she told me she realised that a new path had to be forged, a path that would raise awareness, destigmatise the problem for women survivors, create effective outcomes, and focus policy and, ultimately, specific legislation. In forging that new path, she turned her mind to the union movement. It was a sunny, bright day that I joined with her, Tanya Plibersek, and comrades from the NTEU at the University of New South Wales. This was a union meeting to discuss the insertion of a clause that specifically allowed for paid family and domestic violence leave into the EBA being negotiated with the university. The clause had been developed in conjunction with Ludo and the clearing house. It not only went to paid leave but also to the development of training for HR staff and line managers to help them work through options with staff experiencing family and domestic violence leave. It dealt with issues of safety for the employees and managers, from perpetrators coming onsite, and with the privacy of the workers who were affected.

As a nurse, I had seen firsthand the pain and suffering of the physical and psychological consequences of being attacked by a partner or intimate other. I saw the shame and, often, the lies that went with presentation at hospital. I saw the impacts on the children in the family and I saw all too often the complete desperation and despair when there was nowhere else to go. I relayed my experiences to the union members, encouraging them to continue to fight hard to get the clause up in their EBA. Unfortunately, they were not successful. The university would not include such a clause, but they did develop a comprehensive policy position, and a trajectory had begun.

Debate interrupted.