NAGPUR: Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court ruled that denying kid's custody to mother amounts to domestic violence.
The court rejected Mumbai-based husband's plea that challenged Amravati JMFC's verdict of October 10, 2015, granting interim custody of a prematurely born baby to his mother in the case of domestic violence filed by her against in-laws.
"Any denial of interim custody to mother would result in harming her mental health and thus, cause domestic violence," justice Sunil Shukre held.
Criminalizing a woman for her male partner's abusive behavior toward her children is another type of victim blaming.
Are mothers responsible for the abuse their children suffer at the hands of their male partners? While most of us recognize the complexity involved in trying to protect a child or anyone else from an abuser, the law takes a far less nuanced view -- particularly when it concerns mothers. As a legal scholar who studies how the law is applied unevenly to men and women, I have pored over hundreds of gut-wrenching child abuse cases and observed patterns of prosecution that betray a striking gender asymmetry.
The law disproportionately criminalizes women for failing to protect their children from abuse at the hands of their male partners.
This website is for social workers and other health and social care practitioners to develop their knowledge and skills in working with situations of coercive control.
Coercive control is now recognised as the behaviour that underpins domestic abuse. It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s sense of self, minimising their freedom of action and violating their human rights.
Family courts excuse male misbehavior, but blame women.
Most family and divorce (hereinafter, “family”) court judges insist that people going through custody and divorce cases are good people, but that they often behave very badly because they are so stressed out by the pressures of the separation and court dispute. 1 The reality, as Massachusetts has found, is that nothing could be further from the truth for the men who abuse their female intimate partners and children (called either “abusers” or “batterers”).
Massachusetts, which has since 1978 allowed its criminal court judges to issue restraining orders against abusers, and which now requires all judges–even the family ones, to consult offender probation records whenever a petition for protection in an abuse case is filed, keeps very careful records which it periodically analyses. It has found that almost 80% of the male abusers have criminal records,2 46% for violent offenses, and 39% have prior restraining orders entered against them and 15% for violating of those orders within the first 6 months. The men with prior orders are almost equally divided between those who have repeatedly abused one victim and those who have abusing multiple victims.3
Under relevant evidentiary standards, the court should not accept testimony regarding parental alienation syndrome, or “PAS.” The theory positing the existence of PAS has been discredited by the scientific community. In Kumho Tire v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999), the Supreme Court ruled that even expert testimony based in the “soft sciences” must meet the standard set in the Daubert case. Daubert, in which the court re-examined the standard it had earlier articulated in the Frye case, requires application of a multi-factor test, including peer review, publication, testability, rate of error, and general acceptance. PAS does not pass this test. Any testimony that a party to a custody case suffers from the syndrome or “parental alienation” should therefore be ruled inadmissible and stricken from the evaluation report under both the standard established in Daubert and the earlier Frye standard.
The discredited “diagnosis” of PAS (or an allegation of “parental alienation”), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the child’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be “alienated” have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the child’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating, or discrediting ways toward the child or the other parent. The task for the court is to distinguish between situations in which the child is critical of one parent because they have been inappropriately manipulated by the other (taking care not to rely solely on subtle indications) , and situations in which the child has his or her own legitimate grounds for criticism or fear of a parent, which will likely be the case when that parent has perpetrated domestic violence. Those grounds do not become less legitimate because the abused parent shares them, and seeks to advocate for the child by voicing his or her concerns.
Written by By Stephanie Dallam for the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.
This study examined judicial responses to protective parents' complaints of child sexual abuse in 300 custody cases with extensive family court records. The investigators found that only in 10% of cases was primary custody was given to the protective parent and supervised contact with alleged abuser. Conversely, 20% of the cases resulted in a predominantly negative outcome where the child was placed in the primary legal and physical custody of the allegedly sexually abusive parent. (see p. 108). In the rest of the cases, the judges awarded joint custody with no provisions for supervised visitation with the alleged abuser.
Victims of Crime Assistance League chief executive Robyn Cotterell-Jones says the Family Court is out of touch with the effects of domestic violence.
A violent man was granted sole custody of his son because he was deemed to be more capable than the boy's mother, who was rebuked for allegedly trying to turn the child against his father.
Among the reasons the Family Court gave for choosing the father to be sole carer is because he was unemployed and, therefore, could "devote all his time to the care of the child", compared with the mother, who worked part-time.
