Speech on domestic and family violence

In Parliament | 13.10.16

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE ( 16:39): Today I attended two events focusing on the scourge of domestic and family violence in Australia. I started the morning at the Rosie Batty Breakfast. It was the first time I had heard Rosie Batty speak in person and I was glad to have the opportunity. Rosie talked about the impact of domestic and family violence in our community.

The numbers are truly frightening. I feel I again need to put those numbers on the record in this place as many others have before me and again talk about the need for us to do more to prevent domestic violence. On average at least one woman a week is a killed in Australia by a partner or former partner. A few people have been hurt by sharks recently and there is no doubt that is a problem; however, as the great Annabel Crabb said:

I am a feminist because it bothers me that a woman gets killed by her male partner every single week, and somehow that doesn't qualify as a tools-down national crisis even though if a man got killed by a shark every week we'd probably arrange to have the ocean drained.

I repeat that we are losing one woman a week to domestic violence in this country. One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.

Women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. Woman are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence and they are five times more likely to report fearing for their lives. Of the women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care.

Those numbers are horrifying, yet we continue to tinker around the edges. No-one is denying that we have made great progress in law reform and the operation of the courts or that we have invested in services over time. However, the reality is that the small amount of money given to the community legal services that support women leaving violence is about to be cut by 30 per cent.

Rosie Batty today spent a long time trying to answer the question of why women do not leave. She was exactly right when she said that women do not leave because that is when they and their children are most at risk. She said no-one can understand the fear of knowing that taking that brave step means you are the most in danger of losing your life. That is the situation in which many Australian women find themselves every day.

Domestic violence costs us in our families and our workplaces every day.

That leads me to discuss the second event I attended today, which was a rally held behind Parliament House. The rally organised by the unions was to put to Fair Work Australia the notion that every Australian worker should have access to 10 days domestic violence leave as a basic workplace standard.

The leave will be separate to sick leave and carer's leave. It is about saying that we understand the prevalence of violence in our communities and know that many women workers are suffering from violence every day, whether it is visible or not. It is about saying that we are willing to give them the time and space to allow them to sort out their lives and become safe. Importantly, domestic violence leave will allow women to keep their job and financial security as they go through a tumultuous change escaping violence.

The unions today made two very modest requests of this Government. One is that Mike Baird stands up through the Council of Australian Governments process and backs in the idea that women experiencing domestic violence be entitled to 10 days domestic violence leave as a basic standard. If we were able to implement that we would do a great service in supporting the women of Australia to leave violent situations and be safe in their lives.

Unfortunately, it does not look as though the Premier he has done that yet. Today I ask him to consider it.

I thank particularly the Australian Services Union that has led the charge on this matter and got all other unions involved. It was great to see those blue collar union members standing up and supporting this leave as a basic right for the women in their workplaces.

It is not too late for Mike Baird to advocate for 10 days domestic violence leave as an Australian workplace standard. Let us make a real difference for women in this country and give them the support they need to break free from domestic violence.

HANSARD - NSW Legislative Council, 13 October 2016