Posted on 17. May, 2011 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I am pleased to join the debate on the Family Violence Protection Amendment (Safety Notices) Bill 2011. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this bill. As many members of the house have already mentioned, the family is a place for love, trust, protection and comfort and for personal growth and support. Sadly, that is not always the case, as we have heard many times from other speakers.

When violence occurs within the family, some members of the family are particularly vulnerable to physical, sexual or mental harm. Once the euphemism ‘a domestic’ was used to mask something more serious. A domestic was something a bit embarrassing that polite people did not talk about, an event that diverted police from dealing with more serious crimes. The attitude was, as the title of one 1970s book on family violence put it, ‘Scream quietly or the neighbours will hear’.

But these days the community recognises that family violence is a serious issue requiring a range of responses, including comprehensive legislation and committed resources through the police, the courts and social support. I agree with the honourable member for Derrimut, who mentioned that we have a very proud record of providing just that, especially under the leadership of former Attorney‑General Rob Hulls.

From the perspective of a multicultural Victorian I would particularly like to say that no matter what bill we introduce, the cultural boundaries are such that domestic violence is pretty well hidden, particularly in my community — that is, the Chinese community. Three weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak in Sydney at the national conference of the Chinese community about the fact that the Chinese community had to come of age and people had to stop trying to protect its so‑called honour by not speaking out. The degree of domestic violence in the Chinese community is as high as it is in any other community, yet I do not think it has been brought to the attention of the authorities. This also means that resources have not been appropriately directed to supporting the Chinese community. I would particularly like to see this addressed.

Interestingly enough, this past weekend in all the major dailies — the Herald Sun, the Australian and the Age — it was reported that domestic violence had been a particular focus of attention for the federal government. The government advertised a national plan to reduce violence against women and their children as part of the Community Action Grants funding round. This is a funding provision of $3 million over a period of three years, and each community organisation can apply for up to $250 000 over that three‑year period. I hope the Chinese community will take up this offer and the challenge of addressing meaningfully the domestic violence problem that has been hidden.

For a local member there is another aspect to this issue. Many other members have mentioned that violence comes in many forms, including both physical abuse and mental abuse. However, members may not be aware or may not have come across other forms of violence perpetrated against women, particularly those in the migrant community. These women may be here as a sponsored spouse, and they may be subjected to horrendous treatment. This is related to financial control. If a bride or spousal member does not behave, they may be threatened with being sent back or subjected to traditional ways of treating daughters‑in‑law. They may be subjected to tremendous psychological violence which may impair them for a long time, or they may end up being divorced or forced to seek refuge elsewhere. That again is another major problem. This bill means a lot to my community, and I am truly supportive of every aspect of it.

Let me come back to the focus of the bill. A nine‑year trend analysis prepared by the Victims Support Agency and published by the Victorian government’s Department of Justice in 2009 contains important data. The report is entitled Measuring Family Violence in Victoria — Nine‑Year Trend Analysis — Victorian Family Violence Database. The key findings, a number of which are intuitive and well understood, appear on pages 16 and 17. For example, among patients presenting to Victorian public hospital emergency departments, 75 per cent of adult females had experienced their injury by being struck by another person. Only 26 per cent of adult males had experienced this type of injury. Three‑quarters of adult women, compared with 40 per cent of men, sustained their injury within their home. Another issue that is also now better understood is elder abuse, whereby older parents are vulnerable to assault by their children.

Of particular importance in considering this bill are two key findings. Firstly, and I quote from page 16:

One of the main reasons family violence victims often remain in abusive situations is due to a lack of affordable and safe housing options.

Secondly, in many of the cases recorded there was no active intervention order. Again, I quote:

According to the police data, only one‑quarter of the incidents they attended had an active intervention order at the time they were called out.

The report further states:

More than one‑third of aggrieved family members who were very fearful of the perpetrator did not have an active intervention order in place and more than 40 per cent of incidents where the violence was reported to be getting worse also did not have an active intervention order in place.

In addition:

Aggrieved family members with multiple reports to the police for previous family violence incidents are less likely to have an active intervention order in place.

Family violence safety notices are a critical measure in allowing the police to take quick action, and that is the focus of this bill. They were introduced by the previous government on an interim basis in 2008, and the sunset clause of that act is removed by this bill.

Unfortunately the Attorney‑General has been somewhat churlish in spending much of his second‑reading speech on attacking the previous government for introducing family violence safety notices on an interim basis. He is obviously still in opposition mode, but it is not appropriate to play partisan politics in this case. Just because something is introduced on an interim basis or has a sunset clause does not mean it will be scrapped at the end of the period. It is often the means to allow a quick response and to pilot and evaluate prior to a permanent arrangement.

For the record, an evaluation of family violence safety notices was conducted by Thomson Goodall Associates. It was presented to the Victorian family violence round table. The evaluation found that overall family violence safety notices were working. It is very important for all of us to remember that. Without much more to say, I commend the bill to the house. It goes a long way to further strengthening action against family violence in this state.


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