Until recently, victims of domestic violence almost expected to be blamed or ignored by police and the courts. Thankfully, that's beginning to change, in line with a seismic shift in community attitudes. They may be far from perfect, but police and local courts now do a much better job at protecting victims.
There is, however, one judicial institution that hasn't changed with the times.
Stepping into the Family Court can be like entering a parallel universe, where time has stood still for the past 15 years. Here, it's all too common to hear domestic violence being dismissed as 'ancient history', to see the impact of that violence on children minimised or ignored, and for custody to be stripped from one parent for attempting to protect their children from their abusive other parent.
This is not a matter of opinion. It's been documented in report after report for the past 16 years, since the Keating government issued the Family Court with a new guiding principle: that children had a right to regular contact with both parents. Subsequent reforms have failed to undo the damage done.
When I first started investigating the Family Court last year, I found it hard to believe the stories I was hearing. Women who cited their children's abuse allegations in Family Court hearings, and who sought limited or no contact with the alleged abuser, said the court was taking the children out of their care and handing them to their alleged abuser, limiting them to either no contact whatsoever, or a few hours a week in paid supervision centres. These orders were not made because they were found to be bad parents, they said, but because they were unwilling to support their child's relationship with the other parent.
Everyone feels hard done by in the Family Court, so I took each of these stories with a grain of salt. Until I saw their court files. I have personally reviewed hundreds of pages of evidence and judgments in around 15 Family Court cases, and the conclusion is unavoidable. The Family Court does not know how to adequately deal with domestic violence.
Twenty years ago, it was "extremely rare" for a mother to lose care of her children for alleging child abuse, Professor Patrick Parkinson, former chair of the Family Law Council (an advisory body to the federal attorney-general), told The Monthly last year. Today, he says, it's so common that lawyers now tell their clients, "If you make these allegations, you risk losing the care of your child." That leaves the child in the sole care of the alleged abuser - someone the child may themselves have made allegations against.
The Family Law Act requires judges to make custody decisions in the child's best interests. But, as Griffith University criminologist Samantha Jeffries notes, judges are overwhelmingly determining a child's best interests in a way that is "weighted more toward the parental rights of abusers than the safety of children."
Jeffries notes also domestic violence is "ignored or minimised, re-constructed as inconsequential" or passed off as mutual violence, where both parents are equally at fault. She also points to gendered narratives in Family Court judgments, which "call into question women's credibility but not men's (e.g., women manipulate and lie, men are to be taken at face value)... Maintaining abusive fathers' relationships with their children are the primary consideration in determinations of a child's best interests," writes Jeffries. "Achieving this often in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the judiciary... need to make coercively controlling abuse and intimidation 'disappear'."
Family Court judges often have little to no expertise in the dynamics of domestic violence or child abuse. They rely on the evidence put before them to make their decisions, and few pieces of evidence are as crucial - or as influential - as the family report.
In many cases, a family report is written by an employee of the court, often a social worker or a counsellor. It may assess the dynamics of the family, the veracity of the abuse allegations, and the likely impact of certain custody arrangements on the children.
In more complex cases, however, the family report is contracted out to a 'single expert', often a psychologist or psychiatrist in private practice. This single expert will interview the parents and children, typically spending as little as one hour with each, and may interview other family members or friends, and review other written evidence. Their reports are not cheap - they can cost tens of thousands, depending on the expert.
Single experts, particularly psychiatrists, are "the gods of the Family Court", says Professor Patrick Parkinson. Their evidence, he adds, is often considered more reliable than that of child protection workers, and even police. In fact, their influence is considered so great, Legal Aid will often withdraw free representation for clients who receive a negative report.
Chris Rikard-Bell, a psychiatrist in private practice in Sydney, is one of the Family Court's most prolific single experts. He says he's written roughly 2,000 reports in just 25 years, which amounts to 80 reports per year - an impressive feat, given they are often 30-40 pages long.
When I interviewed him last year for Radio National's Background Briefing, he was candid about his attitude towards child abuse allegations in the Family Court. "I think in the Family Court, there are a lot of false allegations," he said. "In my experience, about 90 per cent are unfounded."
