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Issue #1851      December 5, 2018


Governments fail to act on domestic violence

Domestic violence is a major problem in Australia. It’s a form of abuse which may include obsessive control of the victim’s movements, social contacts and/or finances. The majority of domestic violence victims are women and children but they also include men and members of the LGBTIQ community. About 16 million Australian women have experienced domestic violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. In the 12 months until October 25 this year, 68 women and 12 children died as a result of domestic violence, on average more than one every week.

A new survey has revealed that only a small percentage of Australians now regard consumption of alcohol as an excuse for domestic violence; that men have the right to non-consensual sex in marriage; or that incidents of violence are a private family issue. Unfortunately, an emerging minority claim that women exaggerate problems of violence or inequality.

State and federal governments have funded awareness programs resulting in greater public awareness of the issues and an increase in demand for the specialist services that women require to leave their abusive partners. Unfortunately, at the same time there has been a massive cut in funding for refuges and other services, causing a catastrophic reduction in the number of places where women and their children can seek shelter. As a result, they are often left with little option but to share the minimal charitable accommodation available with men. Legal Aid is also grossly under funded and failing to meet demand.

The Morrison Coalition government now wants to introduce legislation to allow women to access their superannuation savings, in order to help them cope financially after family separation. But why should women have to sacrifice their retirement income to cope with the aftermath of domestic violence of which they are the victims? The government should offer them financial relief so they wouldn’t have to take this drastic step.

The government has introduced legislation to provide victims of domestic violence five days unpaid leave to tackle the multitude of housing, legal, schooling, health and other matters. But why should it be unpaid leave? And only five days, which is nowhere near long enough for them to re-establish their lives in such circumstances? Some unions have gained longer paid leave periods, public sector employees of some state governments already have paid leave, such as in South Australia where they are entitled to 15 days domestic violence leave. New Zealand has granted victims a minimum 10 days paid leave.

Another Stolen Generation

Despite opposition from the Greens, Labor and more than 70 community organisations, the NSW government is implementing a new family dispute policy which will re-enact the Stolen Generation tragedy and affect both Indigenous and non-Indigenous families.

Under the new legislation, in cases where children have been placed in foster care because of domestic violence, the birth parents will have two years to gain reinstatement as primary carers, but if they haven’t achieved reinstatement by then, the children will be given to others for guardianship or adoption.

The NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward says the intention is to prevent children remaining in foster care. She admitted that, “After two or three years in the foster care option, their chances of being returned to a family are extremely low.” However, she effectively blamed her own Department’s employees, commenting “Our view is the Department of Family Services needs to be greater in its sense of urgency.”

Tim Ireland, CEO of AbSec, the NSW peak body for Indigenous children, stated: “... these harmful new laws have been passed in the face of serious concerns from Aboriginal communities as well as the child protection and community service sectors.

“The fact that the NSW government rushed these changes through Parliament without real engagement ... with any of these parties shows that they are not interested in effective reform [or] working with the experts on the ground and investing in true, long-term solutions for the most vulnerable aboriginal children in NSW. ... the lifelong wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal children is at risk here.”

Next article – Farewell to Daniel

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