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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6892


Senator KETTER (Queensland) (20:14): In the midst of the political drama that we have experienced in the past 24 hours, it is very important to remember that there are many women and children who are tonight terrified in their own homes. Feeling safe at home is a basic human right and one which many of us take for granted.

I rise tonight to draw attention to the national crisis in this country of domestic violence. This is an issue that transcends age, culture, faith, circumstance and socioeconomic status. As journalist Jess Hill wrote in her article for The Monthly:

The statistics are now well known: a woman is murdered at least every week, another hospitalised every three hours.

As a man, father, husband and senator, I call on the men of Australia to play their part in being good role models to younger men. Domestic violence is a national emergency. Sixty-two women have died in Australia this year at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. As a father of three daughters, I was mortified by the news last week from my home state of Queensland.

The shocking events in Queensland have once again highlighted the need for urgent action to tackle the scourge of family violence in Australia. There were three horrific events in one week. Tara Brown, a Gold Coast woman, died in hospital last week after her estranged partner allegedly rammed her car off the road and then proceeded to brutally bash her as she lay trapped in the wreckage. The following day, Karina Lock was allegedly shot dead on the Gold Coast by her former husband. A few hours earlier, another Brisbane woman, Zarah Abdi, was allegedly attacked with a machete by an ex-partner. In the last week we have seen the death of two women and a six-year-old.

The statistics are clear: the ABS found that, in 2012, 87 per cent of domestic violence victims were women. I do not believe that we should demonise all men. Men are part of the solution. In 2013 the World Health Organization found that violence against women is a violation of human rights that affects more than one-third of all women, and is a 'global public health problem of epidemic proportions'. Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety notes that, in Australia, domestic violence is the most prevalent form of violence experienced by women, and a woman is more likely to be assaulted in her home by a male partner than anywhere else or by anyone else. It is known that the majority of those who experience domestic violence are women, and such violence affects members of all cultures, ages and socioeconomic groups.

I note that a number of risk factors and at-risk groups have been identified. Key research findings demonstrate that, for example, alcohol and drug use can lead to higher levels of aggression by perpetrators. A study found that between 2000 and 2006, 44 per cent of all intimate partner homicides and 87 per cent of Indigenous intimate partner homicides were alcohol related. I am also very concerned to note that pregnancy is one of the risk factors which may intensify the risk of domestic violence. A quarter of women who experienced partner violence since the age of 15 reported experiencing domestic violence for the first time from a previous partner while pregnant. Separated women are more likely to experience violence than married women, and it is most common for women to experience violence from a male ex-partner.

Young women are more likely to have recently experienced violence than older women. Researchers suggest that inexperience, age differences in relationships and a lack of access to services exacerbate younger women's vulnerability to violence. Indigenous women and their children are more likely to experience violence than any other section of society. When compared to non-Indigenous women, Indigenous women are five times more likely to be homicide victims. Rates of domestic assault reported to police are also more than six times higher for Indigenous women. Also of concern is that women in rural and remote areas have a higher reported incidence of domestic violence than women in metropolitan settings. Those in rural and remote areas who have experienced domestic violence may lack access to services, transport and telecommunications and suffer a lack of anonymity.

This vexed issue requires bipartisan support. It should be above politics. In March Labor called on then Prime Minister Abbott to hold a national crisis summit, bringing together Commonwealth, state and territory governments, law enforcement, service providers, experts and survivors to urgently agree and implement judicial and service reforms to tackle family violence. Labor previously committed to holding such a summit within 100 days of being elected to form government.

Given the horrific events in Queensland over the past week or so, I want to commend the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, for announcing earlier this week immediate changes to the way police stations handle individual domestic violence complaints; the fast-tracking of the rollout of 300 body-worn cameras on the Gold Coast; and plans to implement a death review panel. As Dame Quentin Bryce, the chair of the Premier's Implementation Council for Domestic and Family Violence, said over the weekend in Queensland: the first response is absolutely critical. Unfortunately, the police and the criminal justice systems are commonly criticised for not treating domestic violence seriously enough. I am very pleased to see that, in Queensland, domestic violence complaints will now be prioritised. Domestic violence victims will move to the front of the queue. Senior police will be forced to sign off on any complaint, ensuring that women like Tara Brown—who, according to media reports, was turned away by police—do not fall through the cracks.

We need more education. The Queensland Premier is right when she says that the biggest change must be socially borne. If you are out in a pub and someone is not doing the right thing, then call them out on it and say, 'Come on mate—that's not the way you do it.' So I commend the Palaszczuk government for fast-tracking legislation in this area.

I also want to raise a huge challenge for our society, which is the portrayal of women in misogynistic lyrics in popular music. Society's attitudes towards women play a role in the justification of violence against women. The Tasmanian Commissioner of Police, Mr Darren Hine, has said: 'We are all responsible for shifting social norms that blame, excuse, minimise and justify violence against women and their children.' The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has reported a tremendous increase in the representation of violence against women, particularly sexual violence, in the media.

In conclusion, I would like to urge incoming Prime Minister Turnbull to commit to holding a national crisis summit. I will leave you with this chilling statistic: that, as of 6.30 this evening, police in Australia will have dealt with, on average, 509 domestic violence matters in the course of today. This is unacceptable. Our country is in a crisis, and it needs to be resolved. If anyone listening is experiencing domestic and family violence they should ring the Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800811811. And, if you know someone who is in danger or you are in danger, ring 000.