When I put this figure to another single expert report writer, Carolyn Quadrio, she shook her head, and said the research showed exactly the opposite. "Something like 80–90 per cent (of allegations) have a reasonable foundation to them when they're investigated," she said.
When I asked Rikard-Bell to explain how he made his assessments, he described his preference for interviewing the child and the alleged abuser together, and asking them to talk about the allegations. None of this is recorded - no single expert interviews are. The only record of what occurs in these interviews is what ends up in the single expert's report. The judge has no way to independently verify what transpired in these interviews.
And yet, there are no minimum standards for a single expert. They are not required to have clinical expertise or training in domestic violence, child abuse, or forensic interviewing. Matthew Myers, now a judge on the Federal Circuit Court (where the vast majority of family law cases are heard), has been explicit about the deficiency of report writers: "Those delivering 'expert evidence' in Australian Family and Federal Magistrates courts," he wrote in a recent paper, "rarely have the training, knowledge and skills needed to do this type of work adequately."
They are also largely unaccountable. Their reports are highly confidential and, as expert witnesses, they are protected by anonymity, so I can't link them to what's written in their reports.
This breathtaking lack of oversight has led us to where we are now - repeated calls for urgent review and reform of Family Court practices.
The Family Court's Chief Justice, Diana Bryant, insists the court has a resourcing problem, and that is true. She has called on the government to focus as much on preventing domestic violence as it does on anti-terrorism.
But in blaming a lack of resources, the Chief Justice is ignoring a far uglier truth: the Family Court has a serious - and dangerous - attitude problem.
Jess Hill is a freelance investigative journalist currently writing a book on domestic violence in Australia.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au
Alecomm is currently undertaking a research project. Our goal is to attain a greater understanding of the rights of domestic violence victims when approaching services for assistance, and to clarify the processes by which victims and their families are assisted in escaping and liberating themselves from the violence cycle.
In particular, we would be grateful if you could clarify the following matters; and if there is relevant legislation in place:
What are the State regulations FACS/DOCS are bound by when responding to Domestic Violence.
On what grounds in such a situation is it deemed necessary to remove children from the victim parent.
What service's, if any is the Department obligated to provide to victim parent.
Are there resources routinely distributed to victims seeking assistance and advice.
Are service's obligated to provide education and resources.
Is PTSD a recognized reason as to why some victims have difficulty leaving the offender.
Having been through family court, even when the father ADMITS to having been a perpetrator of domestic violence, when the father has been CONVICTED for domestic violence long before the marriage ends, even when the father admits and been convicted for violence against the child, the family court ignores this and actually says this is irrelevant.
Declaring that repeat PROVEN violence against the mother is irrelevant to child custody, and a PROVEN incident of extreme violence against the child is irrelevant because it was only “once off” – ignoring that many of the PROVEN incidences of violence against the mother was because the father went to physically assault the child and the mother stepped in the way and took the beating meant for the child.
Written by http://www.sfweekly.com/2011-03-02/news/family-court-parental-alienation-syndrome-richard-gardner-pedophilia-domestic-violence-child-abuse-judges-divorce/
Karen Anderson suspected that something strange was going on between her ex-husband, Rex Anderson, and their 15-year-old daughter. Prior to the couple's separation in 1998, the girl would sometimes put on high heels and makeup, "visiting" her dad while he worked late at night in the family's basement. It was the same retreat in which he stored the dildos and artificial vaginas he used to stimulate himself sexually.
After the divorce, Rex was given primary custody of his daughter, as well as the couple's 8-year-old son. Karen says this was because he had a full-time job as a facilities engineer at Santa ClaraValley Medical Center, while she was unemployed. While staying with her on weekends, her daughter would sometimes say she hated herself and wanted to die.
In 1999, Anderson, a resident of San Jose, decided to take her concerns to Santa Clara County Family Court. Like similar courts across the state, it is charged with adjudicating high-conflict divorces — managing the division of property, child support payments, and the often bitter process of establishing a plan for shared child-rearing. She urged the court to investigate whether her daughter was at risk of sexual molestation, and whether Rex's custody rights should be restricted as a result.
Family Court Judge James Stewart temporarily barred the children from seeing their father while the court looked into the abuse claims. But instead of seeking evidence as to whether molestation was taking place, he hired a Menlo Park–based psychologist, Leslie Packer, to evaluate both parents. Among Packer's tasks was to assess, in light of their psychological profiles, whether the accusations were likely to be true. After a series of interviews and personality tests, such as the Rorschach inkblot test, she delivered her opinion: Karen's fears for her daughter were unfounded.
