Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

COMMITTEE REPORT: Finance and Public Administration References Committee - Domestic Violence in Australia

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (16:04): I think you can tell from the contributions made by a few of the people who have had the honour to be involved in this committee what an experience we have shared over the last few months. Our chair, Senator Gallagher, has stepped in and been able to report this afternoon on the recommendations and the process which we followed. Like Senator Waters, I am echoing Senator Bernardi, which is one of those special moments-this committee has made some great changes even in that. Senator Bernardi acknowledged the work that Senator Gallagher has done in bringing together a unified report. When you have such an important issue it is always difficult-as you would understand from your own experience, Mr Acting Deputy President-to pull together a range of people and policies in a way that can come up with a strong unity. This is part of the power of this report.

As always in this place I am amazed and humbled by the strength of the people who choose to come and talk with our committees. When we ask them a question, and say that this is something we want to hear about, we are overwhelmed with the response. In this case I urge people who are interested to look at the names of the people who came to our committee and shared with us what they believe is important in our community about the issues around domestic and family violence. Over 165 people and organisations, who have incredible knowledge and commitment over years of service in our community, shared with us what they think has happened, what should happen, their pain and a combination of genuine hope and frustration. There is a real sense of hope at the moment that this is the moment when Australia has acknowledged that there is a genuine issue around family violence in our country. We have always known it has been there, and in fact there have been times when there have been little outbreaks of information or concern. But over the last year or so-and no-one quite knows why-there has been a concentration of commitment in our nation to say, 'We have a problem.' The horror of the problem is clear when we see the statistics-and there are pages of statistics in this report-that talk about the number of women, children and men who are harmed directly, physically and emotionally, and indirectly by this sense of violence in our community. We know we must do something about it. The terms crisis and emergency have been mentioned many times. In this case, one of the things we wanted to do as a committee was acknowledge the work that has been done.

We acknowledge that there has been extraordinary work done over many years on the issues in our community. In fact, this report comes down at the same time as governments at the state level, in the Queensland community and in the Victorian community, have committed to their own work in the areas of domestic violence. The royal commission in Victoria has actually given great hope for many people in terms of evidence that is being gathered as we speak on what is happening in the Victorian community, which can also lead to the knowledge that we are gaining. I see our report as one more part of gathering knowledge about what we should do and one more part of a commitment to what we will do in the future-because this is an active report.

The 25 recommendations in this report plus the other recommendations that have come from individuals, added to the recommendations made by the interim report, all lead into a direct action response. The expectation is that people will read and learn and then act. Consistently in the recommendations we talk about building on the foundations that are already in place. The national plan, which we talked about many times, is the infrastructure for how we as a nation can work together to address the issues of violence against women and children. As Senator Gallagher said, there was acknowledgement that this work has been worth while.

In the recommendations we put forward, based on the evidence that came to our committee, we recommended that there needs to be much more coordination of work and sharing of knowledge and ideas. It still frustrates me very much-and this is a comment that we make consistently in this place around a range of issues-that we as a nation seem not to be able to gather our strength to respond to the challenges we face. There is no clearer evidence of that than with the issues of family violence. To me, there does not seem to be much difference in violence in any community in this country. The impact of violence is the same, though we do not know all the causes. I want to quote from ANROWS, which is our national research body. One of our recommendations actually talks about the fact that we need to ensure that there is secure funding into the future so that this effective professional research will continue. ANROWS said:

There is no single cause of domestic violence. It is best understood as a result of the interaction of factors at the individual, family, community and societal levels encompassing, for example, attitudes to women and gender roles within relationships, family and peer support for these attitudes, and social and economic gender inequality in the broader societal context. Alcohol and economic stress can be triggers, or contributing factors, which may exacerbate domestic violence but they are not causes.

We need to know what the causes are and we need to know how to respond to those causes.

Senator Gallagher went through the recommendations on data-and I know that we continually talk about getting effective data to learn and the changes that have to happen. The recommendation I really want to focus on is the recommendation that goes to education in our community and in our schools at every level. We need to ensure that strength is provided to our community through effective education that provides knowledge of how to respond and how to exclude and remove violence in our community. Until we do that, we will always have the vulnerability and the power dynamic where people will be harmed and there will be the turn towards violence to respond to an issue. No-one could listen to the evidence that we received in our inquiry without acknowledging that the pain and damage must stop. In fact, that is a genuine commitment. We need to ensure that in our schools, at every level, young people are given the strength to understand that there does not need to be a resort to violence, with all the implementations and all the follow-up that occurs. We need to get modelling in terms of how truly respectful relationships can be entrenched as the norm.

This report must feed into all the discussions and the contributions that will happen into the future around this issue. We have the central structure. The plan already pulls together states, territories, organisations and advisory groups that have a commitment and an understanding. But that knowledge must be effectively shared and translated into action. In our additional comments we proposed that a summit be held in our country to would allow people to come together with the single focus of looking at family violence in our community. This would not be any kind of contest like, 'My response is better than yours and my experience is stronger than yours and you have to listen to my efforts so that you can learn'; this would be an opportunity for people who have the commitment and knowledge to get together and say, 'We can make a difference and we have the opportunity to do that, fully supported by governments at every level in our nation-state, territory and federal providing that support and showing an openness to listen and to learn. What happens sometimes with government is that there is a tendency to tell the community what should happen rather than listen to the community and translate that into action.

I really hope that people take the opportunity to read the report and to have a look at the submissions, because this report, as good as it is, cannot truly reflect the real experiences and knowledge of the over 160 people and organisations who contributed to this inquiry. We have the chance to continue to work together on this, and I know that this will stay on the agenda so that people will be able to talk to it in the future. I think a challenge that governments can take up is to genuinely commit, as our committee did, to a unified response. If the knowledge and the passion of the people who told us of their experience and gave their advice can be translated into action, we would have the strength, the knowledge and the challenge to say that our nation cannot be traumatised by the horror of family violence into the future. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.