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Motion: Royal Commission into Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move:

That this council calls on the Malinauskas government to establish a royal commission into domestic, family and sexual violence in South Australia.

I move this today in conjunction with the Hon. Connie Bonaros of SA-Best in this place, and I note that my remarks will be followed by those of the Hon. Connie Bonaros and the Hon. Michelle Lensink of the Liberal opposition. I move this today because right now we are in the middle of a national domestic violence crisis. We have just seen four South Australian women murdered in one week.

A royal commission will be crucial in identifying barriers, gaps and opportunities for us to save the lives of South Australians. The incidence of violence against women and children is completely unacceptable. We are failing victims and survivors of domestic violence, and we need to target investment where it matters the most. We need to listen to women and centre them in a whole-of-government and whole-of-society solution.

At this critical moment for women's safety, the South Australian community is looking to the government, to members of parliament, for leadership. They seek multipartisan support for a royal commission. To that end, I know myself and other members of parliament were invited to a vigil on Friday morning just gone, 24 November, to remember those murdered four women, and a vigil, organised by a number of groups but in particular Embolden, to call for a royal commission into domestic, family and sexual violence in this state.

Having worked in the women's sector, it used to be that we would often have a vigil when a South Australian woman was murdered at the hands of someone she knew. Those vigils came far too often, but there were never four women murdered in a week. I am sick of going to those vigils. I am sick of standing on the stairs with other women members of this parliament in late January, early February each year, when we count the dead women. We count them in their dozens each year.

This is what a national crisis looks like. Last week, in November, in that one week in November in South Australia, on Wednesday 15 November a woman's body was found inside a home in Felixstowe. On 21 November, police arrested a 50-year-old man and charged him with murder. The accused is known to the victim, police said to the media. On Thursday 16 November, police and paramedics tried to resuscitate a 45-year-old woman in the Davenport community, but she died. A 53-year-old man was arrested and charged with murder. The woman and man were known to each other, police said.

On Sunday 19 November, police found a woman, 39, dead at Encounter Bay. A man who was 'known to the woman' was arrested and charged with murder, police say. On Tuesday 21 November, Jodie Jewell, 55, was murdered at the Modbury North home she shared with her husband. Her husband fled the scene, and his body was later found on the Yorke Peninsula.

Four South Australian women, murdered in a week. This is an epidemic. We must increase the urgency of government and community response to tackle violence against women and their children. First Nations women, women from culturally diverse backgrounds, women in regional areas, older women, LGBTIQ+ women and women with a disability are even more likely to experience violence.

The government says it is committed to ending sexual and physical violence against women, but they also say that a royal commission is something to be considered in the future, not now. We are told we must wait. Meanwhile, four women were murdered in one week.

We know from the extensive research and data collection from key bodies such as the ABS and the Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety that domestic and family violence is a gendered crime. Advocacy group Our Watch says that on average one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner in our country.

According to the ABS, one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, while one in five have experienced sexual violence. One in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner. One in two women has experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. In most incidents of workplace sexual harassment, the harasser was male. Women are at increased risk of experiencing violence from an intimate partner during pregnancy. Women often experience multiple incidents of violence across their lifetime.

Four women murdered in a week. We know that minority women, women with disability, and queer women are at greater risk than others and experience violence that intersects with other forms of discrimination and disadvantage. Women with disability in Australia are twice as likely to have experienced sexual violence over their lifetime than women without disability. The type of disability intersects with gender and different forms of violence—for example, one in two women with psychological and/or cognitive impairment have experienced sexual violence.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience disproportionately high rates of violence. Three in five women—three in five—have experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner. Lesbian, bisexual and queer women experience higher rates of sexual violence than heterosexual women in our country. Transgender and gender-diverse people also experience very high rates of family, domestic and sexual violence. Young women experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups.

In addition to physical and sexual violence, women from migrant and refugee backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse, reproductive coercion and immigration-related violence, for example withholding documents, threats of visa cancellations or deportation.

Four women murdered in one single week. This is a crisis. It is costing us. It is costing us emotionally, but it is costing our economy along with our personal safety. It is estimated that violence against women costs $21.7 billion a year, with the victims of course bearing the primary burden of that cost.