Ms LYLEA McMAHON (Shellharbour—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.56 p.m.]: One of our top priorities as a Government is preventing and responding to domestic and family violence. The Government is determined to make women's and children's lives safer. We know the far-reaching effects of domestic and family violence on women and children as well as the emotional, social and financial costs on families and the community. We are working at all levels and across government agencies not only to reduce the levels of violence but also to improve the help government provides to women experiencing violence. Earlier this year the Keneally Government released its five-year New South Wales Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan: Stop the Violence, End the Silence. Supported by $50 million, this action plan lays the foundation for how we as a Government, as a community and as individuals respond to domestic and family violence. The action plan acknowledged that the role of the non-government and community sector is crucial in preventing and responding to domestic and family violence.
These grassroots organisations are at the forefront of tackling domestic violence and supporting victims. This direct role means that often they are best placed to develop and implement innovative strategies that are tailored to meet local needs. The Government's support for the non-government sector and acknowledgement of the sector's importance in domestic and family violence is reflected in its Domestic and Family Violence Grants Program. Each year $2.9 million is made available to non-government organisations for projects that aim to prevent violence against women and children, or to reduce its impact. At least $900,000 of this grants program is quarantined for specific projects that target domestic and family violence in Aboriginal communities, which we know experience higher rates of violence than non-Aboriginal communities.
I am pleased to advise the House that expressions of interest for our latest funding round opened today. Advertisements have been placed in a range of metropolitan and regional newspapers and on the policy website of the Office for Women. This year, the Government particularly encourages applications for projects with a focus on awareness and community education in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and for women with disabilities as well as in Aboriginal communities. Reporting of domestic violence in these communities is low and the violence can be hidden. But for women from these communities domestic violence is very real. We hope that through the grants program organisations can develop and implement innovative projects to encourage reporting, to educate communities about the unacceptability of domestic violence, and to provide targeted and culturally sensitive support to victims.
Let me be clear. The grants program does not operate in isolation; it complements the considerable resources already being spent on domestic violence-related programs and projects. Let me provide some examples to the House. Staying Home Leaving Violence is the Government's $8.1 million program to enable women and children to stay safely in their home while the perpetrator is forced to leave. The Start Safely Program is the Government's $16 million rental subsidy program that supports in private rental accommodation women who leave violent relationships. The Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program, a $6.9 million program operating across the State, provides support to women who take out apprehended violence orders. The Domestic Violence Proactive Support Services Program, with funding of $3.7 million, delivers integrated criminal justice and support service responses to victims when they first report domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Death Review Team, supported by annual funding of $500,000, reviews all domestic violence related deaths and make recommendations to prevent future fatalities.
In addition, the Government funds the recently expanded Domestic Violence Duty Practitioner Scheme and the Rural Women's Outreach Program, which provide outreach legal assistance to women in remote areas. As well as the accommodation options provided by Staying Home Leaving Violence and Start Safely, the Government also provides funding to around 88 women's refuges and, along with the Commonwealth Government, is expanding the Orana Far West Safe House Model in western New South Wales. The Domestic and Family Violence Grants Program is not just about giving organisations money to come up with a model that they think is effective. As articulated in the Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan, and consistent with our policy of building an evidence base around what works and does not work, projects that are put forward for funding must be effectively and positively evaluated in another area, or include an evaluation component as part of the grant application. It is about ensuring that best-practice programs are delivered. Since 2007-08 the Government has committed more than $11 million to the grants program and has funded over 100 projects across the State. In the 2009-10 round of funding the New South Wales Government funded 43 projects from non-government organisations across New South Wales. The projects covered a spectrum of issues related to prevention and early intervention, and included projects for Aboriginal women, older women, immigrant and refugee women, women with disabilities, people in same-sex relationships and young women. They also covered the geographic spectrum, with projects being funded from Wyong to Wagga Wagga, Campbelltown to Coonamble, Ballina to Broken Hill, and Wollondilly to the Wentworth shire—to name but a few. To give the House an indication of the great initiatives the Government has funded, I will share with members a couple of examples from the last round of domestic and family violence grants. They include a project known as the Deaf Society of NSW: Family Safety in Auslan and the RSPCA NSW: Women's Domestic Violence Program: Safe Beds for Pets.
Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn) [7.03 p.m.]: If only domestic violence prevention and intervention were as simple as spending money. I do not think any member of this House would deny the importance of money, particularly the importance of providing funding for housing for women escaping domestic violence. It must be noted that there is a huge shortage of both short-term and long-term accommodation for women and families wanting to escape domestic violence. We desperately need such accommodation in Tumut. In my region there is no domestic violence shelter that looks after women with families between Goulburn and Campbelltown. There is a shelter that takes seven single women in Goulburn. That shelter is funded by the St Vincent de Paul Society but is not able to receive State Government funding. There is an enormous shortage of temporary accommodation for women and families who want to escape domestic violence. I think we now recognise that accommodation that consists of a large shared family room and a shared kitchen with people in their own bedrooms no longer works. Now that the State Government has changed the arrangements so that a person does not have to be a victim of domestic violence but simply be homeless to be eligible for entry into a shelter, we are finding in those establishments women with mental illness who frighten other residents. It adds a whole range of complexities that makes shelters even more difficult to run. However, short-term accommodation is a very small part of the program. We will not stop women returning to violent homes—and many do so three, four or five times; indeed, in some cases women die on one of those returns—until we address the long-term issues in those families. The principal problem is that the woman is not able to fend for herself. Literacy skills and basic education are often huge issues for these women. As we know, unemployed women are most likely to experience domestic violence. We need to spend a lot more effort on literacy and ensuring that women have the skills to take on work that makes them economically independent. We also need to provide such women with longer-term accommodation, so they do not end up homeless and perhaps go to another shelter. I have met many women who go from one shelter to the next, to the next. We need to provide stable housing for these women and their children. I know the Government is very proud of its Staying Home Leaving Violence program, which I understand provides funding of about $110,000 a unit. I have to say that I was very attracted by the principle underlying the program: it is the perpetrator's responsibility to leave and the woman should stay in the house. However, I think the evidence suggests that that is not the best way to go. The evidence demonstrates that that arrangement only works for victims of domestic violence who have options—who, for example, earn enough money to pay the rent or the mortgage themselves. The other aspect of the problem we need to address is that we will not reduce the incidence of domestic violence unless we start to work with men. The New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reported on the offences of domestic violence, particularly grievous bodily harm. When the bureau analysed the penalties that domestic violence related assaults attracted, what was most shocking was that less than half of them attracted a supervised penalty. It is true that prison is not an ideal outcome for many of these families. Alcohol abuse and domestic violence are very closely related, as are drug abuse and domestic violence, and mental illness and domestic violence. That is to say nothing of the absolutely fundamental problem that there are still men who think they can push women around. They think they can behave perfectly properly in the pub and at work but feel able to bash their wives' faces in when they get home and then say, "It was the drink that made me do it, sir." We should be shocked by the statistics, which reveal that much less than half of all domestic violence related assault offences that result in a successful prosecution end up being the subject of some sort of supervised order. Why is that important? It does not matter whether it is a bond or a prison term. What matters is that the man is not invisible, that his behaviour is scrutinised and that he is required to scrutinise it and to address his mental illness, his drug, alcohol or gambling addiction or whatever he or his counsellor sees as the reasons for his domestic violence. Until we get better at working with perpetrators we will not stop domestic violence. I have had this argument with the women's movement for more than a decade.
It seems to me that after 25 years of funding domestic violence prevention and support work we have focused on women; we have let the perpetrators escape unscrutinised and their behaviour has never had to change. That is where future domestic violence work must be done. In addition, of course we have to work closely with children. As all the research shows, if children grow up in a household where there is domestic violence, girls are more likely to become victims of domestic violence and boys are more likely to become perpetrators of domestic violence. We know that; no rocket science is necessary. We need to identify these families. We know who they are—the police know who they are because they go to their houses repeatedly—and we need to start working with these children.
We have programs such as Love Bites—which is an unfortunate name but a great idea. We need to make sure that such programs are much more intensive, or we will have another cycle of disadvantage. Domestic violence is closely associated with economic and social disadvantage. We will also have another cycle of intergenerational violence, of which a proud and rich society like Australia should be ashamed. While we are discussing domestic violence funding, we should be discussing the fact that, despite the billions of dollars in State and Federal funding that has been poured into resolving the issue over the past 25 years, we still have rates of domestic violence that will not decline.
