Crucial amendments have been made by the Legislative Council to the Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020. These amendments will go a long way to improve the outcomes for victim survivors of domestic and family violence in the State.
"The Greens support the Legislative Council's amendments. They are clearly in line with the key asks from stakeholders who have been working and advocating for a long time in the space around domestic violence. The amendments will go a long way to improve the outcomes for victim survivors of domestic and family violence in the State. I give a particular shout out to Hayley Foster and the team at Women's Safety NSW and Liz Snell and the team at Domestic Violence NSW for all of their impressive and strong advocacy and expertise, without which these important reforms would not have been achieved. The bill is the result of decades of work from both of these organisations but also advocates for domestic violence reform in our justice system across the State. I commend them for their tenacity and support.
I also acknowledge the work of my colleague and fellow feminist in the other place Ms Abigail Boyd who is The Greens domestic violence spokesperson in New South Wales, and her team, Alysha, Matthew and Danielle, for their efforts in getting some vital amendments across the line. Members know it is one thing to be able to provide a level of commitment and support to these ideas, but to go about the complex effort of drafting the amendments and negotiating to get them up is a whole new level of complexity. I understand and acknowledge the heavy lifting done by Abigail and her office to work with the Minister, the Animal Justice Party and others in the upper House to deliver on these amendments for the sector. The sector has been calling for these changes for so long and sometimes what it takes is a fierce feminist and activist who is committed to seeing these reforms in the other place, and The Greens certainly have that in my colleague Ms Abigail Boyd. We feel that the bill has been improved because we have had a collaborative working arrangement with the Minister, the Attorney General and the other parties involved in the discussions around the bill.
I highlight in particular The Greens amendment to insert a new provision that a court could direct parts of domestic violence offence proceedings be held in camera. Currently in New South Wales all domestic violence hearings take place in an open court, which means that victim survivors are often faced with the prospect of giving evidence about deeply personal matters, including violence and abuse, in front of family and friends and the defendant's family and friends, and anyone else who happens to wander into the courtroom. Obviously, this can be extremely confronting and invasive and can significantly impact whether or not they attend court at all. This amendment means victim survivors now have the right to have their matters heard in a closed court, removing a significant barrier that currently deters many women from attending court. This will vastly improve the justice outcomes for women and increase the likelihood of offenders being successfully held to account. This is an important reform.
The other important reform that is crucial to highlight was originally a Greens amendment but was eventually moved by the Government, and I hope shows the level of collaboration and commitment to this reform. This is something that has been advocated for for decades by key stakeholders, by domestic violence advocates and feminist activists within this space. This amendment means that defendants who are not represented can no longer directly cross-examine the victim survivor on the evidence that they have given against the defendant. I do not say this lightly, but this amendment loosens the hold of the patriarchy on our justice system and that is very welcome to women and victim survivors in the State. It is clear that a perpetrator being given the opportunity to directly interrogate their victim survivor in open court is unacceptable, but until now it has been accepted practice.
By the time the victim survivor reaches the courtroom they have already relived the experience. The idea of being interrogated in a public forum by their abuser is extremely distressing. It is one of the main reasons why many women choose to not go to court and pursue charges. These significant barriers to justice have now been removed. Again, I commend all of those involved for getting us here; Women's Safety NSW, Domestic Violence NSW, the many domestic violence advocates, feminists and allies. I acknowledge the work of the Minister and the Attorney General on the bill. The bill also recognises that animal abuse is a form of domestic violence in New South Wales. That is a win for providing people with protection in the State."