Governments, of course, do bear that cost burden—an estimated $7.8 billion a year, comprising health, administration and social welfare costs. If no further action is taken to prevent violence against women, if we do not act, costs will accumulate to an estimated $323.4 billion over a 30-year period measured from 2014-15 to 2044-45.

What we need to do, first and foremost, of course is fund front-line services. The demand for crisis services, helplines, support services and legal services far exceeds their current capacity to help everyone who seeks help. Women's legal services in many states have reported having to turn away nearly half the calls that are made to them, particularly during COVID.

We need specialist services that deal with the intersectional issues faced by young women, First Nations women, women with disability and women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The federal government's funding under the national plan falls well short of that $1 billion per year that the sector says is needed to ensure that no-one is turned away when they reach out for help. We do need a major investment to keep women safe. Those four women murdered in one week were not in contact with any services to our knowledge so far.

The next thing we need to do is invest in prevention and education, including behaviour change programs. We need to invest in affordable housing—that is, crisis housing, transitional housing and long-term housing, the full spectrum—so that women fleeing abusive relationships have somewhere to go. As we know, those women deserve to stay in the homes that they live in, in the homes that their families are, and the perpetrator, in fact, should more often be the one to go.

Older women are the fastest growing cohort of people facing housing insecurity and homelessness in Australia. Rapid investment to increase housing stock is essential to guard against women staying in abusive relationships because they have nowhere else to go.

We also need to improve women's economic security, first of all by addressing the gender pay gap. Companies are currently required to report on their gender pay gaps, but they suffer no penalties if they do nothing to fix it. We need to improve women's economic security by making the superannuation scheme fairer so that women are not retiring into poverty after a lifetime of unpaid care work or taking career breaks to look after children.

We also need to improve women's economic security by making child care free and requiring employers to provide flexible working arrangements to give families more choice and to allow women
to re-enter the workforce. This government needs to start listening.

The Greens stand here wanting action that re-writes the rules for gender equality and improves women's security, safety and wellbeing, but I do not doubt that all of us seek that. We want an Australia where women are safe, respected, valued and treated as equals in their public and private lives. Gendered violence and harassment is a national crisis and it is high time that this parliament and government treated it as such.

We do need a royal commission. Promises made on legislation for coercive control only go so far and they are not even nation-leading, in fact we are nation-lagging, but they are certainly not mutually exclusive of the systemic, whole-of-government response we seek. A royal commission will help our state target that much-needed investment where it will have the most impact across prevention, early intervention, crisis response, recovery and healing.

We must listen very carefully to the voices and experiences of survivors. A significant proportion of women who are killed through intimate partner violence were not in contact with police or services. We have heard the calls from the sector and we have seen in Victoria other instances of royal commissions that have had a real, profound impact, and where the recommendations are those that we can learn from, but we do need a fit-for-purpose royal commission for our state.

I note that there are many people in the gallery today. To paraphrase the Hon. Ian Hunter, it might be unparliamentary of me to mention anyone who might be here in the gallery today, but I would note that the call for a royal commission into domestic, family and sexual violence is supported by Embolden, Our Watch, Women's Safety Services South Australia, Zahra Foundation Australia, Catherine House, the Working Women's Centre of South Australia, White Ribbon Australia, SA Unions, the National Council of Women South Australia, the Zonta Club of Adelaide, the Australian Services Union, the Public Service Association, business and professional women and, of course, in this place by the Greens, SA-Best and the Liberal opposition.

I also note that I have received messages of support today from the member for Mount Gambier, Troy Bell MP; the member for Narungga, Fraser Ellis MP; and the member for MacKillop, Nick McBride MP. I am sure those numbers will only grow.

Four women murdered in one week is not something I ever want to see our state go through again. Enough with the platitudes, enough with ignoring the impact of financial insecurity and housing stress on women's capacity to leave, enough with underfunding the services that women need when they reach out in a crisis—enough is enough. Women deserve better, and funding a royal commission is a very small price to pay to end this ongoing epidemic of violence against women and children, so that we never, ever again in this state see four women murdered in a week.

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