Ms NOREEN HAY (Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.10 p.m.]: I am very pleased to support the member for Shellharbour in this discussion because I consider domestic violence to be one of society's most heinous crimes. Addressing it is one of the biggest priorities of this Government, and indeed the community as a whole. Domestic violence is unacceptable and intolerable. Its long-term and short-term impact on individuals, families and communities can be devastating. As the Government's Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan identified, the costs of domestic violence are severe and far reaching. The incidence of domestic violence seriously affects the economic, social, financial, psychological and physical health as well as the wellbeing of women who are trying to rebuild their lives after experiencing domestic violence.
The action plan notes that the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children states that in 2007-08 New South Wales spent approximately $180 million on addressing domestic violence against women. That represents 33 per cent of total spending by Australian governments and the highest rate of all jurisdictions. Providing significant grants to community organisations is an important way for the Government to demonstrate its commitment to supporting these organisations deliver programs that respond to domestic violence. It also demonstrates that tackling domestic violence is a responsibility for both government and the community. I am aware of many of the incredible projects that have been funded under the Domestic and Family Violence Grants Program, and I commend them all. I am proud that the Government supports communities and community organisations in a way that enables them to provide flexible, locally based solutions to domestic violence.
Regrettably, while domestic violence is a universal problem with largely universal causes, effective responses do not fit a one-size-fits-all model. What may work for a young woman may not be effective for an older woman. Programs that support women and children who are fleeing violence are not necessarily appropriate for women who are single. Moreover, we know that Aboriginal women are more likely to seek assistance and support from services that are operated by Aboriginal people, or that have a particular Aboriginal focus. Similarly, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds feel more comfortable disclosing domestic violence to a worker in a service that is culturally aware and culturally sensitive. Women in rural areas who are victims of domestic violence can also have particular needs that are different from women in metropolitan areas. Isolation, geographic distance and issues around confidentiality can have significant impacts on the ability of women to report domestic violence.
I am pleased that a number of the grants have included transport options for women to help them to flee violence and get assistance and support, and outreach services to facilitate access to support. The Government recognises that the grants program is not a substitute for longer-term funding for domestic violence programs. As detailed earlier, the Government's record of recurrent funding for programs is clear testament to its commitment to domestic violence interventions and responses for the long term. The $50 million action plan also supports that commitment. Through seed funding, the grants program enables organisations to develop innovative responses that are locally based and tailored to meet local needs. In that context, I acknowledge the great work and efforts of the Wollongong Women's Centre in my electorate that manages a number of domestic violence programs.
As my colleague the member for Shellharbour stated earlier, the annual $2.9 million Domestic and Family Violence Grants Program is currently receiving expressions of interest for funding. Applications are being sought, and organisations have until 21 October to apply. I urge all members of Parliament to inform key organisations and networks throughout the State of the grants program and encourage them to apply for a grant. I also commend the Minister for Women for her ongoing support for this important program and for her strong and tireless commitment to addressing domestic violence across the State.
I am proud of the Government's achievements in tackling domestic violence and acknowledge that we must always look for innovative ways to ensure that responses continue to be effective and appropriate. The Government's strong collaboration with the non-government sector is one of the key ways in which to achieve that. Community organisations that have direct contact with clients, families and communities can be the barometer for the most effective ways in which to respond to domestic violence, support victims and, importantly, raise awareness in local communities about this dreadful crime. The Government's ongoing partnership with the non-government sector ensures that important and effective community strategies are supported. Ms LYLEA McMAHON (Shellharbour—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.15 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Wollongong and the member for Goulburn for their contributions to this discussion. In directing my remarks to the issue of domestic and family violence, I note particularly the announcement that funding under the Domestic and Family Violence Grants Program is now available. Applications are being accepted for a share in program funding of $29 million that is available for community sector organisations to implement innovative strategies and solutions to reduce domestic violence in our communities.
