The Greens are committed to ending domestic and family violence. Read our speech supporting legislation to protect and support victims and their families.
Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 10:51 :45 ): I lead for The Greens in debate on the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016 and express The Greens' support for the bill. It is important to acknowledge for those who have joined us in the public gallery that we must be sensitive when talking about domestic and family violence because, unfortunately, its reach into our community is such that there would be nobody in the Chamber or the gallery who does not have personal experience of or a connection with somebody who has experienced domestic and personal violence.
It is important for us to say upfront that domestic violence is not inevitable; it is not something that we need to live with. Just like poverty and other issues, there are ways to work together to eliminate domestic and family violence for all time, and we should be committed to working towards that aim. The bill seeks to address one element of this objective by giving effect to the recommendations of the statutory review of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 and the statutory review of chapter 9A of the Coroners Act 2009—the Domestic Violence Death Review Team.
The Greens are supportive of many of the provisions in the bill, noting the positive changes that it will implement to better protect members of our community who are victims of domestic and personal assault. I acknowledge the work of my Greens' colleague in the other place Dr Mehreen Faruqi, who has worked tirelessly with people in the sector to prevent domestic violence in our community. Schedule 1 to the bill amends the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. It expands the definition of "domestic relationships" to include two people who have had a relationship with the same person—for example, a woman's ex-partner and current partner would have a domestic relationship with each other. Practically, this means that the new partner of a domestic violence victim could also seek an apprehended domestic violence order [ADVO] if they were being harassed by an abusive former partner.
It also categorises a number of additional offences from the Crimes Act 1900 as personal violence offences. A personal violence offence can result in an apprehended violence order, which in a domestic relationship will be treated as an apprehended domestic violence order. In short, the addition of those offences will give greater scope to someone to apply for an ADVO. Schedule 1 also introduces into the objects of the Act the particular impact of domestic violence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons, persons from culturally and linguistically diverse background, persons from gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities, older persons and persons with disabilities. It removes the 28-day limit on the provisional ADVO, closing the gap just in case a final ADVO has not been served in time, and it allows the court to proceed with an application for an ADVO if one or more of the parties is absent if the court is satisfied that there was enough notice of the proceedings and that it is in the interests of justice to make such an order.
The bill also restricts the ability of the court to impose court costs against a protected person unless the claim is frivolous and vexatious, and it ensures that a child who appears in court cannot be asked questions directly by the defendant. That is obviously important in cases where defendants represent themselves in court. The bill also gives effect to the Government's plain English ADVO reforms announced in November 2015, which are designed to increase defendants' understanding of, and compliance with, orders. It also revises the threshold for making an ADVO. Currently, the Act nominates 55 existing criminal offences that are grounds for seeking and reinstating an order. The bill expands that list to include all New South Wales and Commonwealth criminal offences when committed in a domestic relationship where a perpetrator intends to intimidate or coerce a victim— for example, sending an abusive text message or attacking a victim's pet.
Schedule 2 to the bill makes several amendments to the Coroners Act 2009. It will align the definition of "domestic relationship" to the corresponding definition in the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 to ensure that all domestic violence related deaths are reviewed by the Domestic Violence Death Review Team. It ensures that Indigenous representation will be added to the Domestic Violence Death Review Team to assist in identifying gaps in service delivery and to provide information, expertise and perspectives on issues particularly affecting Indigenous populations. While The Greens welcome and support the bill and many of its provisions, we wish to flag potential areas of concern that have been raised, particularly by the Women's Legal Service NSW.
The Women's Legal Service NSW has raised a number of concerns with the Attorney General and we ask that these be considered and responded to in this place. In particular, the legal service notes that, while the bill includes a number of additional offences, several offences that are not infrequently related to domestic violence matters have not been included. These include section 51A of the Crimes Act, predatory driving; section 53 of the Crimes Act, injuries by furious driving; and section 54 of the Crimes Act, causing grievous bodily harm. The Women's Legal Service also notes that the bill changes the timing of reports of the Domestic Violence Review Team—Opposition members have spoken about that in the House today—requiring it to prepare a report for Parliament once every two years. Currently the reporting is done once a year.
The Women's Legal Service believes it is important that systemic issues are identified and made public in a timely manner so improvements that could save lives can also occur in a timely manner. The Greens recognise and support this position but we also acknowledge that this recommendation appears to have come from the Coroner's office. The Coroner has said that an annual review does not give the office enough time to monitor the implementation of previous recommendations and the development of evidence-based policy. The important question that needs to be answered here is whether the Coroner's office is making this recommendation because of a lack of resources to do this monitoring in real time and annually. If that is the case, it is unacceptable and we need to allocate more resources to enable it to happen. If it is for other reasons, and it seems that two-year monitoring is a better option, then it would be good to hear what those reasons are. But a lack of resources is not an excuse for changing the monitoring and time line for something as significant as this.
The Greens note also that the bill focuses primarily on law and order. It is important that we always look at the broader need to integrate approaches to address domestic violence in our community. We need effective strategies that stop gender inequality, which research shows is the primary indicator for domestic violence in a society. Shoestring budgets for the areas that support services such as refuges, crisis centres and other specific services need to be changed. We need more investment to be made in those services, not just attention to be paid to the law and order aspects of addressing domestic violence. It is also important to recognise that if we are to address this problem it is not enough simply to address Aboriginal persons, Torres Strait Islanders and other minor groups who are particularly impacted by domestic violence; we must recognise the need to fund specific and tailored support services for them—services that include, but are not limited to, services in their own language that are supported by their own communities.
When it comes to domestic violence, prevention is key. We must move up the cycle of violence and invest significantly in preventative strategies and programs to identify and support those at risk. We must say that domestic violence is not inevitable. We must end the need for the project run by researchers from the Destroy the Joint Group where they spend their time counting the number of women who die in Australia from domestic violence each year. That count stands at 30 in only the first few months of this year—to May. We must get to a point where we do not need those projects anymore. We must eliminate violence against women in our community. We must put a stop to it, and that means investing in the services, approaching it in a holistic way and making sure that we deal with prevention rather than just punishing the perpetrators.