I will focus on some of the points discussed by the member for Goulburn, one of which was that domestic violence prevention is not just about money. The member for Goulburn acknowledged that the Government contributes significant funding to support its domestic violence action plan, Stop the Violence: End the Silence, but expressed concern that the program was not achieving results. I will cite some examples to demonstrate the success of the program in my electorate. Recent Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research statistics show an 11.5 per cent reduction in domestic violence assaults. Since I was elected to Parliament, the police station in my electorate has appointed four liaison officers who are fully trained police officers who deal with domestic violence incidents. They have 10 domestic violence evidence kits that are used by police officers who attend an incident to collect evidence. The police submit that evidence to a court during the prosecution of an offender. The benefit of the domestic violence evidence kit is that the evidence usually leads to the perpetrator admitting to having committed the crime, and that avoids the victim having to undergo criminal court procedures, which can be very distressing for the victim and for family members. The member for Wollongong successfully obtained funding for a program that is auspiced by the Wollongong Women's Centre. Two community members will be based at the Lake Illawarra Local Area Command to provide support for families and victims of violence after the police have left the incident. They ensure that families have the necessary access to support services so that they break the cycle and do not continue to be victims of domestic violence. Significant resources have been directed to the Shellharbour electorate and the wider Illawarra region. That has resulted in a reduction in the number of domestic violence assaults. The details I have outlined are concrete examples of the success of the Government's program in reducing incidents of domestic violence. The member for Goulburn referred to the need for short- and long-term accommodation options, recognising that not one solution fits all circumstances. Earlier in the discussion I identified that $8.1 million has been allocated to the Staying Home, Leaving Violence program, which is designed to support women who remain at home but removes the perpetrator of the offence from the home. The Government recognises that that solution does not suit everybody, so we also have the Start Safely program that is supported by an allocation of $16 million to assist women to obtain private rental accommodation when they need to seek alternative accommodation. The Government also funds 88 refuges across the State. It is my experience that whenever I have contacted the Department of Housing for assistance for a family in crisis or a woman in my electorate office who is in crisis, officers of the department have been more than willing to work with me to find accommodation for the family or the individuals concerned. The member for Goulburn referred to support strategies to address the actions of the perpetrators of domestic violence. If a crime has been committed, a legal process of prosecution must be undertaken. That is the role of the police. The programs funded by the Government address the need for support of the victims.
Brothers Against Domestic Violence is another program conducted in my electorate that focuses on indigenous men. I spoke earlier tonight about the successful work that the Illawarra Koori Men's Support Group does. One of the successful programs run by that group, with the support of the Attorney General, is Brothers Against Domestic Violence. That group seeks to work with the perpetrators of this crime to ensure that there are strategies in place to address the issue.
Mr STUART AYRES: My question is directed to the Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women. What is the Government doing to help people suffering from domestic violence in western Sydney?
Ms PRU GOWARD: I thank the member for his question and commend him for his ongoing interest and strong advocacy in this area. He knows how serious this issue is, particularly in his electorate. The Penrith electorate experienced almost 1,000 domestic violence related assaults last year, which is a 13.9 per cent increase on the previous year. Whatever the reason for that increase, it highlights the need for ongoing domestic violence support services and for change. The former Government's response to such domestic violence statistics was to use bandaid solutions and to provide one-offs grants for services to run for one or two years with a so-called exit strategy—which, as members on this side of the House know, is often unrealistic or unachievable.
Extraordinarily, given that the Penrith local area command is in the fortieth percentile for domestic violence in the State, the former Government failed to provide funding for an ongoing service to link police and domestic violence services. That was not unusual for the former Government, which is why members opposite were booted out of government in March. The welfare service sector was subjected to myriad one-off projects established in marginal seats a year before an election that subsequently disappeared—a bit like Labor premiers. The Labor Government failed time and again in the welfare sector. It is interesting that members opposite object to that statement because I am not the only member who has made that point about the Labor Government's failures.
At least one member opposite agrees, and I refer to the Leader of the Opposition. He told the recent New South Wales Labor Party conference that he was horrified at the number of times that the Labor Government had let down the people of New South Wales. He was 110 per cent right: the Labor Government did let down the people of New South Wales. He might be slow on the uptake, but he has finally got with the program and is horrified. In contrast, the O'Farrell-Stoner Government is committed not only to working closely with the non-government sector in delivering services to those affected by domestic and family violence but also to working to a plan.
Ms Linda Burney: That is not what they are saying.
The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order for the third time.
Ms PRU GOWARD: The Government is working to a plan in which one-off pilots are no longer the solution. They never were. We must ensure that more dollars go directly to assisting women and children to live their lives free of violence, and for that reason I have requested a review of the $2.9 million Domestic and Family Violence Grants program to ensure that funding is provided to areas of greatest need and actually makes a difference. The vulnerable families of this State—as we on this side know, and this is why we were voted in—need and deserve a stable and planned system of support that they can trust and can rely upon in times of need. The current grants program is an example of a very bad bandaid approach by the Labor Government; it was short-term funding thrown at services, with a washing of its hands when those services were forced to close.
The Bridges project in Penrith is a typical example of the former Government's failure to finance the service in a sustainable way, in a local area command with a significant domestic violence problem. The people of western Sydney knew that, and that is why we now have strong local advocates for western Sydney, such as the member for Penrith. The member for Penrith led the charge on ensuring that a great local service like Bridges continues to operate to help women and children affected by domestic violence, and I commend him for bringing this local service to my attention and for continuing to advocate. I am delighted to advise the member that the O'Farrell-Stoner Government will now provide not one-off, once-a-year funding but $400,000 in funding over four years to continue that service and to provide it with the certainty that the people of western Sydney need.
The Bridges project provides services to women in that area who have contacted the police about a domestic and family violence incident. It enables police officers to connect women who have experienced domestic violence with experts who can provide emotional support, safety advice and court proceedings. These women are often under an incredible amount of stress, and this project gives them access to decent options. The New South Wales Government recognises the importance of stable local services delivered by committed non-government organisations, and I look forward to updating the House on the outcome of the review of the domestic violence program in the coming months.
Alecomm staff have recently done trials on how hard it is (or not) for women who are victims of domestic violence to obtain assistance and leave the situation. What we learnt from this trial is that it is virtually impossible for any woman or mother to leave the home unless she is financially viable.
For most women, actually being able to walk out the door IS the hardest step. But you would think that after that, because we dont live in a third world country, that the services would be ready there to prevent you from being homeless or going through any further bullying. Right? Wrong!
Unless you have cash and have a home ready to move into, you are going to be homeless. So your next call is going to be to the Department of Housing. This is where we learnt some very valuable, yet disturbing, information.
I can understand why the court system did not immediately seek to learn from and rely on domestic violence experts when domestic violence first became a public issue in the mid to late 1970s. There was no research available and few domestic violence advocates. A popular assumption and misconception was that domestic violence was caused by mental illness, substance abuse and the actions of the victim. This led some people, including court professionals to treat mental health professionals as if they were the experts in domestic violence.
Linda Burney is spouting off how the Staying Home Leaving Domestic Violence Program is a success*. Give it a break Linda. Just on 50% of all kids you steal and sell off are domestic violence victims (appx 4,000 per year), yet you claim Great Successes for 14 families*. Woopy doo Linda-I-Dont-Do-My-Job Burney.
This program that us taxpayers pay for is nothing short of what your lazy arse lying corrupt Department of Community Service workers should be bloody doing anyway. Yet you continually let them get away with forcibly abusing young children, letting them be sexually assaulted and even being murdered.
Get your House in Order Burney and Stop Destroying the Lives of so Many Innocents.
Mr. Speaker I rise on behalf of the Opposition to address the Coroners Amendment (Domestic Violence Death Review Team) Bill 2010.
The Opposition does not oppose this bill but does so with great reluctance. Nothing would please the Opposition more, Mr. Speaker, than to throw this bill out and start again with one that can do the job. It’s hard to recall a piece of legislation, even by this Government’s standards, that so clearly defies the spirit of the community debate that preceded it and the recommendations of its own hand picked advisory panel. If further evidence were needed of this Government’s arrogance and fear of being found out, then this is it.
The Coroners Amendment Bill before us is a terrible piece of legislation, a cruel distortion of an expert panel’s report concerning the options available to the Government. This Bill makes a mockery of the years of agitation by the domestic violence sector for a law that would enable the NSW government to examine the policies and systems that surround our management of domestic violence, looking for improvements that would save lives and reduce the incidence of violence that frequently precedes these deaths.
This bill is instead a travesty that is most unlikely to reduce deaths or to be effective in reducing the incidence of violence.